Hit the road with the FOX Sports College Basketball Road Trip

BY foxsports • February 27, 2014

For many of you, the notion of embarking on a college basketball road trip at a time like this probably seems insane.

On the precipice of one of the busiest times in our business, and with the team we normally cover — Kentucky — making moves towards a run in the NCAA Tournament, dropping everything and getting in the car and driving across 15 states over the course of two weeks to watch college basketball is ludicrous.

Six hours or more a day on lonely interstates, followed by evenings in sweaty gymnasiums filled with screaming students cheering on non-professional basketball would be some (rational) people's idea of misery. But not me.

See, the decision to kick off the road to March Madness with my friend Drew Franklin for our second college basketball road trip is beyond exciting. Yes, going to 12 college basketball games in 12 days across 12 campuses, stopping only to watch basketball, write blogs and do my daily radio show is ridiculous on the surface. But ridiculous is what we do.

A few years back, I put aside a Duke Law degree and a corporate law practice to write articles about 17-year-old boys' college decisions and Photoshop pictures of Rick Pitino's new beard on historical figures (it looks particularly funny on George Washington, by the way). So my standards of judgment are clearly already out of whack, which makes the idea of dropping everything and hitting the road to follow my favorite sport in its most exciting time exactly my idea of normalcy.

What we will miss in sleep and sitting comfortably in locations outside of our hideous orange SUV (more to come on that later) we will make up for by being engulfed by the greatest sport known to man: college basketball.  

Along the way, we will visit every kind of feature that makes the sport great. We will see the sport's most famous rivalry when North Carolina battles Duke, some of its oldest traditions with stops at Kentucky and Indiana, a small college battle (Iona vs. Manhattan), two games that could be winner-take-all affairs to the NCAA Tournament (Harvard-Yale and the Southern Conference Championship) and many more. And as soon as we become enthralled with one, we’ll hop back into our hideous orange SUV and head to the other — because over-gorging on the trip is required.

I am a firm believer that when college basketball is good (and at no time is it better than in late February and March) there is simply no better spectacle in American sports. And this season has the potential to have one of the best finishing stretches in a decade.

In a year that was supposed to see a handful of teams dominate, instead we have witnessed the great flattening of the college basketball landscape. The NCAA Tournament will begin with at least 10 legitimate contenders poised to cut down the nets and another 15-20 squads with shots at a run to the Final Four. In fact, I can't ever remember a year in which more teams can enter Tournament play with more hope for success. This season, any team can be king and the crown is up for the taking.

And what better way to experience that madness than by hitting the open road and embarking on a college basketball road trip that will take us right up to the beginning of Championship Week.

For now, our itinerary looks like this:

Thursday, Feb. 27:  Arkansas at Kentucky

Friday, Feb. 28:  Iona at Manhattan

Saturday, March 1: Syracuse at Virginia

Sunday, March 2: Marquette at Villanova

Monday, March 3: NC State at Pittsburgh

Tuesday, March 4: Michigan at Illinois

Wednesday, March 5: Nebraska at Indiana

Thursday, March 6: Memphis at Cincinnati

Friday, March 7: Harvard at Yale

Saturday, March 8: North Carolina at Duke

Sunday, March 9: Michigan State at Ohio State

Monday, March 10: Southern Conference Championship

It really is somewhat of an insane schedule that features a couple of very long drives (the Kentucky to Manhattan and Yale to Durham ones stick out as particularly ambitious) and the potential for a lot of high-quality basketball. There are at least five teams on the list that can legitimately consider themselves national title contenders, and another five that could be one of the four teams standing at the start of April. Throw in some Tournament elimination games for bubble teams, the de facto Ivy League title game and a Championship Week conference tournament and the excitement should be endless.

But while the games will be fun, they are only one reason this trip —and this log — will be entertaining. Notice how earlier I said that this is our schedule "for now." That’s because my experience has been that trips like this take on a life of their own. Whether it is due to weather, car trouble or just the oddities customary of road trips, one never knows when the route could be diverted or new games might find their way onto the itinerary. What we encounter along the way will rival in excitement what we initially set out to accomplish.

When Drew and I did this four years ago, I don't so much remember the games we saw so much as the snow storm that had me stuck on the side of the road in rural Iowa (with a small-town hotel desk clerk yelling at Drew that he should not make fun of the Spam Museum), the water pipe burst that caused me to seek refuge with the Virginia Tech dance team (there are worse fates, mind you) and the pizza I shared with a then-unknown kid out of New York named Kenneth Faried at Morehead State.

Unlike professional sports, the game itself is only part of the story of college basketball and we hope to pass along to you some tales from off the court during our Fox Sports College Basketball Road Trip. Maybe I’ll even get a chance to see Bobby Knight wolf down two Chipotle burritos in four minutes as I did four years ago at Kansas.

So we are took off this morning to Lexington driving the car featured so proudly below ... a crusty, burnt orange Hyundai Santa Fe that was the only SUV at Enterprise that had working satellite radio (a must for these long drives). This will be our home for the next 12 days until we land finally in Asheville, NC, at the Southern Conference Championship. And the forecasts suggest that we may hit a lot of extreme weather next week during the Big Ten part of our tour; if there is one place you would like to be in a blizzard, it is in a hideous orange SUV.

But that is down the road, and the first rule of a road trip is that you only worry about what is immediately in front of you. Our initial stop is Kentucky, where we interviewed John Calipari and will see the Cats try to avenge their earlier loss this season to Arkansas. It should be a great start to a fun two weeks here on the FOX Sports College Basketball Road Trip and we hope you will enjoy the ride with us.


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