Basketball, Strawberries & Pound Cake

Since 1977 the traditional food eaten during the NCAA College Basketball Tournament has always been strawberries. That’s because the first year John and I watched the tournament together as students at Western Carolina University, I suggested we fix strawberries. I’m not really sure why that seemed like an appropriate snack food instead of chips, peanuts, popcorn, pizza or some other food usually associated with sporting events, but in any case it was the beginning of our tradition of watching the best basketball of the year while also eating the tastiest food on the planet.

As we bought the strawberries for the final weekend of this year’s tournament, John mentioned that I haven’t baked a pound cake in 2015. He asked if I intended to make another after last year’s Pound Cake of the Month challenge.

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A good traditional pound cake is the perfect accompaniment for fresh strawberries so this year in addition to basketball and strawberries, we’ll add pound cake.

IMG_7542Sour Cream Pound Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
    Click here for the recipe from the May 2006 edition of Southern Living.

Survive and Advance – FGCU Style

basketballWho expected Florida to be the best represented state in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen? With the Hurricanes, Gators, and basketball nation’s new Cinderella team, Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles advancing to the next round of the tournament there’s a lot of basketball excitement for fans in the state of Florida. Yes, I’ll be watching; but for those who don’t share the love of the tournament but don’t want to be left out of the March Madness, watching the following ESPN 30 for 30 episodes may be a good alternative.

The newest episode with a basketball theme, Survive and Advance, is airing tonight and throughout the next several weeks so there are ample opportunities to view this story of college basketball highlighting events from the tournament 30 years ago. While I remember the Wolfpack run, I’d forgotten much of the drama surrounding their remarkable win. The ESPN documentary presented a great look back at a terrific story. The description from ESPN:

When the 1982-83 college basketball season began, Jim Valvano and his North Carolina State Wolfpack faced high expectations and high aspirations. But with 10 losses for the season, the Wolfpack’s only hope of making the NCAA Tournament was to win the ACC Tournament and earn the conference automatic berth. Nine straight improbable wins later over the likes of Sampson, Jordan, Olajuwon, and Drexler, North Carolina State had “survived and advanced” its way to a national championship.

…the dream fulfilled..(it) explores what at times has been a tragic and heartbreaking aftermath in the thirty years since. -ESPN

Not a Valvano fan, The Guru of Go documents the exciting play of the Loyola Marymount basketball team or the life and sudden death of Len Bias is the subject of Without Bias, both rebroadcast in the coming weeks. I didn’t see one of my favorites, There’s No Place Like Home listed on the schedule, but it’s worth checking out online or through Netflix. There’s No Place Like Home documents a story everyone can enjoy.

Sotheby’s auctioned of the most important historical document in sports history: James Naismith’s original rules of basketball. There’s No Place Like Home is the story of one fan’s obsessive quest to win the artifact at auction and bring the rule “home” to Lawrence, Kansas, where Naismith coached and taught for more than 40 years. -ESPN

Join the basketball conversation. Watch the tournament or a couple of the ESPN 30 for 30 episodes about the game. Who knows, maybe FGCU will be the subject of a future “Survive and Advance” story.

Artis, Chip, and the Dolphins

Artis Gilmore, the first college player I remember watching.
Artis Gilmore, the first college player I remember watching.

In 1969-1970, Artis Gilmore, Chip Dublin, and the Jacksonville University Dolphins basketball team introduced me to the world of what’s now commonly referred to as “March Madness”,  the NCAA college basketball tournament. As an eleven year old, sixth grader and a safety patrol I escorted Artis Gilmore and Chip Dublin throughout Justina Road School as they visited following their unbelievable run in the 1970 NCAA tournament.  I remember being amazed watching the 7’2″ Gilmore duck through each doorway, and I carried his autograph written in green ink in my wallet for years.

My family followed the Dolphins’ success throughout the season and attended several games. At the beginning of the season we watched the team play in the small gym on campus, but by the end of the season several games were moved to the Jacksonville Coliseum to accommodate the ever increasing crowds. The high scoring games were exciting and since they only lost one regular season game we always enjoyed cheering for the winning team. (Sarah would be pleased to know that her Seminoles spoiled their perfect season.)

The  ’69-’70 Dolphins not only went on to the NCAA tournament, they beat Western Kentucky, Iowa, Kentucky, and Saint Bonaventure on their way to face the legendary UCLA Bruins in the championship game. We heard students celebrating on campus from our apartment a little over a mile away. Each victory was followed by the honking of horns and shouting in the streets by JU students and enthusiastic Jacksonville fans. Their final opponent, the Bruins, were not only the defending champions, but had won the tournament five of the previous six seasons.

JU stars Rex Morgan, Artis Gilmore, and Vaughn Wedeking holding basketballs representing 1969-70 season wins.
JU stars Rex Morgan, Artis Gilmore, and Vaughn Wedeking holding basketballs representing 1969-70 season wins.

While the season did not end with a national championship, losing 69-80 to UCLA, the Dolphins still hold the record as the smallest school to ever play in the NCAA Basketball final. In addition, they were the first college team to average over 100 points for an entire season despite the fact there was no shot clock, no dunking, and no three point shots. Artis Gilmore averaged 26.5 points per game and 22.2 rebounds per game, and he still holds the NCAA career rebounding average of  22.7 rebounds per game.

That 1969-70 basketball season hooked me on college basketball and March Madness.