Unfortunately the powers that be with the tournament organizing folks (it's a GAS, get it?) have somehow decided that for an event of this magnitude (ESPN sent Len Elmore. It just doesn't get any bigger than that...) there needs to be courtside entertainment. Of course Alaska being Alaska, the pickings are slim. Unless they decided to recruit local, uhm, talent (NSFW), that is.
But anyway, the Shootout being a family event, they have chosen not to go that route. Instead, (and instead of paying for the schools to bring their own squads up) each team is 'assigned' an area High School, whose cheerleaders get to sit courtside and perform. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of cheerleaders to begin with,* but high school girls in this spot is downright creepy. Or maybe we just don't have high enough quality of high school girls up here. They stay the same age, yes they do...
But, worse than this is the High School Jazz band. I mean, they probably don't totally suck, but combine the truly wretched acoustics of Sullivan Arena (John Denver even sounded like crap there back in the day) with a hint of nervousness, and song choices that were a bit...ambitious, and we have problems. Look, I don't want to kill the kids, but when your rhythm section struggles to toe tap in unison, maybe playing songs like "Sing Sing Sing" aren't the best idea. Yet every single band played this number at least twice every game. Which led me to spend some time on YouTube to try to find the good shit as sort of an antacid. So, Mr. and Mrs. High School Jazz Band Conductor Person, if your drummer(s) can't do this:
Please, please, please do not attempt this:
Bonus randomly found YouTube while searching for the above - this looks like a lot of fun:
As for the basketball itself, I only got to see Gonzaga, Butler, Texas Tech and Virginia Tech multiple times.
Gonzaga will be a load when Heytfelt comes back - they have three pretty solid perimeter guys, and a couple of decent bangers, but no one with any real skill on the interior. Remember this name: Austin Daye, 6'11 and smooooth. But he weighs about 175 now, which makes playing inside kinda difficult.
Virginia Tech will play great D all year in the ACC and win very few games because they have no one who can score. They have a few guys who can shoot, by which I mean are athletic enough to get shots off. Making, however... Deron Washington did have the dunk of the tourney when he went coast-to-coast against the Zags and hammered one down on several of Gonzaga's requisite bushy-haired white dudes.
Texas Tech was fun, mostly because Bobby Knight shockingly decided that the local officiating was not up to his standards. He goes from zero to red-faced and screaming in approximately one missed block/charge call going against his team. They also play really good D, without having nearly the athleticism of VTU. Another team that's going to struggle to find buckets on a nightly basis. Reason #154,901 that I sometimes dislike Alaska: the crowd for the final was decidedly pro-TTU. How the hell do you root for BK?
But the most fun team was by far the champs, your Butler Bulldogs. They were simply a joy to watch on offense, with all five players working in unison to get their twin point guards, AJ Graves and Mike Green either open looks at threes or creases to penetrate and kick to shooters such as the Chitwood-like (right down to the haircut and vacant look in his eyes) Pete Campbell. They always, always made the extra pass. And if nothing happened, Green would go to the bucket and score on players 8 inches taller seemingly at will. Pretty much every major team from the Big Ten to the Big East with point guard problems is probably kicking themselves for not recruiting him. Sure, at 6'1, he's probably not an NBA prospect, but unless your name is John Calipari or Tim Floyd (in Soviet USC, O.J. Mayo recruit YOU!) you want to win games, not rent the next fillintheblank for one year.
* to clarify, I am a BIG fan of cheerleaders themselves. Otherwise there would be no good reason to read TMQ at all. I am not, however, a fan of the institution of cheerleading. If the BEST possible result of a 'performance' is either being clocked by a mascot or starting The Goddamn Wave, there really is no upside.