BUFFALO, N.Y. – Kim English got permission from his high school teacher to go to the bathroom and snuck off to the janitor’s room.
There, he and a friend, who asked to go to the “bathroom” five minutes after English, watched NCAA Tournament basketball games.
No. 10 seed Missouri (22-10, 10-6) vs. No. 7 seed Clemson (21-9, 9-7)
WHEN: 1:35 p.m.
WHERE: HSBC Arena, Buffalo, N.Y.
TV: CBS - KRCG/Channel 13 (Gus Johnson play-by-play; Len Elmore analyst)
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM
ONLINE: Uninterupted viewing at NCAA.com
SERIES: Tied 1-1. Clemson won 47-45 Nov. 30, 1996 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
MISSOURI KEY: Limit 3-point shots: Missouri doesn’t need to limit Clemson's 3-point shooting, its needs to limit its own. In Missouri’s past three losses, it averaged 20 3-point shots a game. When it doesn’t settle for 3-point shots, its offense is more balanced and effective.
Coach: Oliver Purnell, 7th season
Last Season: 23-9 (9-7 in ACC)
THE SKINNY: Clemson has stumbled into the tournament much like Missouri. Clemson lost its first game of the ACC Tournament and has gone 6-6 to end the season. Led by athletic forward Trevor Booker, Purnell is looking for his first NCAA Tournament victory.
CLEMSON KEY: Use Booker: With the injury of forward Justin Safford, Missouri lacks frontcourt depth. Clemson needs to put the ball in the hands of its best player and get Missouri in foul trouble to win.
WATCH FOR: Trevor Booker: The 6-7 senior averages 15.3 points a game and is the anchor for Clemson’s fast break offense. He has the ability to take over games both offensively and defensively, averaging 1.4 blocks a game.
Plenty of kids sneak a peak at their cell phones during class to check scores. But watching basketball in a dingy janitor’s closet? It really is March Madness.
Players on the Missouri men’s basketball team spent part of Thursday practicing at HSBC Arena, the site of the team's first-round NCAA Tournament game against Clemson at about 1:35 p.m. Friday. But they also kept tabs on the 16 games that kicked off what several called the best time of the year.
“After practice and after you eat, you’re always kind of excited to go see all the other games,” guard Jarrett Sutton said. “ … Any free time, you’re trying to watch as many games as you can.”
Sutton has his own story about finding a way to watch tournament games in high school.
“At lunch time, I’d even sneak into the teacher’s lounge, and he had a little TV and we’d watch it,” Sutton said. “He’d say that he had me doing work as a TA (teaching assistant) for him.”
Now, the fun of watching the tournament has turned into a responsibility: practice, film, scouting reports, going to bed early.
“All you’re thinking about is your game, but it’s hard not to get into the tournament and watch other teams,” Sutton said. “Close games, down to the wire, people fighting for their lives. It’s an exciting time, so it’s hard not to get caught up in other games.”
As Clemson’s players talked with reporters before practice Thursday, a small TV sitting on top of a locker showed the Notre Dame-Old Dominion game.
“We’re a little stir-crazy right now when we see teams getting it going,” Clemson’s Tanner Smith said. “You kind of feel like you’re left out.”
Sutton said he and his teammates would turn on the games when they returned to the Tigers’ downtown hotel Thursday evening. When coaches do room checks at about 10:30 or 11 at night, they’re expected to start winding down and get ready for bed.
But that doesn’t mean the TV has to go off.
“They don’t sit there and watch you try to fall asleep,” Sutton said.
Smith said he’d probably doze off with one of Thursday’s late games on the TV. Fact is, the players who are part of the tournament still want to soak it all up.
“I’m still a basketball fan,” English said. “I want to win this tournament real bad, but I still have favorite teams. I still root for (home-state team) Maryland. I’m still a basketball fan.”
With a win-or-go-home game to prepare for, English can’t escape to the janitor’s room like he did in high school. But once he and his teammates are dismissed, they’ll consume as much of the tournament as possible.
“This is the best time of the year,” Sutton said. “You just don’t want to miss anything.”