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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

I’m an NCAA addict

Posted by Eric Fisher On March 22

My name is Eric Fisher. I am an NCAA Tournament addict.

Whew! I feel better already.

Admitting a problem is the first step toward recovery. And I am definitely addicted to the NCAA Tournament.

I turned off the television shortly before midnight on Thursday, the first full day of tournament action. I updated a few items on PhillyPhanatics.com and was ready to go to bed.

But, before going to sleep, I couldn’t resist the urge to check scores of the late games. When I saw that 13th-seeded Manhattan was beating defending champion Louisville, my plans immediately changed.

The television was turned back on. My butt was back on the couch.

After Louisville rallied to avoid the upset, I, of course, had to watch the end of San Diego State vs. New Mexico State, the final game of the night. The thrilling final minutes of regulation were followed by overtime, with the Aztecs prevailing.

It was after 1 a.m. and I was overflowing with tournament adrenaline. I got back online, updated the Web site, updated some tournament pools, read some game stories, sent out a message regarding the first-day standings in PhillyPhanatics.com’s tournament pool and then went to bed … just before 4 a.m.

The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m.

Surprisingly, I was full of energy at work. Perhaps I was still on my tournament high from the previous night. Perhaps I was anticipating my tournament fix as soon as I got home.

I received an adrenaline boost in the afternoon by checking the Duke-Mercer score whenever I had the opportunity. In the back of mind, though, I knew the crash was coming.

When I came home, the television went on right away. More NCAA Tournament games.

I watched an hour or so of basketball Friday afternoon before the crash arrived.

I literally fell asleep while updating NCAA pools while watching games. That’s another sign of my addiction.

After a half-hour of shut-eye, I was back into the action. I crashed again with an hour, waking back up at 7:45.

That’s 7:45 p.m., but time seems meaningless to me unless it refers to the start times of tournament games. The only times that seem to matter are 16, 12, 8 and 4. If you are also an NCAA Tournament junkie, you know those numbers refer to the time left in the half at which there are television timeouts.

Television timeouts allow you to check in on other games. CBS, TBS, TNT and Truth TV. My remote control gets quite a workout during the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

My addiction is particularly severe during the opening round. Not the play-in crap the NCAA passes off as the first round. The real first round. With 32 games in two days.

That’s right. I’m also an NCAA Tournament purist.

The first round is when Cinderella arrives at the Big Dance. Small schools from nowhere topple big-name programs on the backs of heroes you’ve never seen before. The obligatory shots of the underdog’s bench, with exuberant players living in the moment, during the final minutes of these upsets is what makes the first round must-see TV.

It’s genuine. It’s real. It’s fascinating.

Stephen F. Austin’s four-point play at the end of regulation against VCU, which sent the game into overtime, captured what makes the tournament so captivating. The same could be said for 12th-seeded North Dakota State’s overtime triumph over Oklahoma or 14th-seeded Mercer’s victory over Duke.

Mercer is from the Atlantic Sun Conference, which produced last year’s Cinderella, Florida Gulf Coast. (If you already knew this, you, too, may be an NCAA Tournament addict.) A 15th seed, FGCU upset second-seeded Georgetown at Wells Fargo Center, touching off a frenzy that spread across the nation.

Last year we also had our own local Cinderella in La Salle, which progressed from the play-in game to the Sweet 16 before running into Wichita State, which proved its run to last year’s Final Four was not a fluke by entering this year’s tournament undefeated.

I remember Cinderellas of yesteryear, such as Valparaiso, Richmond and Gonzaga. I don’t care how high the Zags are seeded, they’ll always be Cinderella to me.

When did my addiction begin? Probably when I was in college.

In those days, ESPN would show the opening round. Only one game was on at a time, although live look-ins to the dramatic final moments of games produced the magic that elevated the tournament to a new stratosphere. Something exciting was always happening.

For the first two days of the tournament, ESPN would run the games in their entirety on a tape-delayed basis throughout the night. I would stay up to watch as many games as possible.

Two years ago, I scheduled a surgery so I could be out of work for the opening round. I even scheduled the surgery so I would get discharged on a Thursday morning, just in time to make it home for the opening game.

Is there a treatment for my addiction? I don’t care.

I admit I’m an addict, but I’m not interested in recovery.

I’m enjoying my annual NCAA Tournament high too much to be interested in a “cure.”

Sorry, that’s all I’ve got time for right now. The second round is about to begin.

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