The morning after Selection Sunday is always one of my favorite times of the college basketball season.
Even though it usually follows a night with far too little sleep, the reward for getting up before sunrise is a trip to the Palestra for the Coaches vs. Cancer March Madness Tip-Off Breakfast.
We talk all the time about the sense of community that exists among the City Six schools, but this day more than any other is when it is made clear to the region and the nation.
The breakfast brings together coaches, administrators and hundreds of fans, and as you walk down the ramp to the arena floor it seems like everyone in the building knows each other by first name.
In addition to a range of fundraising activites for Coaches vs. Cancer, the highlight of the morning is hearing Final Four picks from all six of the region's coaches and a panel of local media members.
This year's media panel included Howard Eskin, Joe Juliano, Dick Jerardi, Mike Kern, Dei Lynam and Harry Donahue.
As happens every year, I tried to record it, and as happens in more years than I would like, my audio recorder bombed during the recording. So I give you some transcribed highlights from what I could recover.
Eskin started by complimenting Fran Dunphy's mother for cheering La salle when the Explorers beat Temple, then picked Alabama State to win the play-in game and Memphis to make the Final Four "because I'm always a John Calipari guy because all the coaches here can't stand him except Bruiser."
"The one thing that I can go against here," Eskin continued, "because Phil [Martelli] thinks North Carolina's going to win the national championship, they're out. Phil never wins these things. Never."
"Why don't you save it 'til this afternoon," Martelli retorted. "Go on this afternoon - you don't know what you're talking about. Do that for four hours. Don't waste these people's times."
Eskin got the last word in, noting that the St. Joe's coach "did it this morning with Angelo, so I'm just following your lead."
The feud between Martelli and Eskin is well known. Yet Eskin said that Martelli's endorsement of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was enough to pick the Orange to make the Final Four.
Villanova coach Jay Wright was asked to weigh in on the matter.
"I like when he and Phil go at it - I think that's what everybody comes for," Wright said. What did [Eskin] say about Boeheim? I don't listen to him."
Penn coach Glen Miller admitted that he fell asleep during the six-overtime Syracuse-Connecticut game, but added that he'll be paying plenty of attention to the Huskies for the rest of the month.
"Bruiser's rooting for Memphis for his ticket upgrades, and I'm rooting for Connecticut," said the former assistant to Jim Calhoun, who said he has UConn facing North Carolina in the national championship game.
"No bias there?" emcee Neil Hartman of Comcast SportsNet asked Miller.
"Excuse me?" Miller replied. After a dramatic pause, he admitted to "a little bias."
Donahue, who calls Temple basketball games on the radio, told a story about one difference between working with John Chaney and Fran Dunphy. Apparently Chaney let Donahue and color man John Baum travel on the plane, but after landing they were responsible for their own transportation.
Dunphy allows the radio guys on the team bus, but Donahue said the price of admission is being regularly told "how little I know about the game."
La Salle coach John Giannini picked quite a few upsets: North Dakota State over Kansas, Cornell over Missouri "if they can beat the press" (good luck with that), and Western Kentucky over Illinois.
He also said that American will "go right at Jay's guys" against Villanova, and "make it more difficult on them than some people may realize."
Giannini would know at least something of what he speaks, as the Explorers played the Eagles last season before AU threw a scare into Tennessee in March.
Inquirer college basketball writer Joe Juliano joined the chorus picking a Villanova-Pittsburgh East Regional final, but went for the Panthers over the Wildcats on the theory that DeJuan Blair will have learned his lesson after losing at the Spectrum.
His upset pick was Missouri out of the West region, taking down Memphis and Connecticut on the way.