Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, Dylan Ennis and Casey Benson, discuss counting their blessings, meeting Kobe Bryant and playing a Final Four in their home state, respectively, in the locker room on March 30, 2017. (David Wallace/azcentral sports)
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Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski, Jordan Mathews and Nigel Williams-Goss talk about rising to the moment of the NCAA Final Four in the locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium on March 30, 2017. (David Wallace/azcentral sports)
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South Carolina’s PJ Dozier and Duane Notice talk about their confidence and under dog status for the NCAA Final Four in the locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium on March 30, 2017. (David Wallace/azcentral sports)
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Downtown Phoenix gets ready to host the NCAA Final Four Fan Fest and house the teams as they play in nearby Glendale for the NCAA Final Four games. David Wallace/azcentral.com
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Luke Maye connected on a last-second jump shot to defeat the Kentucky Wildcats and send North Carolina to the Final Four.
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USA TODAY Sports’ Nicole Auerbach goes behind the scenes of South Carolina’s win over Florida, which sends the Gamecocks to their first Final Four.
USA TODAY Sports
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The Oregon Ducks have reached the Final Four for the first time since 1939 after a 74-60 win over the Kansas Jayhawks in the Elite Eight.
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USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken breaks down Gonzaga’s Elite Eight victory over Xavier.
USA TODAY Sports
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The court for the NCAA Final Four tournament is put together at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral
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azcentral’s Paola Boivin breaks down Arizona’s loss to Xavier in the Sweet 16. Video: Michael Chow/azcentral.com
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The Arizona Wildcats, who many had in the Final Four, are bounced from the NCAA Tournament. Plus, the Oakland Raiders may soon be the Las Vegas Raiders. Will that actually happen? Video: azcentral sports
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USA TODAY Sports’ George Schroeder looks at how the Jayhawks and Ducks prevailed to set up their upcoming matchup in the Midwest region of the NCAA tournament.
USA TODAY Sports
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ULCA head coach Steve Alford acknowledges the game against the two ‘bluebloods’ of NCAA basketball with the most championships between them.
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Considered all but done after losing their star point guard and dropping six straight games in February, Xavier has improbably made a run to the Elite Eight after defeating No. 2 Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen.
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Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller is the third highest-paid head coach in the NCAA Tournament and can earn close to $1 million in bonuses for winning the national title.
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Take a look at some at the faces of celebration and dejection from the tourney.
USA TODAY Sports
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The massive scoreboard known as “Colussus TV” is installed at University of Phoenix Stadium for the upcoming NCAA Final Four games. David Wallace/azentral.com
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Being on network TV means this years NCAA tourney should easily overtake last year’s viewership. Richard Deitsch explains how to watch the Madness.
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Oregon on counting their blessings
Gonzaga on rising to the moment
South Carolina on their confidence and underdog status
Downtown Phoenix gets ready for NCAA Final Four
North Carolina headed to Final Four with win over Kentucky
South Carolina makes history with Final Four berth
Oregon advances to first Final Four since 1939 with win over Kansas
Gonzaga advances to program’s first Final Four
Piece by piece, the court for the NCAA Final Four tournament is put together in Glendale
Paola Boivin recaps Arizona’s loss to Xavier
Shot Clock: Arizona knocked out; Raiders moving to Vegas?
Kansas and Oregon set up intriguing Elite 8 matchup
UCLA’s Steve Alford talks about playing Kentucky
No. 11 Xavier upsets No. 2 Arizona to head to Elite Eight
A closer look at Sean Miller’s salary and bonuses
March Madness: Craziest faces of the NCAA tournament
Scoreboard installed at University of Phoenix Stadium for Final Four
Media circus: A guide to March Madness
The latest from the Final Four in Glendale.
Keep coming back to this page for news and notes from University of Phoenix Stadium.
Behind the scenes, ASU relishes its role
Other than perhaps a video board reference, Arizona State’s presence as host institution at the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four will be behind the scenes.
Between game and media operations, there are 150 ASU athletic personnel and volunteers working with them, helping to stage the first Final Four in the West since 1995.
