Welcome to the Friday edition of The Cooler, where you might have noticed there’s a big event in town. Let’s get to it:
*The NCAA men’s basketball Final Four doesn’t start until Saturday, but Friday was the first day you could really FEEL it.
Sure, the teams arrived Wednesday and had media sessions on Thursday. But Friday brought about all sorts of fan-friendly festivities — and with them, fans. Chief among them: Free open practices for all four teams at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The lower bowl on one side was pretty much full by the time Auburn hit the floor for the first of the four at 11 a.m. Friday — followed by Virginia, Texas Tech and Michigan State in one-hour intervals.
Players dazzled with dunks (photo above by our Aaron Lavinsky), Jim Nantz interviewed head coaches for all to hear, and the T-shirt cannon got a workout — even if it was, as Allen Iverson would say, just practice.
The stands mostly seemed filled with curious locals, though a smattering of out-of-town fans are already here. Get ready for the big wave Friday night and Saturday.
*Saturday’s second semifinal is a battle between Michigan State and Texas Tech. Famous quarterbacks from both schools — the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins and the Chiefs’ Pat Mahomes, respectively — are expected to be in attendance.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo said of Cousins: “I know Kirk pretty well, and yet I believe in him even more than I know of him. He’s an unbelievable guy. Yeah, I’m excited he’s going to be here this week.”
*Speaking of the Vikings, BetOnline released over-under betting totals for NFL teams. The Vikings? Their number is 9 — a decline from the 10.5 they were at a season ago, but a tick more than the eight wins they finished with a year ago. The Bears and Packers are both sitting at 9.5, while the Lions are at 7.