Basketball

Basketball Review: The Dance in Dallas

DanSwany and Michael LaBarre talk about their experiences in Dallas for the NCAA Tournament games and their thoughts on the event, game and more.

This is a conversation that myself (Michael LaBarre) and DanSwany had a couple days after Texas Tech’s two NCAA tournament games in Dallas this past weekend. We both had a blast and for myself personally, one of the most memorable sporting events I’ve been able to witness live. Here’s our thoughts on what went down in D town:

DanSwany: This weekend LaBarre and I participated the March Madness festivities and attended games in Dallas. LaBarre attended all three sessions, and I brought the family to the Saturday competition.

So Mike, pre-gaming with a 2 year old in Dallas before Texas Tech played their Big Dance games versus Florida was much different than your experience. We stayed at a hotel next door to the Dallas World Aquarium and took Maddie to see the penguins and pink flamingos. She loved it! Then we made our way over to West Village and ate at the Village Burger Bar. It was a nice little joint for a quick bite. Jessica wanted to stop and look in some of the shops. After a nap back at the hotel, we got to finally meet-up with you at the Living Room Bar in the W Hotel for the pre-party. Such an awesome time see and talk basketball with you! That place was rocking. Just about every place around the American Airlines Center was packed with Tech fans. Rowdy was a nice way of putting a proper description together for the atmosphere preliminary to tipoff.

At around 5:30pm we made our way into the game. What happened with you for the pre-game before heading into AAC (American Airlines Center)?

Michael LaBarre: Depends which day you’re talking about. Thursday, myself and a friend of mine road the TRE train from my (and Beard’s) hometown of Irving to the Big D and had lunch with my mom at this bar in the West End called Gators. I don’t get to see her that much, so it was nice to enjoy a meal with her while watching basketball. I had some red beans and rice that I thought about for the rest of the day.

For Saturday’s game, I was at the W until the tip-off of Tennessee and Loyola-Chicago. Upon entrance, they gave us a coupon for a free beer. However, due to fellow friends not drinking, I ended up getting about four or five coupons. I was feeling pretty good before I headed over the the arena to watch some basketball. What was your reaction like the previous Sunday when you heard the Red Raiders were going to play in Dallas?

Swany: Man, I had a feeling it would happen. So, I asked Jessica if they got an invite to Dallas and won the first round game could we go and watch it. I said it was a slim chance we grab the #3 seed in Dallas, and she bought it. I set-up the flight, hotel, and rental car 2 hours before the announcement. We watch as a family, and I started cheering as it was announced. Maddie was in my arms and I started chanting “We’re going to Dallas!” It was epic… so, you could say I was fairly excited about the good news.

What about you when the news broke?

LaBarre: Your story sounds very mild compared to mine. We invited friends over and had food for the announcement. When the Florida seed was announced, we knew there was only one more spot for Dallas left and thought we played ourselves out of the 3 seed with the late losses in the season. However, when they showed Texas Tech, the room erupted and we screamed at the top of our lungs. You would’ve thought we were headed to the Final Four. That and a reasonable bracket for Texas Tech made us believe it was possible to go on a deep run in the NCAA tournament. We quickly rushed over and got our tickets before they went up in price and the rest is history.

How would you explain March Madness to someone who’s never been there?

Swany: I’ve actually had to explain it every year to people that have never been. I tell them that if you enjoy basketball, you will love March Madness. To watch it on TV is entertaining enough, but to be there in person and see it live will have you hooked. The passion and the upsets are what you love to see. Everyone feels they have a chance to win in the NCAA Tournament. It’s like no other sporting event you’ve every experienced.

Speaking of, that Loyola-Chicago vs Tennessee game was special for us to see. It was an added bonus to watch it before our Tech game. What did you think about it?

LaBarre: Both Loyola-Chicago games were amazing. I’m going to be cheering hard for them in the Sweet Sixteen. My first ever NCAA tournament game was the Miami-Loyola game on Thursday, and for it to be nearly a buzzer beater was amazing. We celebrated as if Tech had just done it themselves. The Tennessee-Loyola game was nearly identical except there was more time left on the clock and the shot was a little easier to make. Those two games defined what March Madness should be. Pretty good warm-up for the Tech games, which both followed after their games.

I saw you had some pretty good seats for that Saturday game. What were your thoughts after seeing this team for the first time in person this season?

