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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I was Live at the Final Four

Here are some of my own observations on the Final Four in Indianapolis that I was fortunate to attend. This was my second Final Four to see in person (my first being 1987, my freshman year of college, in New Orleans when Indiana's Keith Smart hit the game winner to beat Syracuse).

My dad (who also has attended both) and I got a kick out of the fact that we went to New Orleans 19 years ago to see Indiana and we went to Indianapolis this year to see LSU. Also tying these two Final Fours together was the presence of Billy Donavan, who was a starter for Providence in 1987 (they lost in the semi-finals to Syracuse) and the head coach of the Florida Gators in 2006.

Anyway, for all of you who read the media and see reports that this was the least watched Final Four in several years, I say ignore. Watching the Final Four on the television does not do it justice. If you can ever afford the trip and you live and breathe college basketball, make a point to attend just one Final Four.

The atmosphere is amazing and the pomp and circumstance has grown dramatically over the years. The 1987 New Orleans Final Four was nothing like 2006 in Indy. Also I hear that Indy is even more amazing and unique that other locations. Indy has a contract with the NCAA to get the men's Final Four every five years for like the next 35 years. In 2010 the event will move from the RCA Dome next door to the new Lucas Oil Arena currently under construction. Indy also has a contract to get a women's Final Four every five years and a 1st and 2nd round site for the Men's tournament every five years. The NCAA also awards Indy their annual convention and some smaller events. All in all the NCAA is providing a huge financial windfall for the city of Indianapolis - enough to warrant a new arena (the RCA Dome, formerly the Hoosier Dome, was built in 1984). Also the new arena works out well since the Indianapolis Colts were threating to bolt the city unless they got a new stadium deal.

I attended several of the events over the weekend besides the semi-finals and finals. We went to Conseco Fieldhouse on Friday night to see the NABC College All-Stars play the Harlem Globetrotters. I was proud to see that the University of Memphis was well represented this night as the top two leading scorers for the Globetrotters were Keiron Shine (19 points, won the MVP award for the losing team) and Scooter McFagdon (25 points).

Keiron Shine played his junior and senior years for Memphis ('98/'99 and '99/'00). He is also a graduate of Craigmont High School in Memphis.

Scooter McFagdon, a 2005 graduate of the University of Tennessee (All-SEC '04/'05) played his freshman and sophomore seasons for Memphis. Scooter is also a graduate of Raleigh-Egypt High School in Memphis.

Anyway, it was a fun event and Conseco Fieldhouse is an impressive arena. I believe the FedEx Forum in Memphis was modeled after Conseco Fieldhouse.

On Saturday, we went to Hoop City in the Indianapolis Convention Center next to the RCA Dome. This was a collection of basketball goals and courts for youngsters (there were multiple 3 and 3 tournaments being played all four days), basketball instruction (I saw Coastal Carolina's Buzz Peterson teaching kids ball fundamentals), trivia, giveaways, photo ops, official merchandise, etc.

Right next to Hoop City was the NABC meetings with hundreds of division 1 coaches in attendance.

In Monument Circle a few blocks away was held the "world's largest pep rally". I saw Hoobastank perform. Collective Soul, the BoDeans and several others also played on Saturday. On Sunday evening, Carrie Underwood opened for John Melloncamp. John wrapped up just in time for a huge storm to hit packing serious wind and some reported tornados.

The food in Indy was great. We did Shapiros Deli, Milanos, the Oceanaire Seafood Room, St. Elmo's and the Cheesecake Factory. (We saw Bill Russell, of the San Franciso Dons and Boston Celtics fame eating at St. Elmo's).

Lastly, we attended the NCAA Hall of Champions on Monday afternoon.

Our tickets for the games were fantastic.

We sat on the 16th row on the second risers on the lower deck. These were at an angle to the court between the Florida bench and the Florida cheerleaders (opposite those dreaded Bruins). This section was for the college coaches. While several sold their seats, many were present.

We sat next to Robert McCullum (South Florida) and his wife. In the row in front of us was Leonard Hamilton (Florida State) and his wife. Directly behind us was Steve Fisher (San Diego State, and former National Champion coach while at Michigan '88/'89). Coach Fisher did not attend the Monday game and Shawn Finney, former coach at Tulane, was in his seats.

In our section we also saw Tom Penders (Houston), Gary Williams (Maryland), Buzz Peterson (Coastal Carolina), Bruce Pearl (Tennessee), Rob Evans (formerly of Arizona State and Ole Miss) and Neil Dougherty (TCU) .

Ok, yes the games were all blow outs, but the Florida and UCLA dance squads were nice. I have pictures.

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