Midwest Swing Elite 8 Edition


Michigan State Dance team

Paul M. Banks

ST LOUIS-I got one of the best compliments ever following the taking of the picture you see above. Some random dude said something that made me think, “this must be what Justin Timberlake feels like every day.”

-The Michigan State dance team are the Laker Girls of college basketball; you won’t find a hotter spirit squad anywhere. After MSU clinched their 6th trip to the Final Four in 12 years, I asked them for a photo-opp. A nice (but completely confused by my digital camera) old lady took the first picture, which didn’t turn out so well. Then she handed it to some dude passing by. After he snapped the photo, I gestured my hand out to receive my camera.

He said “oh, it’s YOUR camera? I thought one of these girls wanted to take a picture with you?” And he was actually serious. I thought inside my head “You think, I’m that important or influential that these college cuties would seek THEIR picture taken with ME? Thanks!” But out loud I said something lame like: “I wish, man.”smokey and cheerleaders

-Then, one of the MSU dancing hotties asked me “what time do we play Saturday?” I said, “I don’t know. I’m not affiliated with the NCAA.” She asked me again in different words. I said, “the Duke game just started, and if they win, I’m pretty sure CBS will highlight Duke in the primetime slot given their reputation as a program, so I would guess State will get the earlier of the two games Saturday night.”

So maybe she also thought that I was, in the words of Ron Burgundy, “kind of a big deal”. I MUST dress like this more often!…And by this, I mean the Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey look: no dress shirt or tie and instead dark colored t-shirt underneath your suit. People seem to treat me differently in this “Miami Vice” style.

-And who got the Duke/game slot thing totally right? For more photos from my Sweet 16/Elite 8 album go here.

-There was a certain nauseating song played at all three games of the Midwest Regional Finals. This now makes it 1,278,893,764 times in a row we’ve heard Black Eyed-Peas “I gotta feeling” at a sporting event.


Who thinks this is hip and cool? I may develop a gag reflex everytime I hear “I gotta feeling….Feeeeelinggg. That tonight’s gonna be a good night, that tonight’s gonna be a good night.” It’s a trillion times more annoying than the “Let’s get it started” craze during the 2004 NBA Playoffs.

tom h to the izzo

tom izzo final four

-“Mr. March” is now Tom Izzo’s official name. He’s guided his Michigan St. Spartans to a NCAA Tournament portfolio reading: 6-1 in Regional final games, 26-3 versus lower seeds, 5-0 versus SEC, 9 sweet sixteens in 13 years (second nationally to Duke’s 11) and a 33-11 record in the big dance’s first two rounds. He is to tournament winning what ridiculous over-coverage of celebrity death is to mainstream media.

-Yes, I’m aware of the irony of some guy covering one of the most highly publicized events in the world writing about how bad the “mainstream media” is!

-This one is really for my fellow Washington Times.com Communities bloggers. You know how people sometimes say to you “I read your blog on the Washington Post” or “Hey, I like that thing you have on the Post’s website” And you always have to correct them. (I do at least) Well, my credential and name placard at the table actually says “Washington Post” here. But hey, at least, they didn’t list my affiliation as Bucknuts.com (who of course went home after Ohio St. lost Friday night) now that would have been FUNNY!

-How awesome was the Roberts Mayfair hotel! They lost my reservation which I made under Travelocity, so in gratitude for making me wait, they gave me the biggest suite in the place! And while I waited to check in, all I did
was play around on WordPress and Facebook. It had 2  flat-screen tvs, living room, kitchen and it was walking distance to the dome. I felt like Nelly must feel when he comes home “big faces when they fold out, 20 inches when they roll out”

-How cool was it to meet Magic Johnson on Sunday? Friday night wasn’t too shabby either, as Izzo was joined by his BFF Steve Mariucci of the NFL Network. I had a pretty cool exclusive with Mooch too. The story made #2 on Yardbarker Network top stories of the day!state

-I would also like to inform my readers about what usually happens at Michigan State University on the night the basketball team gets eliminated. Starting in 1999, it became a “tradition” for the students to riot on that evening. They smash store windows, burn couches in the middle of the street etc. The East Lansing police have beefed up their presence each year and now they’re so trigger happy with the tear gas that they’ve really quelled the student body most of the time.

– It didn’t happen when I was there because the Spartans won the national title, but it’s happened every other year since. So I’m warning you now: if State loses Saturday night, avoid Grand River Avenue and the M.A.C. in downtown East Lansing like the plague. Flee to Okemos!

-Michigan State breaks an unofficial basketball record by being the team with the most unique first name but very common last name combinations. Take a look, Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe, Kalin Lucas, Draymond Green, Durrell Summers. I’ve never heard those first names on any other individual other than these guys, yet their surnames are pretty commonplace.

michigan state

-Getting to hear the Tennessee Volunteers play “Rocky Top” in  person for the 1st time, was a special treat. It’s certainly one of the best songs in college sports! And as that son was still in my head on the flight home from St. Louis, I remembered two passages I penned in the first installment of the “Midwest Swing,” and how they both came true that day.

1.) “who knows what will cross my path, and what people I’ll get to meet and talk to. Hopefully, the Michigan State Dance team is included in that group.” I wrote the day before I left for the Big Ten Tournament.sparty

2.) I mentioned being inspired and motivated by the “ Clay Travis’ sports road trip “Dixieland Delight.” The Fan House writer and die-hard Tennessee fan hit every single SEC football stadium in the same season for his tome. And who did his Vols play? None other than the team from a school I attended. I seriously need to reach out to this dude and collaborate on something with him.

-Ok, so maybe I complained a lot about Nellyville as a city this weekend, but forget recreation, and the fact that I got very sick from the only meal I actually paid for. The work portion of the trip was as fruitful and engaging as possible. Two games that I covered came down to the final possession. The third was decided in the final minute. And it’s indicative of the 2010 tournament as a whole!  We’ve had buzzer beaters, overtime sessions, comebacks everywhere and my Regional may have been best of all! Being able to be on the court as my “2nd team” cut down the nets, and hoisted the Regional trophy was a transcendent experience!

Who knows what will get for the climax in the circle city. See you in Indy.


  1. You can’t ignore Baylor when it comes to player names. Not always unique
    first name, common last name but always unique – Tweety Carter (my fav)
    LaceDarius Dunn (sounds like he has soft skin), Quincy Acy (some sort of
    children’s card game), and Givon Crump (villian in a Roald Dahl book)

  2. paulmbanks says

    hahaaha! You’re spot on with your descriptions of these names! LaceDarius Dunn is my favorite! But Tweety Carter is greatly helped by the fact that his fame is peaking during the heyday of Twitter. Too bad he doesn’t have NBA potential so we can’t hear his name more…

  3. paulmbanks says

    I need to find a way to integrate that lead photo into TSB promotional materials somehow! “5/6 Michigan State cheerleaders prefer the sports bank over the leading Midwestern sports blog”

    In that pic I sort of like Snoop Dogg when he’s in that music video with all 6 PussyCat Dolls.

    Ok not really, but sort of…………ok not even sort of, but you get the analogy

  4. Basket Ball March Madness says

    Wondering how many March Madness lovers are making their wives nuts!

  5. It’s wonderful that you are getting thoughts from this article
    as well as from our dialogue made at this time.

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