Bernstein Blog- C-USA Tourney Edition - Day 1

Charlie travels to Memphis and keeps us up-to-date with the UCF Knights quest at the C-USA Tournament. Here is day one of the journey.

7:15 a.m.- My alarm goes off and it's time to get up and get ready to go to the picturesque Orlando International Airport. With the state of the economy fully in mind, I decide to forego airport parking and get a ride there and back. The only person available to offer me that ride was my Aunt Annie (she's crazy).

7:55 a.m.- We're off to the airport. My Aunt doesn't seem to be very well acquainted with many of the traffic rules that most of us find normal. She's already nearly ran into a tree in my driveway, and has crossed the center line that divides the lanes several times. It's possible that we may get into an accident this morning.

8:30 a.m.- We're driving and "Jammin" in the car to Bob Marley. Her driving habits have seemed to even out and I'm feeling much safer. My aunt is one of the talkative types, and some that know her would even say that she never shuts up. Who am I to complain, she's giving me a ride to the airport?

8:47 a.m.- My aunt is telling stories about people whom I've never met and referring to them by their first names. I'm nodding and smiling, and trying to think of other things.

9:45 a.m.- I just boarded the plane, following the security procedures. I'm eating a bagel with cream cheese and it needs more cream cheese. Oh well.

10:10 a.m.- The very feminine male flight attendant caught me trying to hide my backpack under my seat. He apprehended the backpack being that I'm sitting in the first row, and apparently I am not allowed to have my belongings there. Oh well.

10:54 a.m.- There is some really bad hair on this flight. I don't want to be a glass-housed stone-thrower, however there is a woman who has the famous late 80's, early 90's Aqua Net wall type of hair style. She also has the socks and sandals combination going strong. Some other lady is wearing denim on denim (tucked in) and her jeans are roughly six inches above the small of her back. I'm not sure when that was a good look, but I am pretty sure it's not a good look now.

10:56 a.m.- I am finally able to retrieve my backpack with my computer. I'm still a little angry at the princess that took it.

11:25 a.m.- Touched down in Atlanta (because apparently you can't travel anywhere without stopping in Atlanta), used the facilities, and grabbed a burger (yes, I washed my hands first).

12:10 p.m.- I have a girls gymnastics team on my flight. Before you get any ideas, they are a little too young to check out. Unfortunately, their horribly loud, southern accent mom's are trying to talk to everyone about their daughter's exploits. I'm wishing a ceiling tile would fall directly on this lady's head. Something tells me that a massive head injury still wouldn't shut her up. Maybe it can fall on my head though, that would be nice.

12:47 p.m.- They still haven't boarded the plane and this obnoxious gymnastics mom is talking about how her daughter's team should've won the "competition," and the only reason they lost was because of politics. Maybe President Obama can get involved?

1:25 p.m.- We've boarded and we're up in the air. I cringed when the flight attendant congratulated the team on the loudspeaker. I believe this trip has ruined the appreciation I once had for female gymnasts.

1:45 p.m.- Nice woman sitting next to me, but she's extremely talkative, which is making it difficult for me to get work done. In just 20 minutes I know that one of her sons is unemployed and just got a DUI, and the other has been with the same girl for 10 years. This could be the longest one hour and one minute flight of my life.

2:05 p.m.- We're getting ready to land and I tuned her out for the last 20 minutes while I managed to write an article about Matt Stafford.

2:31 p.m. (1:31 p.m. Memphis time)- The eagle has landed. After a quick stop to purchase a toothbrush (I just remembered that I left mine at home), I went down to baggage claim, which is about the size of my living room. My luggage arrived and I'm excited that I won the baggage game.

2:05 p.m. (we've officially switched to CST)- A nice man by the name of Danhil Mohammed takes me via taxi to the Marriott Downtown. $35 poorer, I have now arrived at my accommodations.

3:25 p.m.- I head downtown on the trolley to the Westin to pick up my credentials. To my surprise they had a gift waiting for me, a C-USA Nike jacket. I quickly grabbed it and headed to the Fed Ex Forum to familiarize myself with the surroundings.

3:40 p.m.- The Fed Ex Forum is gorgeous, just a really awesome venue. I headed down to the court to see if anything was going on.

3:42 p.m.- The Marshall Thundering Herd were just finishing up their practice. They look loose and confident, and why wouldn't they be? They've been playing very good ball of late and nobody expects them to do anything here. I believe they win one or two games in this tourney.

3:55 p.m.- I talked to Marshall head coach Donnie Jones, and he's a very likeable guy. Jones raved about UCF superstar Jermaine Taylor, and guaranteed that he'd be on an NBA roster next year.

4:00 p.m.- In the distance, coming out of the tunnel I see Kenrick Zondervan and the UCF Knights. I feel pretty lucky that I got in town quick enough to catch the UCF practice.

4:15 p.m.- The team split up into guards and big men. The guards went about five full minutes without missing a three-point shot. That's a very good sign.

4:35 p.m.- Coach Speraw is showing his troops how to run a few different kinds of in-bounds plays, and the team is practicing double-screens for Jermaine Taylor. A lot of fans take Taylor's jumpers on the wing for granted, but countless hours of practice and repetition, as well as some very solid screens by the big guys are the reason for his success.

4:45 p.m.- The Knights are practicing some shooting drills on skip-passes against zone defense. As hot as the guards were early on, is as ice cold as they were now. Nobody could throw it in the basket, and then mercifully Chris Baez ended the drought.

4:58 p.m.- The team is ending practice and everyone is taking half-court shots. After A.J. Rompza nearly nailed the very first attempt, nobody was coming close. I hear one of the C-USA officials mutter, "I hope UCF doesn't have to depend on a half-court shot to win a game."

4:59 p.m.- Jermaine Taylor steps to half-court and promptly nails his very first mid-court attempt. The guy is magic.

5:00 p.m.- I talk to Coach Speraw for about 10 minutes, and he feels pretty confident about tomorrow's game.

5:15 p.m.- The Houston Cougars (the animal, not the middle-aged woman) enter the court and they are just doing a basic shoot-around. I spoke to head coach Tom Penders for a long time about scheduling difficulties and some of the things that would make the world of college basketball better. Very intelligent guy.

5:25 p.m.- I am now on the hunt for some BBQ. Being that I'm in Memphis, it wasn't very difficult to find.

6:05 p.m.- I'm walking back to catch my trolley when a man in a wheelchair asks me about Jesus and then asks for $1.50 (my first thought was, ‘what an arbitrary amount?'). I explain to him that I'm not giving him $1.50 because I need my dollar for the trolley (not to mention I didn't have $.50). He said that I could get more money at the ATM and I asked him that if it were that easy, why he didn't just go to the ATM (I thought a legitimate question). He then said that $1.50 wouldn't break me, and then I explained to him that I just purchased a new Porsche and every dollar counts in this economy. I thought that was funny.

6:15 p.m.- I get to the trolley stop and the trolley arrives. The lady driving is talking, but I'm not sure if she's talking to me. I've engaged in enough banter today, so I decided to just going to look out the window and ignore her. I then see through part of her weave to notice that she indeed has an earpiece in. At least she's not crazy… or is she?

6:25 p.m.- I return to the hotel and I see the Houston Cougars arriving. Apparently, them, SMU, and UTEP are all staying at the Marriott. I'm headed up to the room to do some work.


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