The Knights have just headed into the classroom here at Augustana's Carver Center for their pre-game "chalk talk". I don't know about the players, but I'm already nervous and we're 50 minutes away from tip-off.
The Knights had a good walk through practice this morning. The team looks loose, yet confident and focused. We had an excellent pregame meal of pasta and chicken at a local eating establishment next to our hotel. The only downer of the day has been that head coach Guy Kalland is quite ill -- he had to leave practice twice this morning. I'm sure he'll make it through the game fine, you'd just like to see him feeling 100 percent because you know he's waited a long time to get to this point. Just as any competitor would do, though, I'm sure he'll push through.
No matter tonight's outcome, the Knights have given their families, friends and fans a wonderful ride. In speaking with Brian Sharkey's parents this afternoon, you could here the pride in his dad, Kevin's, voice when he said how important it was to him to be here and listen as they announced Brian's name as a starter in the NCAA Tournament. Priceless.
My hope is the Knights just come out and play well, win or lose. I think the first 5-10 minutes of the game will be telling. Can the Knights make this into a half-court game? Can they limit turnovers and force Stout to work for every shot? The Knights did this three seasons ago when they came within six minutes of beating the Blue Devils on their home floor to start the 2003-04 season. Both teams are much better (and different) now, but their personalities mirror that of each head coach, and I think that game may be a good indicator of tonight's match-up. In that game, the Knights led by 11 with six minutes left, but the Blue Devils ended on a 10-0 spurt to win, 61-54. Hopefully the Knights can put themselves in a similar position and finish it off this time and advance to tomorrow night.
We'll try to have more at either halftime or right after the game. Meanwhile, make sure to tune into our extended pre-game show starting at 5:30 p.m.