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GREENVILLE – I have written about the Daytona 500 (20 times), the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 (back when it was big), innumerable bowl and playoff football games, the Chimney Rock Hillclimb and a donkey softball game, but I have never sat on media row at an NCAA basketball tournament game.

Now I’m joined by a high percentage of Alabamians – I used to think they should be Alabamans until I realized we would then be Carolinans -- because Auburn and Jacksonville State are about to play. Long ago, I saw both schools’ football teams play, though not against each other.

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Monte Dutton

What NCAA Tournament is complete without the Gamecocks and Tigers facing off?

Forty-two seconds in and it already looks like a slaughter.

Oh, wait. Auburn just had a possession in which it didn’t score, and Jacksonville State followed up with one where it did, and, all of a sudden, it’s 5-2.

On the one hand, I’m rooting for every single underdog. On the other, I’m jealous of every single one because, but for the grace of God and David Jean-Baptiste, there runs Furman up and down this familiar court.

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The crowd for the opener is large, which surprises me not because all the seats are sold but because the majority of them are filled. It will be interesting to see how many of these Auburn crazies hang around to watch Miami play Southern Cal.

The Well is rocking because Jacksonville State is running out of upset starch. The Gamecocks led for a good bit of the half, but now it’s 39-27.

The early 2nd half is often a perilous time for underdogs, and that’s the case here. Auburn speeds away once the latter period commences. With 10:01 left, the Tigers lead 63-42. The Houston Rockets couldn’t catch them now.

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The 1st game is all in Alabama. Oceans – Miami on the Atlantic and Southern California on the Pacific – are now preparing for that brand of laidback war. The Fighting Polo Shirt Pep Band of Coral Gables is ready to play in front of me.

Auburn just made consecutive dunks that were so thunderous they drowned out the crowd. Meanwhile, the fellow sitting next to me is watching the South Carolina women on his laptop. Those Gamecocks lead 42-2. These lose, 80-61. Today is a good day for underdogs to die.

In the 1st half, I think Miami is hopelessly quicker than Southern California. In the 2nd half I find that I am hopelessly wrong.

Game 2 comes down to a shot from almost halfcourt that almost goes in after Miami hits a 2-pointer with 2 seconds to play. I had a sense of Asheville déjà vu until it clanked. Southern Cal doesn’t like being called Southern Cal, but insists on claiming rights to both USC and SC, so when the Trojans come to South Carolina, folks gotta call them something.

Such as eliminated.

Fullerton represents the Golden State in Greenville, too.

The crowd’s a bit slim for Game 3, presumably because Duke isn’t likely to be tested but quite possibly because the Auburn fans are loose in the streets, screaming “War Eagle!” till all hours of the night.

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Upon further review, it turns out that thousands of fans are outside, waiting inexplicably to be allowed in. By halftime of the Duke-Fullerton State game, the place is packed again.

Me? I want to see Davidson play Michigan State. I’ve named the Wildcats as my official Paladin replacement this year. If Davidson loses, I’m diverting my considerable rooting resources to Richmond.

Yes, Duke is quintessentially Duke. Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils gradually grind Cal State-Fullerton into sausage, then stuff the Titans into links. Meanwhile, the Well swells with throngs of green-clad Michiganders and scarlet Wildcats.

I yearn for an upset, though I have nothing against Michigan State but its status as the favorite. I have a Michigan State sweatshirt. True, it was purchased cut rate at a Flying J, but I wear it on occasion.

With 7:41 remaining, the Blue Devils lead, 63-45. It gets no better for the Titans.

It occurs to me that I might stroll over to Krzyzewski’s media conference. It’s my only chance to ask him a question. Nah. I’ve already heard enough reporters ask “what does this say about your team?” for one lifetime, let alone this day and night at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

The Davidson pep band could build the Panama Canal – or maybe a canal from Lake Norman – in the amount of time it takes to set up. They block the view of the final minutes of the Duke game, not that there was much to see. They all wear oft-washed white tee shirts that have “GOAT” above “30” on the back. Apparently Stephen Curry still plays for the Wildcats. No wonder they’re good.

Michigan State winds up edging the never-say-die Wildcats by a point. Bob McKillop is a fine coach and one who decided to stay and stay and stay at Davidson. For years now, I’ve been asking myself why Furman can’t do this and Davidson can. The answer is McKillop.

Furman’s got a right sporty fellow in charge right now, too.

Publisher

Clinton native Monte Dutton is Furman-educated and has been a sportswriter for most of four decade. At DHK Sports LLC and its three website, Monte is committed to filling the void in local sports coverage created by the decline of other media.