Swany: I’ve watched every game religiously, and I have to say… it is much more fun in person. They are exactly who I thought they were, and how they execute from a TV or laptop screen. The thing that stuck out to me was I got to see how the team and coaching staff interacted with each other during timeouts and breaks. That is my biggest takeaway with getting to be at a live game. You could see and feel the intensity that Coach Beard brings to the team. I could witness him calling players over and chewing them out while free throws were being shot at the other end. Very, very engaging as a coaching staff with the players. I like that sort of hands-on coaching. The team was wonderful to see up close, and Zhaire dunked the lob at the end of the game from Evans right in front of me. It was spectacular!

Speaking of, you got to see the Zhaire 360 dunk heard round the whole tourney. Was that his best dunk of his year, or not? I have to go with yes… but, want to know what you think.

LaBarre: My friends and I had this debate after the dunk occurred. The only one we debated was against Kennesaw State, where Davide threw the ball behind Zhaire, and he reached back, caught it and threw it down. He also almost had one this year where he caught the ball behind his head and threw it down, but was fouled and couldn’t complete the dunk.

Although this one wasn’t as rim rocking as the other one, this was the most impressive based on the fact he did an in game 360 (or 180 if you wanna call it that). He also did it in a close game, but he wasn’t at all trying to show off when he did it. That’s what makes it so impressive. It was necessary in order for him to score on the play. How did you feel to atmosphere was at the AAC?

Swany: THE. PLACE. WAS. ROCKIN.

Electrifying is the correct term. There were so many Red Raiders there, I’d have to say the place was about 85% Texas Tech fans. The Gators got drowned out by our fans. Everybody was was hyped to be there, and the game was so close that it had constant eruptions from the rowdy Red Raider fans. We are so lucky that this happened in our back yard. The question is, can we bring the thunder when we go to Boston? It is not going to be a home-court type advantage now that we hit the east coast. do you think that is going to play a huge factor into the Purdue match-up?

LaBarre: After the game, we were all celebrating in the upper deck, screaming our lungs out. I hugged some people I only met a couple hours before and started high fiving everyone in sight. I could’ve sworn we started or participated in about five or six Raider Power chants in various locations throughout the night. It was like one huge party in Dallas.

That’s what I’m most scared about Purdue. As we’ve seen, the Red Raiders play extremely well they have the crowd of their side. In neutral site games, Tech is 5-2 this season, and they are 3-6 on the road. That’s a combined 8-8 record, which is .500. Luckily, Purdue isn’t going to have a home court like advantage, so perhaps Tech will respond well like they did in their early season tournament, which was in New England as well. Hopefully that 5-2 record in neutral site games will be in place.

I’m sure Beard will have his team prepared for this situation. And I do know they will have some support from the Red Raider faithful this weekend. I had Tech in the final four in my bracket, and I believe that dream is still very much possible. What are your thoughts on the Sweet Sixteen?

Swany: This sounds like I’m overlooking Purdue, but I’m not trying to at all because I think it is going to be a damn tough match-up. Yet, Villanova is the only team in the East bracket that I’m extremely worried about Tech playing against to get to San Antonio. I’ll be a West Virginia fan on Friday before the Tech game, and hope they can knock Nova out. Texas Tech has come a long way from where everybody thought at the beginning of the season. Let’s get them to San Antonio for another home-court advantage in the Final Four.

I bumped into Kliff Kingsbury in the airport while eating at Dickey’s BBQ. He was on his way to Houston, and we got to chat about how great the basketball game was the night before. That is what I’m hoping for, a great game each and every match-up throughout the rest of the Sweet Sixteen… no blow-outs. Are you doing anything special for the game viewing on Friday night?

LaBarre: I’m likely going to have some sort of watch party at my place most likely. We have a group of us that have been watching Tech basketball for while, some of us even before we came to Lubbock. We haven’t been watching too long due to our age and the lack of Red Raiders in our families, but we’ve started watching basically every game since the Chris Walker era (if you can even call it that).

We watched games where there was only about 100 or so fans in the arena. Where we celebrated when we got a player that was actually ranked by a recruiting service. When winning a Big 12 game itself was a big deal. It just means so much more when you’ve seen the bottom, with nearly single digit wins.

This program was a dumpster fire. Tubby Smith extinguished the flames and built the foundation, and Chris Beard has begun constructed the skyscraper. And dammit we won’t stop til we get to the top. Are you ready for this?

Swany: I’ve been a Texas Tech basketball fan since the days of Bobby Knight. As a student, I saw us go to the Sweet 16, and it was great times. I also got the pleasure of starting my blogging hobby during the crap years of the Pat Knight & Billy Gillispie era. Those were some dark days, but I love basketball and Texas Tech too much to ever not cheer or watch every game. It has been almost indescribable to tell how we have seen this team go from bottom dweller to a high-level competitor. I agree we are just getting started, and I have been ready for this since Bobby Knight retired. Wreck ’em Tech!!!

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