AT Stadium, the $1.3 billion colossus, is a breathtaking place. It boasts the world’s largest column-free interior and the fourth-largest, high definition video screen, which is longer than the basketball court. This Final Four marked the building’s biggest hoops event, though the NBA All-Star Game, played here in 2010, drew an announced crowd of 108,713, the biggest to ever watch a basketball game.
The NCAA Final Four has been played exclusively in stadiums that seat at least 70,000 since 2009, and the atmosphere is best described as muted. Fans are so distant that players on the floor have no trouble hearing instruction from coaches.
And specific to AT Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, are the NFL team reminders. The NCAA can control advertisement in the building, but the Cowboys’ five Super Bowl banners hung from the rafters, and the 15 names of players in the Ring of Honor were displayed.
College Hall Class introduced
Maybe Connecticut was inspired by some college hoop greatness.
At the second media timeout of the opening game, six of the eight members of Kansas City’s National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame class were introduced: players Grant Hill and Darrell Griffith, coaches Dale Brown, Gary Williams and Glenn Wilkes Sr. and contributor Howie Garfinkel received a nice ovation as they stood at midcourt.
Also in the class is Shaquille O’Neal, but he was not at Saturday’s game. Zelmo Beaty, also part of the class, is deceased.
Lower seed succeeds
Connecticut can become the first No. 7 seed to win a national championship. Only one champion has been seeded higher: No. 8 Villanova, which upset Georgetown in 1985. Kansas was seeded sixth in 1988 when the Jayhawks won it all.
The tournament was seeded for the first time in 1979.
New league near a title
Nice start for the American Athletic Conference.
The conference that made its debut this season with football-playing schools from the old Big East, like Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida, plus a collection of other schools, has a team in the championship game.
The conference also includes Louisville and Rutgers, but both of them are moving on after this season: The Cardinals are going to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the Scarlet Knights are moving to the Big Ten.