Big 12 Men’s hoops notes: A record crowd likely to arrive when Final Four hits North Texas

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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When the 2014 NCAA Final Four is played at AT&T Stadium in April the reach of the game will go far beyond the city of Arlington. Special events will be peppered throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area, rivaling the Super Bowl for economic impact.

Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Charlotte Anderson, chairman of the North Texas Local Organizing Committee, joined Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby Tuesday morning during the league’s media day to tout the event, the first in the DFW area since Dallas hosted in 1986 at Reunion Arena.

Anderson said she expects 80,000 to attend each of the three games, which would break the record for a national semifinal and championship. The largest crowd for a national semifinal was 75,421 in Houston in 2011. Louisville’s win over Michigan last April Atlanta’s Georgia Dome set the record for the championship with 74,326.

Anderson said she’s open to a larger crowd but the NCAA will make the final call.

“We have the capacity to host over 80,000,” she said. “We hope we can open that capacity beyond that for standing room. That is being under consideration by the NCAA at this point. We know we’ll have a pretty packed venue, and we hope that we can get as many people that want to come in the venue itself.”

For those without tickets, however, there will be plenty of Final Four-related options. Planned festivities open to the public include a three-day concert series (with big name artists to be announced soon), Bracket Town in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas and youth clinics, including one scheduled on the TCU campus.

“As long as the excitement stays in the North Texas we’ll continue to have great events,” Anderson said. “If you have a great event like that you need the support of great hotels, convention space, the police department on your side. You need everybody working to make that experience for those who are traveling in to come to Dallas and Fort Worth and Arlington to make their experience the best it can be. So that takes the airports, the restaurants, it takes everyone doing their part to welcome that amount of people.”

Baylor hopes to resume streak

Only two teams finished the season on winning streaks, Baylor coach Scott Drew pointed out, and his Bears were one of them after winning the National Invitational Tournament. But Baylor has a big hole to fill with guard Pierre Jackson moving onto the NBA.

Drew was asked about filling that void.

“Well, first of all, we return a great front court, and that makes it easier for all guard play to begin with,” he said. “But in practice we’ve had six different people run the point at different times. So I think we have multiple people that are capable of handling the ball, distributing the ball.”

The Bears finished 23-14 overall and 9-9 in the Big 12 and missed out on the NCAA tournament. After losing to Oklahoma State in the final seconds of the first round of the Big 12 tournament Baylor ran off five wins in the NIT, including a 20-point win over Iowa in the championship at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Three starters return, including former Arlington Grace Prep star center Isaiah Austin, forward Cory Jefferson and guard Brady Heslip.

“I think instead of maybe being so dominant with the ball in one person’s hand, I think we’ll share it a little bit more this year,” Drew said. “Having postseason experience and being successful is very helpful, especially to the young players who get a chance to extend practice time too, and that postseason feeling of win‑or‑go‑home mentality. So hopefully that definitely pays off for us this year. I know it was a great experience for us.”

Baylor plays preseason No. 1 Kentucky Dec. 6 at AT&T Stadium, the site of the 2014 NCAA Final Four.

“I think having the Final Four there is a great opportunity for players from Kentucky and Baylor to have a chance to see what a Final Four atmosphere is going to be like,” he said. “Playing in a stadium like that is nothing but exciting for everybody involved.”

Game changer

Two major rule changes are likely to alter college basketball this season. Hand-checking of all kinds will be fouls and blocking in the paint will be much tougher on defenders.

The changes could cause a few growing pains as players and coaches adjust. The objective is to clean the game up, to make it less physical and allow a more free-flowing style of play to emerge, Big 12 coordinator of officials Curtis Shaw said.

“I think it’s a great change for college basketball,” Shaw said. “Maybe some growing pains early, but I think it’s going to help the game.”

Some aren’t so giddy about the changes, including West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “They’re going to run into each other. That just happens. It’s always been a contact sport.”

But contact was never in Dr. James Naismith’s 10 rules for basketball, as Shaw pointed out.

“I will tell you the focus of playing tough, physical defense was never the game of basketball,” he said. “We want you to be able to play defense, but it’s always been you play defense by keeping your hands up, slide your feet and keep your body in front. The fact of the matter is defensive players getting into the offensive players was never one of the ten rules of basketball. If you go back to look at those ten rules, it clearly says not to hold, push, trip. So I think we’re just really going back to the rules of basketball, saying let’s go back to playing an athletic game, not a physical game.”

Smart praise

Each of the Big 12 coaches took turns praising the skills of Oklahoma State and former Flower Mound Marcus start Marcus Smart, the league’s preseason Player of the Year. Texas coach Rick Barnes echoed most their sentiments by saying that the sophomore makes his teammates better players.

“I think that’s what great players do. Not only do they do what they do every night when you’re being hunted, as he has been and will be, the fact that there’s a lot of pressure, I don’t think people realize how hard it is to score 15, 16, 18 points a night when you know the other team is game-planning for you and you’re able to go out and still do it every night. That’s tough. They understand there may be nights when they get double teamed, but they’re going to make the right play to make their teams better. Marcus does all of that. He’s a guy that I don’t think there is a coach in the country that wouldn’t like to have him.”


“Kansas is still the team to beat. Any coach will tell you that.” — Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford.

“The travel was harder than we expected.” — West Virginia coach Bob Huggins after the Mountaineers’ first season in the Big 12.

“I think you could ask any of the ten coaches and I think they’d all tell you those rankings really don’t mean much. Some could use them as motivation, others can say, all right, if you’re picked in the top 5, this is what the expectations are we have to live up to.” — Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg on only two Big 12 teams being ranked in the preseason Top 25.

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