Indianapolis - What's up, folks?
I'm at Lucas Oil Stadium in preparation for the biggest event of the college basketball season, the Final Four.
It's an amazing venue.
Can't see a thing from the press box without binoculars. That's why I'm courtside right now. I have to find a way to get down here Saturday and Monday for the actual games. Or I'll have to buy a pair of binoculars.
I'll be here all night. Literally. There's a college all-star game Friday night.
The entire city of Indianapolis is going crazy right now. Butler's participation adds a cool element to the 2010 Final Four. Not sure how the Bulldogs will impact TV ratings, but people will actually dance in the streets if Butler wins a national title.
Forgive me for the shock and awe, but this is my first rodeo, my first Final Four.
Here are my random thoughts/experiences so far:
-When I picked up my rental car, the guy at the front desk showed me the "Butler Bulldogs" t-shirt he wore underneath his company apparel. True fan.
Then, he told me that "J Cool L" will be performing in downtown Indianapolis this weekend. He meant "LL Cool J," I think.
-The Indianapolis airport is decorated in everything basketball. Interactive games, Final Four banners, basketball apparel and ... Irish music? Nothing against the group that performed but I didn't get the music's connection to basketball.
Rap performances by Shaq, Kobe or Chris Webber would have made more sense.
-I ran into a number of assistant coaches (the top head coaches fly private, I assume) at baggage claim Thursday. I chatted up Lamar assistant Kermit Holmes who spoke highly of former Minneapolis Washburn guard Dylan Hale, who plays in the Southland conference for Texas State. "He hit some big shots against us," Holmes said.
I checked the stats. Hale scored 18 points in two victories over Lamar.
-It's always a little awkward to run into a group of coaches in this setting, since I never played college basketball. They're talking about ACC basketball in the late '80s, and I don't have a story to break into the conversation. I wish I could say, "I played point forward for Fordham in the early '90s," simply for the sake of dialogue. Maybe, I will.
-I ran into Tubby Smith at the stadium, prior to his National Association of Basketball Coaches press conference.
He said he's been dealing with a sinus infection that was so serious he had to have the Gophers' team doctor send a prescription to Indy. "They picked me up at CVS," he told me.
Smith sat next to former Oregon coach Ernie Kent. A little awkward with all of the Tubby-to-Oregon rumors. But they embraced after the NABC presser.
I apologize for the video quality. It was a little shaky. But I can explain.
First, Smith was in a crowded corner, so I had to film close. I got bumped a few times, which didn't help. And, Smith was walking with Kent. So I thought it would be a little disrespectful to ask him about Oregon with the guy the Ducks just fired a few feet away ... .hence, the Flipcam shot from the crowded corner ... away from Kent.
Smith, along with the rest of the coaches on the dais, promoted NCAA tourney expansion and talked about their desire to get more time with players during the summer hours. "I think they'd be inspired," Smith said about the effect extra time would have on his players during the offseason.
-NCAA tournament expansion is a matter of when, not if. On Thursday, Greg Shaheen, the NCAA's point man on the tournament, said the NCAA has "no loyalty or predisposition to any one" of the three tournament expansion models the NCAA is currently studying (65, 68 and 96 teams).
I think every reporter in the room nearly giggled. Again, every sign points to expansion.
-Kudos to the NCAA for shutting down the media work room while some reporters were still writing Thursday night. 7 p.m.? For an event like this?
-I attended the United States Basketball Writers Association breakfast Friday. Great experience. Here are a few highlights:
-I never knew Syracuse's Jim Boeheim was so outgoing and funny until he accepted the organization's coach of the year award. It was like a five-minute Jay Leno monologue. The old Jay Leno, of course. Boeheim's best lines: "I've been married 34 years. Just not to the same woman." and "My wife told me to wear a jacket. And I said, 'Why? They're reporters. I'll be the best dressed guy in the room.'"
-Ron Hunter, head coach for IUPUI, inspired the room, same thing he's been doing around the world for years. Hunter has worked with Samaritan's Feet to donate more than 1 million shoes to needy children around the world. His speech was touching. He urged everyone to make a difference. He certainly has.
-Ohio State's Evan Turner picked up the USBWA's player of the year award and Kentucky's John Wall earned the USBWA's freshman of the year honors. Both players said they have difficult choices to make in the near future. But I doubt either guy will turn down a shot at the NBA.
Thad Matta and John Calipari praised both players. Matta said Turner wanted to know how he could "remain dominant" when was still in the hospital, hours after he broke two bones in his back during a game in December.
Calipari said Wall, who told his coach he intends to earn a degree, was Kentucky's top student. When I saw Calipari on an elevator at the Columbia Club in downtown Indy, he compared Wall to San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker.
Both guys would give the Timberwolves a major boost.
-I met Oscar Robertson Friday morning. First question: "You know my friend Tubby?" Smith might be the most popular coach among his peers.
Robertson compared Turner to Kobe Bryant. He said Turner has a "Kobe Bryant body." "That's where he's headed," Robertson said.
Timberwolves fans: Pray you don't end up with the No. 3 pick in this summer's draft because these guys will be gone by then.