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STULTZ: Rambling on the way to Spokane

Life has a way of paying you back sometimes. In June 2022, I returned to Omaha for the first time since I was driving back from Pullman, Wash., following my resignation after three months of pure hell covering Washington State. It was one of the low points of my life, as I covered in a column from the College World Series then.

Today, I fly to Spokane, Wash., to cover Auburn in the NCAA Tournament. A couple of weeks before that cross-country drive that included the stop in Omaha, I was sitting in a Spokane hotel wondering what my next stop would be before flying to Los Angeles to cover the Cougars playing USC in my last game on that beat. I would be lying if I said I wasn't depressed or anxious about my future. I was down on myself, wondering why I was the one that went through all that crap, swearing to myself that I would never step foot in a city even close to Pullman ever again.

Those dark days (and let's be honest, months that followed) are long gone now, and I am more than happy to return to the Pacific Northwest (for the third time in as many years, but both previous trips to Seattle) to cover the Tigers. It's funny how life takes something only to return it in spades.

Let's get into some ramblings:

- While driving to the Atlanta airport this morning, I was flipping through SiriusXM and came across the Juvenile hit "Back That Azz Up." Did I once blow off studying for a final in college to learn the lyrics to this song? You absolutely know it.

- If there is a difference I have seen between the Hugh Freeze I met seven years ago and the one I see now, it is vulnerability. That continued on Tuesday in his press conference. I'm proud of him.

- I lived in NYC for more than a decade. On Tuesday night, I found out Wagner College was on Staten Island. To be fair, I only went to Staten Island once in all those years.

- What Bruce Pearl has done for Auburn basketball has been covered, but it still amazes me. Seeing a packed Bridgestone Arena on Sunday with 90 percent Auburn fans was chill-inducing. The roar was overwhelming at times. Once again, great job, Auburn fans.

- It was nice to see Freeze, John Cohen, Nelle Cohen, Johnnie Harris and President Roberts in the front of the Auburn student section during Sunday's SEC Tournament title game. That doesn't happen at many schools. Good on them.

- I was hoping that K.D. Johnson's run of games with a technical foul would continue on Sunday after Auburn took control of the game. Four straight games heading into the NCAA Tournament would have been something else.

- I know I already ranked the best times to drink beer, but airport beer right before a flight ranks right up there.

- Did you see Virginia go 13-or-so minutes without scoring a point last night in the play-in game? Yeah, I'm so happy the committee put them in instead of Indiana State. What a joke.

- Jon Rahm's Masters Club dinner menu looks absolutely delicious. I don't care what Rory McIlroy says.

- I'm on the road as long as Auburn keeps winning the NCAA Tournament, which means I won't be able to play golf for some time. Maybe my swing will magically heal itself, and I will become a scratch golfer when I return. That would be a miracle.

- I use Grammarly when I write columns, and often, it asks me if I want to sound more confident in a sentence, as it did with the item before. It should know me by now. Come on, robot!

- On that subject, the Oxford comma is dumb.

- Speaking of confidence, the MLB season is coming up, and I am confident that the Chicago Cubs will blow it again when it comes to making the playoffs.

- I've never seen a player be better at instigating opposing players into getting angry than Chad Baker-Mazara. That is a unique gift, and it is hilarious to watch up close.

- Since we are so close to the action during the SEC and NCAA Tournaments, you can see the interactions between players and referees. Let's just say that the referees have a talk with K.D. before a game, but have an affection for him at the same time.

- D.J. Durkin + Charles Kelly x Crime Dawg = ENERGY on the practice field.

- Finally, if any of our great subscribers are out in Spokane this week (or, hopefully, Boston next week), hit me up, and we will have a drink.