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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.
4/04/2008 12:40:00 PM

Day 24: Saluting The Final Four

Final Four Salute
Luke Winn/SI

SAN ANTONIO -- We've made it sort of a tradition among the SI crew to hit up the Final Four Salute Presentation on Thursday night of game week. This is where various poobahs of the sport (selection committee members and assorted men in suits) as well as local business dignitaries get to see CBS' Jim Nantz introduce all of the players and have a sit-down panel interview with the four coaches. Mostly I just go because it's funny to see what the various teams roll in wearing: Not knowing what to expect out of the presentation, some of them show up dressed appropriately formal, and others sort of go uncomfortably casual (like Ohio State's Thad Matta last year, who had on a polo shirt and no socks).

We were hidden in the back row of the auditorium of a Riverwalk convention center for the event, so my Canon Elph lacked the power to properly capture the scene. The shot below is my best attempt at a montage of the four squads as they stood onstage.

Final Four Salute
Luke Winn/SI

As you can see, the team that's been to the Final Four the past two years, UCLA, was nearly all in suits. Lorenzo Mata-Real, ever the trendsetter, changed things up with the brightest white pair of shoes in the room -- but no over-ear headband. North Carolina, whose coach, Roy Williams, has been to a few of these things, was probably the best-dressed team. Nantz made a remark about Kansas' "uniformity," since they were all wearing polo shirts and khakis, looking like a pack of young golf pros. And Memphis, keeping it real, went almost exclusively for the button-up and jeans look.

The upset of the night? That the only Tiger with a semi-formal outfit on ... was none other than Joey Dorsey, with a sweater-and-jeans look. It's the kind of late-season maturity you'd like to see out of a senior. Especially since he's now the only senior on Memphis' Final Four roster, with Andre Allen left at home after failing a drug test. Nantz mercifully let John Calipari off the hook by avoiding the topic altogether. (This was a promotional event rather than a media one.)

The highlights of the event, beyond Joey's sweater:

• A predictably awkward interview between Nantz and Tyler Hansbrough, who said he did not fraternize with any of the teams during a dinner earlier that night, and was just trying to "stay focused." Said Nantz, "I have a feeling you'll stay focused, Tyler."

• KU coach Bill Self telling a story about milking sympathy from a knee injury he suffered at a Larry Brown summer camp into a graduate assistant job with the Jayhawks. "The worse [Brown] felt, the more I limped," Self said.

• Williams, when asked to do a brief breakdown of the main players in his rotation, said of Hansbrough, "Fairly mediocre player with poor work habits." Easily the best line of the evening.

• Calipari getting called out by his fellow panelists for trying to praise the refereeing in the tournament and laying groundwork for calls on Saturday. The coaches also had the opportunity to introduce their wives and have them stand up in the crowd, but Cal said his wife and kids were on the Riverwalk, because (and I'm paraphrasing here), "'She said I pat myself on the back enough to make my arm fall off, so she doesn't need to do it for me."

• A sneak peek at the first two minutes and 30 seconds of the One Shining Moment montage. Apparently it's about 3:02 long, with the early parts already locked on. One funny semi-spoiler: At the first run of the And when it's done line, a certain super-freshman who's expected to be one-and-done -- but hasn't declared yet -- is shown in the postgame handshake line. That's what you call suggestive imagery.

Final Four Salute
Luke Winn/SI


posted by Luke Winn | View comments (2) |


Posted: April 5, 2008 2:06 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Great blog. We are ticket holders in San Antone for the Final Four. Which hotel is the "Coaches' Hotel"? Any other tips for meeting Coaches/players who are in town?
try the airport - i hear ben howland and roy wiliams may be there.
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