Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/28/2008 06:11:00 PM
Hoops On The Big Stage
HOUSTON -- We've entered the gridiron portion of this NCAA tournament, and here at Reliant Stadium the setup is technically of the basketball-on-a-three-foot-stage-in-the-middle-of-a-football-field variety. Had West Virginia's loose-ball kamikaze artist, Joe Mazzulla, been playing here last night, he'd have taken a dangerous plunge down into press row rather than colliding head-on with a table-top.
The two photos below should give you an idea of the setup, with the strange raised court set amid seats that gradually slope down from the edge of what's normally the Houston Texans' home field. I walked up on the floor a few minutes ago ... and realized there are only about 4-5 paces between the sideline and the edge, which is a little scary.
Minnesota -- whose home benches are below their court -- is the only team in the nation that would not need to get acclimated to this arrangement. For the rest of us, including Texas, Stanford, Memphis and Michigan State, this will be quite the experiment.
A few quick predictions before I leave you for a few hours, with the promise to check back post-game:
• Texas 74, Stanford 71. • Connor Atchley's perimeter game makes the difference for the 'Horns. • Memphis 66, Michigan State 56 • The Spartans hang with the Tigers for 30 minutes ... but just won't be able to score enough against Memphis' underrated man-to-man D.
This set-up is horrible. If they want to sell more seats in a football arena, continue to keep one end closed off (like at the Final Four) and just move the court further towards the center of the field. That will allow more seats in the lower "bowl" and also room for more risers if they are so inclined. Having it in the middle of the field makes the upstairs seats feel like they are in a separate county, and it makes it impossible to use either of the end zones without running into the same issue.
I don't know what it sounded like down by you, but I don't think it ever got loud last night. It doesn't help that Texas fans are, in general, quiet fans that would rather chat than get into a tense playoff game.