Soaking in Final Four atmosphere
By Jeff Portnoy
Special to The Advertiser
I NDIANAPOLIS — I arrived in Indy to a glorious spring day with temperatures near 70s.
The crowds are just beginning to arrive, with most fans due today.
I was met at the airport by one of the hundreds of volunteers who, after asking me where I was from, told me that he is already planning to take his entire family to Hawai'i for next season's Diamond Head Classic as he follows Butler around the country.
How happy do you think the Classic folks are that the tournament will have not only Butler, but elite eight Baylor as well.
I took a visit to Lucas Oil Stadium this afternoon. Great place for football, but the upper level seats are about as far away from the court as I have ever seen at a Final Four. Luckily, there is an enormous TV screen for thousands of people to see to keep track of the action. The place is beautiful, however.
The big news here is not only Butler's first Final Four appearance, and in its hometown no less, but the probability that the NCAA Tournament will expand to 96 teams in 2011.
I think it's a done deal as the money available in what will be a new TV contract is the only thing the NCAA really cares about.
All that talk about how 32 additional worthy teams deserve to be in the tournament is absurd . It just means teams 93 through 100 will scream that they deserved to be included instead of teams 66-70. And it likely means the end of the NIT (who cares).
I met with Associated Press national basketball writer Jim O'Donnell and noted author John Feinstein during the day. Both asked about our new coach, and interestingly, neither knew anything about him.
The UH contingent is missing, except for assistant coach Eran Ganot. Jim Donovan is due in today. I have never met Gib Arnold so I don't know if he is here looking for assistants or out on the road looking for recruits. Riley Wallace and Larry Little are due in today.
What can you say about Tom Izzo? He is bringing Michigan State here for the sixth time in 12 years. Duke is back in the Final Four for the first time since 2003, and West Virgina hasn't been to the Final Four since Jerry West took them there in 1959. Some say this year's Final Four lacks pizazz. I disagree. Butler alone is worth the price of admission, although I think they will lose to Michigan State. I also like West Virgina to upset Duke, although I picked Duke to win it all in my pool.
Today, I will attend the U.S. Basketball Awards breakfast, where the Player of the Year and Coach of the Year awards will be handed out. Then it's on to the open practices and press conferences with each team.