For ASU, though, hosting NCAA postseason basketball is nothing new. This is the 13th time putting on men’s or women’s tournament games up to the regional level.
“This one is completely different,” said Doug Tammaro, ASU assistant athletic director/media relations. “The NCAA does do a lot, but they rely on you a lot. The biggest thing for us that made it a challenge is the building (University of Phoenix Stadium) is so far away not only from (Tempe) campus but where everybody lives.”
Tammaro is the local media coordinator with a volunteer staff of 65 that includes 20 sports information directors from Washington, Colorado, UNLV and Iowa.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for everybody to learn so much,” Tammaro said. “In 1992, I was working in Cincinnati. We made the Final Four. I got to do all this as an intern, and there are still people talking to me about the Final Four that year. For all my volunteers to see all this is pretty cool.”
Others from ASU with support roles include senior associate athletic director Mike Chismar and associate AD J.D. Loudabarger in game operations, associate AD Becky Parke in game presentation and Mark Zimmer in equipment.
Some 65 to 75 people tied to ASU are helping with game operations. “A lot of them have worked college football games and the Super Bowl and have experience,” Loudabarger said.
Dawn Rogers was ASU senior associate AD during the bid process for the Final Four, culminating with the selection announcement in November 2014. Rogers is now executive director/CEO of the local organizing committee.
ASU officials have worked for more than two years on event planning and were observers at the 2016 Final Four in Houston as part of their preparation.
“We walked the house to understand exactly how it was set up,” Chismar said. “Even though we’ve done a number of regionals, this takes it to a whole different level. We’ve had monthly meetings then as we got into the late fall, there might be two or three a week then closer daily. It’s no question a team effort.”
The operations staff began working at University of Phoenix Stadium more than a week before the semifinals. Their work continues through the championship game Monday.
ASU Cronkite School students are involved in covering the event for Cronkite News and other outlets.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Loudabarger said. “Saying you’re involved in Final Four is a big deal. Not very many people in our line get the opportunity to work a major event like this. And just having a chance to represent Phoenix and Arizona State is something we look forward to.”
“To take it to the next level and host a Final Four is an honor, and we’re excited to be in the situation we’re in,” Chismar said.
Kobe Bryant in the house
Oregon and Gonzaga, two of the three Nike schools in the Final Four, got a surprise visit from a prominent former NBA star with his own line of Nike shoes — Kobe Bryant.
“We thought we were going into just like a normal film session,” Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Ross said. “Some of the Nike reps talked to us and said they had someone to come out and speak to us, who really personified what it means to have that mentality. And then out came Kobe from the back and we just went crazy.
“He was just telling us to be prepared and not be nervous, because if we’ve done our homework and we’re prepared, there was nothing to be nervous about.”
There was no word if Bryant visited North Carolina’s team, but the Tar Heels already have their own Nike rep, Michael Jordan.
Williams sports bruised lip
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams kept it light on the first day at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Sporting a bruised lip, Williams led off his news conference quipping that, “My wife didn’t hit me, I assure you.”
“Practice today wasn’t exactly sharp, so we have some work we can do between now and then, and I lost a battle yesterday at practice,” Williams said. “That’s the reason I have a bruised lip, if you take close-ups, my wife didn’t hit me, I assure you. I kicked the ball, the ball hit me right in the face, and I went down like you would have thought Muhammad Ali hit me. But other than that, life is good.”
Oregon’s historical motivation
The Oregon contingent to this Final Four has brought along a special piece of hardware: the trophy the school won for capturing the first NCAA basketball tournament in 1939.
Oregon’s done this before in the NCAA Tournament, but this is the first time the bronzed memento has made it this far.
“It motivates us so much to have it here and bring it along,” junior forward Dillon Brooks said. “To be the best you can be, you have to remember the history of things, to remember how they got there, how they see it. Knowing the history and and knowing that it is here right now is tremendous, and we’re creating our own history right now.”
The 1939 team, known as the “Tall Firs” because the squad was taller than most of the competition, finished 29-5.
Did you know: In those days, Oregon’s teams were not yet officially called Ducks, but went by Webfoots. Oregon dusted off the Webfoots nickname and colors for a football game last fall against Washington.
