|Ford Field, Reliant Stadium raise NCAA regionals to new level|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 27 March 2008 14:11|
There is a reason for that.
No one has seen anything like it.
The NCAA tournament is experimenting with a new-look configuration during the regionals in Detroit and Houston, putting the court on the 50-yard line of football stadiums instead of tucked toward one end.
The hardwood will be 27 inches off the ground and some players acknowledged some trepidation.
``What if we go for the loose ball and dive off the court?'' Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds asked. ``I mean, that's the thing I was scared about.''
The raised court also creates a unique perspective for coaches, who will have the option of sitting on stools a few feet above their players.
``I like to coach sitting down,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said. ``But if you do that here, you're 15 feet away from the court.''
The Final Four next week at San Antonio's Alamodome is expected to be the last one in which the court is near an end zone, with bleachers on one side and curtains cutting off some of the sections.
``It really opens up the whole stadium and makes it so much better for the fans,'' said Laing Kennedy, Kent State athletic director and a member of the NCAA Division I Basketball Committee. ``Having the court elevated like that just makes for a terrific view from the upper level.''
While the fans may enjoy it, some of the players were not too excited about the height of the court.
``I'm definitely not jumping in the stands,'' said Chris Douglas-Roberts of Memphis, which plays Michigan State on Friday night in Houston. ``I'm not even going to act like it. If it's going out of bounds and I can't get it, hey I'm not going to fake hustle and act like I'm diving for it.''
After the court was placed, officials decided to add a border of carpet around it to act as a buffer for players who do get caught up in hustling. It is 10 feet wide under each basket and five feet wide on the two other sides.
There is a curtain covering the north and south ends of the court, so seating is only on two sides of the playing area. That leaves a rather long blank space between the baskets and any wall or occupied area.
``There's going to be an obvious depth perception (problem) just from the goals, but nothing you can't handle,'' said A.J. Abrams of Texas, which plays Stanford said. ``Just go out and get a couple shots up and get the feel of it and that's what it's all about.''
When the Motor City hosts the Final Four next year, the NCAA plans to use the same setup it is using Friday night when third-seeded Wisconsin plays 10th-seeded Davidson and No. 1 Kansas faces No. 12 Kansas.
In Houston, the curtains will be gone when it hosts the 2011 Final Four. Reliant Stadium officials are anticipating 60,000 fans over the course of two days this weekend, putting its crowds in the top five of regional sites.
Ford Field officials expect their paid attendance to surpass the 100,000 mark, a total that will exceed the regional-record crowd of 85,568 set in 1999 at St. Louis.
The home of the Detroit Lions, though, is not set up to break the basketball world-record crowd of 78,129 fans that watched Kentucky beat Michigan State in 2003. During that event, the field was filled with seats - creating obstructed views - and thousands of students were in standing-room only areas on the artificial turf.
NCAA officials expect the crowds at the four regional sites this season to break the previous record more than 20 percent, drawing a combined total of 250,000-plus fans.
HOOPS, EH: Davidson's basketball players have become ambassadors for the NCAA, thanks to Canadians Max Paulhus Gosselin and William Archambault. The duo played together at Champlain St.-Lambert Secondary School in Quebec before going to college in North Carolina.
``Everyone at home is excited about this, but they don't know a whole lot about what is actually going on,'' Gosselin said. ``The papers in Montreal have been writing a lot of stories about there being 64 teams in the tournament, and trying to explain some of the history. People knew that we beat Georgetown, but they don't know what that means. They don't know about all those things Georgetown has done.''
Archambault was just as excited about the sendoff that the Wildcats got when they left campus to head for Detroit.
``The whole school was outside the gym cheering for us,'' he said. ``Of course, that's only 1,700 people - we aren't as big as Michigan State or Wisconsin - but it was still great.''
GQ COACH: Kansas coach Bill Self hopes to avoid an upset against the Jay Wright-led Villanova Wildcats.
Self is not, however, even interested in competing with Wright's wardrobe.
``I've heard from several of my so-called friends that told me, `Don't try because that's one battle you can't win,''' Self said. ``If our team doesn't outperform Villanova, then we will go 0-2 against them 'cause nobody looks sharper than Jay on the sidelines.''
LITTLE BIG MAN: On campus, the women call him Sexy Dexy. He's heard Dex-A-Trim, a few times as well.
That's what happens when a player loses more than 70 pounds to get down to a slim 290-plus. For Texas sophomore forward Dexter Pittman, the weight loss has been the key to evolving from just a big body to potentially a big-time college basketball forward.
The Longhorns will likely need the 6-foot-10 Pittman for valuable minutes and points if they hope to match up Friday night with Stanford's' 7-foot twins Brook and Robin Lopez.
Pittman's best game this season was Texas' opening-round win over Austin Peay when he had 11 points and 10 rebounds in 16 minutes. He averages only 5 minutes a game.
Just getting to this point has been a long haul of working out, dieting and shedding pounds by the dozens.
``I knew I had to do that, to be dedicated, if I wanted to be a player and help my team out,'' Pittman said.
One of Pittman's biggest influences on his progress has been one of Texas' smallest players, 5-foot-11, 155-pound shooting guard A.J. Abrams. They were roommates when Pittman first came to campus and the two became best friends.
``He kind of took me under his wing,'' Pittman said, chuckling at the comical visual image of that. ``He makes sure I don't cheat myself. He knows my potential and makes sure I maximize that.''
Abrams puts it this way: ``I``m glad to help him when I can ... If he's starting to look fat in his face, I'll tell him.''
A FREE SHOT: So, John Calipari can take a joke about Memphis' poor free-throwing shooting.
The Tigers coach playfully interrupted Texas coach Rick Barnes, who was talking Friday with a gaggle of reporters, then tried to dash away.
Barnes, always a joker, wasn't about to let him get away, not with all the recent talk about Memphis' 58-percent foul shooting.
``I'm going to do a clinic in Austin and I need a free-throwing shooting coach,'' Barnes said.
Calipari shot right back: ``I think your point guard shot that airball.'' He was referring to Texas star D.J. Augustin's stunning misfire in the final two seconds of last week's win over Miami.
``That's what I'm talking about,'' Barnes said. ``I can't coach it.''
Texas has had its own struggles from the line, shooting 68 percent. Texas went 12-of-21 against Miami, helping the Hurricanes stage a late rally.
If Memphis and Texas can reach Sunday's regional final, the Tigers and Longhorns could just start fouling each other like crazy in the second half and see who misses more.