Sunday, April 6, 2003

Final Four notebook


Big crowd, but not all good seats

By Brett Martel
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - As fans made their way up to the third deck of the cavernous Superdome, they were met with an ominous sign on the wall: binocular rentals.

The entire upper deck had a clear view of the court, but the distance from some seats was in the neighborhood of a Sammy Sosa home run, or about 420 feet, according to Superdome spokesman Bill Curl.

The cheapest seats in the upper reaches had a face value of about $100.

While most fans were excited just to be in the building, for some, there was no hiding the disappointment of being so far away that it was hard to read the numbers on the players' jerseys.

"They should have never even put these seats up for sale. It's absolutely ridiculous, just look at this," said Ron Barclay, who traveled from Boise, Idaho.

He's a casual fan with no allegiance to any particular Final Four team.

"You look at the stadium chart, and you think that if they're actually selling them, they're going to be usable."

Barclay and his friend, Denise DeCoster, brought their own binoculars, so they didn't have to pay $10 for the rentals.

Curl said the first time such seats were sold for basketball in the Superdome was back in 1982, the year Michael Jordan's North Carolina team beat Georgetown for the title.

"We had 61,000 people here for that game and only eight complaints, that's when we decided we could host this as a full stadium event," he said.

Back then, the cheap seats cost $18.

"They should have stuck with that," Barclay said.

Attendance was announced at 54,432, the fourth-largest NCAA basketball crowd ever.

---

BIG 12 KILLERS

Syracuse will face Big 12 regular-season champion Kansas for the national championship after the Orangemen beat Big 12 teams in three of their last four tournament games, including Saturday night's 95-84 victory over Texas.

Some Big East Conference members might find a source of pride in that, given that the Big 12 has provided half the Final Four field both this season and last.

But not Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.

"It's totally irrelevant," Boeheim said. "I don't care about that stuff. We're playing Kansas - doesn't matter what conference. They could be in the WAC.

"If you just understand there are six or seven really good conferences and stop arguing about it. I stopped 20 years ago. I realized 20 years ago I was stupid because I was trying to say, 'Well, we can do this, our conference won this game."' he said. "I woke up. I figured that out. Some other people should figure that out someday."

Syracuse's two other victories over Big 12 teams in the tournament were over Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.

--

SOAKED

The timing couldn't have been worse for a heavy tropical shower that rolled through town Saturday night. It hit while lines were backed up at outdoor security checkpoints.

Fans, who hustled into the dome with soaked shirts and water dripping from their hair, said the lines at the checkpoints seemed to speed up when the rain began.

"They would wave that magnetic wand over you and just shout, 'Go!"' said Marquette fan Brian Pieper of Boulder, Colo. "They were still doing a good job, patting everyone down pretty well."

--

WARRIORS

One of the more popular T-shirts among Marquette fans was of the unofficial variety. The shirts read "Warriors," the school's nickname before it was replaced by "Golden Eagles" about a decade ago.

On the back, the shirt displayed a quote from the Elwood Blues character in the film "The Blues Brothers." It said: "We're on a mission from God." Marquette is a Jesuit school.

---

SHEDDING THE LEATHER

This is the first Final Four to use a synthetic basketball instead of a leather one.

The new balls look about the same, and 58 of 64 tournament teams used synthetic balls during the regular season anyway. They are less expensive and supposedly last longer than leather.

"I love the new ball, the last one we played with was hard, I didn't like the last one," Kansas' Kirk Hinrich said.

Hinrich was 6-of-13 for 18 points, including three 3-pointers, in Kansas' win over Marquette in Saturday night's semifinal.

--

THE SHOES

Whenever Texas guard Royal Ivey looked down he sought to draw inspiration from his shoes.

With black marker, Ivey covered his white game shoes with expressions ranging from "Q Borough" (a reference to Queens in New York, where he grew up) to expressions like, "There is no tomorrow," and "40 minutes all out."

On top of the toe section read "KTF," which Ivey said stood for "keep the focus."

Ivey said he likes to see the reminders when he looks down at the free throw line or even when he dips his head to wipe his brow.

"It's just being different, being creative. My parents are artists and I can't really draw so I decided to write a couple thoughts down out of my mind," Ivey said.

Meanwhile, Kansas guard Keith Langford dropped his superstition of changing shoes at the half after Kansas ran up a huge halftime lead on Marquette en route to its 94-61 semifinal victory.

"You know, if something isn't going offensively, I can try to step up as far as defense or rebounding," he said. "So I really tried to grow out of that and keep on the same pair of shoes the whole game."




REDS
Reds lose, Junior's hurt
Dunn angered by fan reaction to Griffey
Crosley was home of HRs before new park
Reds notebook: Team, Vaughn's agent talk
Reds Q&A

OTHER BASEBALL
Sosa put 500 behind, thinks bigger numbers
NL: Phils thump Pirates
AL: Royals are 5-0

BENGALS
Bengals Q&A

FINAL FOUR
Syracuse 95, Texas 84
Kansas 94, Marquette 61
Daugherty: Souped-up Jayhawks
Kansas vs. Syracuse for NCAA championship
Texas couldn't break the Syracuse zone
Williams gets another shot
Wade's world comes crashing down
Final Four notebook
Final Four week tarnished by coaching speculation
NCAA aggregate leaders

WOMEN'S FINAL FOUR
This is no ordinary trip for Lady Vols
Texas' goal: Stop Taurasi
Auriemma, Taurasi pick up top honors

XAVIER
West wins 4th player of year award

OTHER COLLEGE HOOPS
Loyola pioneered integrated basketball
Cronin gets top job at Murray State

PREP SPORTS
Groeschen: Prep insider
Prep results

SUNDAY SPOTLITE
Baseball movies, fair and foul
UC's cricket club gearing up for season
Enquirer Page Two power rankings

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
QB Krenzel sharpens focus

GOLF
Janzen dials 2-stroke BellSouth lead
Tiger Woods focused on unprecedented three-peat

HORSE RACING
Buddy Gil punches ticket to Kentucky
Elloluv impressive in Ashland win

AUTO RACING
Earnhardt Jr. wins Busch race
Little E chasing history at Talladega
Rubinho on pole for home F1 race

HOCKEY
Samsonov return bodes well for B's in playoffs
Ducks LW Severson recalled to Anaheim

NBA
Suns stop T-Wolves in playoff run
Adelman has no mercy for upstarts in playoffs

TENNIS
Spain vs. Argentina in semis

PLAN YOUR DAY
Sports this weekend on TV, radio