KU’s Mason to attend
Kansas fell short of the Final Four, but the Jayhawks’ megastar, Frank Mason III, is here, picking up his AP Player of the Year trophy. Mason was the Big 12 Player of the Year and the only unanimous selection to the AP All-America first team.
Mason is the first Kansas player to win the award — but he’d rather be playing in Glendale than winning individual honors. Kansas lost to Oregon in the Midwest Region final, and Mason said he hasn’t put it behind him yet.
“I’ve still been thinking about it,” he said. “It’s been on my mind a lot. And I just have to move on to what’s next. And I just look at the bigger picture and focus on everything that I can control.”
About coming to Phoenix without his teammates, Mason said “it was very difficult. You know, I didn’t plan on doing this. My goals and our goals as a team was to be here as a family.”
Stadium’s awe factor
The NCAA hasn’t held a men’s Final Four in a traditional basketball arena since 1996. The lure of huge capacities in football stadiums has been irresistible.
This leads every March to that jaw-dropping moment when players and coaches practice for the first time on the court where they’ll try to win a championship.
“I was wowed. It’s crazy,” South Carolina freshman guard Raykm Felder said. Added fellow Gamecocks freshman Maik Kotsar: “It’s extraordinary playing in a football stadium. I haven’t experienced anything like it.”
Gonzaga senior center Przemek Karnowski said “It’s amazing just how big it is. I’ve never had the chance to play in an environment like this.”
Unlike traditional basketball arenas, the football stadium setup requires the court to be raised several feet from floor level. That just adds to the surreal nature of the setting.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s a monster out there,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “I’m just glad I had a stool. I was afraid I was going to fall off the court out there.”
Although the court has the normal dimensions and the baskets are the usual height, the background is so vast that players often have trouble adjusting. It’s not unusual for Final Four games to post much lower shooting percentages than you’d expect. It will be interesting to see how much of a factor the translucent roof comes into play.
The players try not to think about that.
“It took a little while to adjust,” Gonzaga junior guard Silas Mason said about Thursday’s practice, “but I think as time went on we got used to it. We’ve been shooting all our lives.”
Practice times announced
Free and open to the public. Great chance to see the teams, the venue, the scoreboard, the floor.
Gamecocks star misses practice with illness
South Carolina star Sindarius Thornwell is dealing with an illness two days before the Final Four. He is not at University of Phoenix Stadium due to what coach Frank Martin said was a “little body bug” and did not practice. Martin, who is battling a bug himself, said Thornwell is back at the hotel resting and hydrating.
The 6-foot-5 senior guard has led South Carolina to its first Final Four, practically carrying the Gamecocks by himself at times. He’s the leading scorer in the NCAA Tournament at 26 points per game and averaging 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2 steals per game.
— Associated Press
There is a (March) madness to how fans, students and bands are situated at a Final Four. More like a science, actually.
The fringe benefit for being the higher seeds in the national semifinals is that the your support system will be seated near your bench.
For the first game, No. 1 seed Gonzaga’s bench will be in front of section 131 at University of Phoenix Stadium, or to the right of the official scorer’s table (as you’ll see it on TV). Gonzaga’s block of fan seating will be in the adjacent southeast quadrant of the stadium. The Bulldog Band will be to the left of the team bench in the south end, with students behind them.
In the second game, the other top seed, North Carolina, will have its bench in front of section 128, and Tar Heels fans will be in the northeast quadrant of the bowl. The UNC band will be to the right of the team bench.
Fans of the opponents, South Carolina and Oregon, will have to peer a little harder since they will be opposite their team benches. Oregon fans will be in the southwest quadrant, and South Carolina supporters in the northwest area.
Of course, you’ll see fans wearing the colors of all four teams sprinkled throughout the stadium once tickets change hands on the secondary market.
TV schedule for Saturday
TV schedule for Monday
Semifinal winners, 6:19 p.m., Channel 5 (Play-by-play: Jim Nantz. Analysts: Bill Raftery, Grant Hill. Reporter: Tracy Wolfson).