Final Four Blog - is in Houston for the Final Four

Saturday, April 2 - 10:15 AM ET Good morning fans. Happy Semifinal Saturday! I write this morning from the Crowne Plaza hotel in Reliant Park - about a half mile down Kirby Street from Reliant Stadium. In about 7 hours, Butler and VCU will kick things off, and UConn vs. Kentucky will follow. We all had a great time last night in downtown Houston, where much of the festivities for the weekend are being held - about 10 miles away from the stadium. Many of the BIG EAST people here took in various functions - the two biggest ones being hosted by ESPN and the conference's marketing partner IMG Sports. The scene downtown last night was a lot of fun. Lines seemingly out every establishment (again, thanks for the weather, Houston!) - most of the people wearing the colors of their favorite college hoops team. We are off to a couple of meetings during the day before heading over to the stadium. I'll leave you with a link to highlights from the first UConn/Kentucky game. Let's hope the outcome is the same. Go BIG EAST! Friday, April 1 - 10:00 PM ET BigEastBlog had the opportunity two weeks ago to work at the new incarnation of what is officially called the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. This, of course, is the first year of the new, 68-team format for the NCAA's best-known event, and there will be plenty of time after Monday's national championship game to assess the pluses and minuses of the new structure. BigEastBlog suggests that there will be a number of questions that come up. Like why is it that the Final Four consists of four teams, while the First Four - the trademarked name given to the opening-rounds in Dayton - has eight? Does it make sense to refer to the round of 64 as the second round of the tournament - as if 60 teams received first-round byes? And will we ever again see a team play in the First Four and the Final Four in the same season? What should not be open for debate is the location of the First Four event. So long as the good people at the University of Dayton wish to host the First Four, it should absolutely be held there. BigEastBlog is not sure that there's another site that could sell more than 10,000 tickets in advance to each of the event's two days without any indication as to which teams would be in attendance. And that doesn't take into consideration the fact that Dayton's own men's basketball team was playing an NIT game opposite the First Four. BigEastBlog admits that he knew very little about the eight teams that headed to Dayton this year, so he went into the two days with an open mind. He knew that Arkansas-Little Rock's best player was Solomon Bozeman, who had a cup of coffee at USF a few years ago. And he knew that there was plenty of debate about the validity of the four at-large teams that were sent to Dayton -and whether or not some combination of Virginia Tech, Colorado, Harvard or Boston College shouldn't have been there in place of some, or all of them. But mainly, BigEastBlog's interest focused on the fact that three of the four games would feed BIG EAST opponents for the first, oops, second round of the tournament. After watching the four games, BigEastBlog was convinced that there was, in fact, one team in Dayton that clearly belonged in the tournament and would be capable of a long run. Clemson. BigEastBlog has to admit that he watched every minute of VCU's 59-46 win against USC in Dayton from courtside, about three seats from the VCU bench. And while he was impressed with the Rams' style of play, he wasn't convinced that they'd be able to get past Georgetown two days later, let alone win that game and the following three to reach the Final Four for the first time. It's an incredible story - a team that many pundits felt shouldn't have been included in the tournament now stands two wins away from the national title. Many of those same pundits have turned out to be quite conciliatory in their recent affirmations of VCU.