The best day in sports has arrived.
Yes, semi-final Saturday at the Final Four is the best day in sports. There is no event that provides the drama and excitement that is felt by the teams and fan bases of these four schools as all think that they are two wins away from a national championship.
In this Final Four town, excitement rose dramatically yesterday as Friday is typically the big fan arrival day. Unlike New Orleans and San Antonio, or Indianapolis, a host city like Atlanta does not offer the convenient, compressed areas where fans gather so it's hard to judge who's winning the fan attendance battle, but my money's on Louisville.
Here are some odds-and-ends observations from the Peach State thus far:
- Atlanta's downtown hotels are feeling very dated. The Hyatt Regency, Marriott Marquis, Hilton and Westin were all built in the mid-1970's to mid-1980's and feature that architectural design of the time--the large, expansive atrium. All of these hotels are dark, concrete and brick.
- Curious how to find a coach in Atlanta? Look for the guys in sweat suits. As is the custom, the coaches mingle in their hotel lobbies, all adorned in their respective team sweats. Thankfully, Kurtis Townsend of Kansas broke the mold this morning, looking very dapper at breakfast in suit and tie.
- Final Four alumni are always present, it seems, at this event. Spottings thus far include Christian Laettner (Duke), Mateen Cleaves (Michigan State), Jim Harrick (UCLA), Eddie Fogler (South Carolina) and many other former coaches and administrators. Maybe that's one reason fan tickets are so hard to come by.
- The Georgia World Congress Center, close by the Georgia Dome, is the site of this year's Bracket Town, a fan festival sponsored by the NCAA's Corporate Partners. The event has grown huge since its inception as Fan Jam and Hoop City in the 1990's.
- If you're wondering whatever happened to Bonnie Bernstein, the CBS journalist who famously had Roy Williams respond "I don't give a *!#t about North Carolina" in response to her question in 2003, she's a host on IMG's Campus Insider television show, which broadcast live last night from IMG Learfield's Final Four Party.
- Basketball Times, not exactly a mainstream publication, is being distributed to primary hotels in Atlanta this week. This issue (April) of the publication included their ranking of the Top 60 College Coaches and the Top 50 Assistant Coaches. Not surprisingly, they chose Mike Krzyzewski of Duke as number one. The remainder of the top ten were Rick Pitino (Louisville), Larry Brown (SMU), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Roy Williams (North Carolina), Bill Self (Kansas), John Calipari (Kentucky), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Billy Donovan (Florida) and Mark Few (Gonzaga.) (No specific criteria was offered on how the selections were made.) Other coaches and their rankings: Bob Huggins (West Virginia) - 12, Lon Kruger (Oklahoma) - 24, Scott Drew (Baylor) - 25, Bruce Weber (Kansas State) - 27, Shaka Smart (VCU) - 30, Rick Barnes (Texas) - 38, Mark Turgeon (Maryland) - 39, Frank Haith (Missouri) - 40, and Mike Anderson (Arkansas) - 41. Travis Ford (Oklahoma State) was number two in the "Next 55" and Fred Hoiberg (Iowa State) was number three on the list of "Up-and-Coming Coaches." (Dave Rice of UNLV topped the up-and-comers list.) As for Assistant Coaches, Kansas was well represented with Joe Dooley (one), Norm Roberts (six) and Kurtis Townsend (eight.)