April 6, 2008

Gopher Nation reporting from San Antonio

Obviously very few posts recently and I'm sorry for that but I have been unable to post as I've been in San Antonio since Tuesday. Technically I'm here to work but it has been a blast and I was even able to attend last night's semi-final games.

San Antonio is a great city and the Final Four atmosphere is outstanding. I get very little time to take advantage of it, but if you ever get a chance to attend a final four (whether you have tickets or not) you should absolutely go. I have been working 15+ hour days and don't get out but it is so much fun down here (and warm).

UCLA vs. Memphis - of course the athleticism of Memphis has been well documented as has the defense of UCLA. I expected the UCLA team defense to dictate tempo and contain the Tigers. Obviously the gameplan of spreading out the Bruins and using their bigger guards to score at will was the right move and Memphis won handily. But what most impressed me was the defense of Memphis. UCLA isn't a scoring machine but Memphis has not received enough credit for how they pressure and clamp down on people.

Kansas vs. North Carolina - incredible start but most of us knew you couldn't keep the Tar Heels offense down the entire game. I called my wife at half time and told her it would be a single digit game by the 10 min mark, but coming back from 28 is just too tough to overcome. Kansas was great all around in the first half but making nearly 70% of their shots kept UNC from running their break and made them work (even just a little) for their offense. And it has to be talked about on a Minnesota based blog how well Aldrich played. That first half was incredible and was a huge reason Kansas sustained their run when their big men had to sit.

Coach Sightings...

Roy Williams - Friday night walking to a nice restaurant and he accidentally strolled through the Kansas fans home bar. From what I saw they were all polite to him, at least more polite than Bill Self and the Jayhawks were to him on Saturday night. I have met him before but again was impressed with his classiness and demeanor.

Tom Izzo - seen several times with his wife just around town.

Bruce Weber - passed on the street and nearly begged him to let Minnesota win just once sometime soon.

John Chaney - Temple's historic coach was looking spry buying a camouflage hat at 1:00 am with his posse.

Mark Turgeon - another rival coach seen at the Kansas fan bar and was more than happy to receive beers from Jayhawk fans while taking pictures with them.

There are MANY more but those are the ones I recognized and saw.

Gopher connections...

Coach Taylor sightings - I have seen coach Taylor around several times, he has his own little entourage and seems to be enjoying San Antonio.

Joe Esposito - shook hands and he told me things will be better for us in the next few years, I hope he ain't lying. This experience has taught me one thing. When (yes WHEN) the Gophers make the Final Four, I will be attending the event even if I have no resources to get tickets.

Dave Thorson - head coach at Della Sall and I had a 10 min conversation. He was of course on coach Haskin's staff back in the day and I had him diagram a play I remember being run for Voshon Leonard when we would hold for the last shot of the first half. I have ALWAYS wanted to know that play and he was kind enough to run me through the X's and O's.

Clem Haskins is reportedly in town for his first Final Four in many years, but I have not been fortunate enough to run into him or Tubby for that matter.

Other sightings...

MIAC coaches - Augsburg, Bethel, St. John's, St. Thomas assistants and even a few MIAC refs that I recognized.

Div II National Champion coach Mike Leaf - Winona State's coach came through and I chatted with him briefly just congratulating his significant run and 2nd national championship in three years.

All in all I highly recommend attending a Final Four and vacationing in San Antonio. The Riverwalk is everything you may have heard and more.

Unfortunately we won't be seeing the talented and bear-rific Brianna in San Antonio any more.

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