NCAA Tournament

New Orleans buzz | Fitted for bling

The players were measured for Final Four rings on Thursday night, which came as a surprise to those from Kansas.

“I didn’t even know you get a ring for getting to the Final Four,” said Kansas guard Elijah Johnson. “I had an idea, but it dawned on me once we were getting fitted for it. That’s one of the points where it set in, and I realized there were only four teams left, and we were all standing next to each other.”

Sullinger’s KC connection

Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger’s aunt, Mona Sullinger, lives in Kansas City, but there’s little doubt about her allegiance.

“She’ll be rooting for us; she has no choice,” Sullinger said of his father’s sister. “She’s a Buckeye fan, and it’s blood before city. We’re every close. She came to the game against Kansas in Lawrence, and I got to talk to her after the game, but we had to hit the road. Her daughter, my cousin Bree, is coming to the game (Saturday).”

Cards’ plan for Davis

Louisville guard Chris Smith said the Cardinals won’t be intimidated by Kentucky’s 6-10 freshman and national player of the year, Anthony Davis.

“I put it like this: Anthony Davis should be worried about (Louisville center) Gorgui Dieng, really,” Smith said. “For us as a team, we’re going to try to stop him cold, really, not feed into his shot blocking. We got to get him in foul trouble, and that will pretty much give us the game.”

Stepping on stage

The basketball court at the Superdome is elevated to help with the sightlines for fans in the cavernous building, but it felt strange for the players.

“I felt like I stepped onto a stage,” said Kansas guard Elijah Johnson. “I felt like I was about to rap. I guess you could say, ‘The light’s on.’ It felt like a make-believe court. I don’t know if it was because it was elevated, but the court just seemed longer.”

Who’s an underdog?

Kentucky may be an 81/2-point favorite over Louisville in Saturday’s first semifinal, but coach Rick Pitino is not playing the underdog card to motivate his team.

“I really haven’t used it this week mainly because I want my team to have confidence they can play with Kentucky,” Pitino said. “At this level, if you take the underdog mentality, then they feel they don’t belong, and it works against you.

“I have used it before, but in this case, I think it would work against us.”

Final Four comparable to ’08

Kentucky coach John Calipari coached Memphis to the 2008 championship game against Kansas, and he compares this year’s Final Four field to that season, when North Carolina and UCLA joined the Tigers and Jayhawks in San Antonio.

“2008 was ridiculous,” Calipari said of teams that included future NBA players Tyler Hansborough of North Carolina, Derrick Rose of Memphis, Kevin Love of UCLA, and Kansas’ Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers. “If you go back and ask ‘How many guys on those four teams (would play in the NBA?)’ this Final Four will be very similar to that.”

Relocated rivals

Kentucky forward Terrence Jones, who is from Portland, and Louisville guard Peyton Siva, from Seattle, have known each other since the fourth grade and were friendly rivals during their high school years.

“Just playing against each other our whole lives, we had a friendship off the court and still do,” Jones said. “He was always supposed to stay the night at my house, just hang out, but our coaches wouldn’t like that too much, being that we’d be playing each other in the championship the next day but his parents and my parents know each other and are good friends.”

The latest CLASS act

Purdue star Robbie Hummel won the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award on Friday, beating out nine other seniors. The award is given to the player who demonstrates excellence in the community, on the court, in the classroom and whose character makes a positive impact on those around them.

“I’ve always tried to do things the right way,” Hummel said. “The air will eventually come out of the ball, and how we conduct ourselves on and off the court is extremely important.”