FINALS WATCH: Sights and sounds from North Texas


Published April 6, 2014 6:30AM (EDT)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Of all the celebrities and athletes in attendance at the Final Four, Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball had to have the most unique outfit.

Ball, who played college football at Wisconsin, wore a frog suit to AT&T Stadium on Saturday night.

Ball and two friends tried to join the Wisconsin student section courtside late in the second half of the Badgers' 74-73 loss to Kentucky, but were denied entrance to the floor level because they didn't have the necessary wrist bands.

The students caught wind of Ball's struggles, turned around and started chanting "let them in, let them in."

Security didn't budge, not even after one student walked toward the stands and slipped Ball his wristband.

Ball argued profusely, and even flipped off his frog cap at one point, before stomping back to his seats. His friends followed — one dressed in a leopard suit and the other in a cow suit.

— Mark Long —


Jim Calhoun won three national championships with Connecticut in four trips to the NCAA Final Four.

Two years coaching his final game, and three years after his last title, the Huskies are playing for championship No. 4. And Calhoun couldn't be prouder for UConn and second-year coach Kevin Ollie, one of his former players.

"The greatest test is not building, the greatest test is maintaining. ... To sustain greatness, it's an incredibly difficult thing to do," Calhoun said while sitting in the Huskies locker room after their 63-53 victory over Florida in a national semifinal Saturday night. "To watch these kids now having a chance to go Monday night and get another one for us, I mean that's pretty special, and I think it speaks to the guys that are here, finding a way."

This season's team includes five players who could have left, but stayed after Calhoun retired and Ollie took over knowing they would not be able to play in the NCAA tournament last year because of academic reasons.

Calhoun said it might be hard to watch Monday night's championship game and not be coaching.

"But it's going to be glorious to watch the look in those kids' faces," he said. "It's a great honor and a great privilege to have your kids, our kids and our program, in that position and watching these guys do wonderful things. How much greater things can you ask in a program than you have all the dreams you have for them about to come true again. It's wonderful."

— Stephen Hawkins —


Dwight Howard showed some love for the alma mater of Houston Rockets teammate Chandler Parsons.

Howard was shown on the big video board doing the "Gator chomp" in the Florida student section during the second half of the Gators' game against Connecticut at the Final Four. Parsons was with him.

Howard, who went straight to the NBA from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, also could be seen singing a Florida school song. Howard signed with the Rockets in the offseason.

Parsons played all four years at Florida and was a second-round pick by Houston in 2011. He was a freshman with the Gators the year after the second of back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.

Howard and Parsons left AT&T Stadium with Florida down by double digits in the final minute of UConn's 63-53 victory. Houston plays Denver at home Sunday.

— Schuyler Dixon —


Shaquille O'Neal showed up at the Texas high school boys state basketball tournament last month to be honored. He didn't make it to the Final Four, though.

O'Neal was the only living member of the 2014 class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame who wasn't on the court for a brief ceremony during a TV timeout in the first half of the Connecticut-Florida game.

The 15-time NBA All-Star and four-time champion was honored in Austin on the 25th anniversary of his San Antonio Cole team winning a Texas state championship.

Former LSU coach Dale Brown — O'Neal's college coach — did attend, along with former Maryland coach Gary Williams and two-time NCAA championship player Grant Hill for Duke.

The late Zelmo Beaty, who averaged 25 points and 20 rebounds in his career at Prairie View in the early 1960s, was represented on the court.

The others being inducted in November are Howard Garfinkel, who started the first high school scouting service for East Coast basketball in 1965, former Louisville player Darrel Griffith, and former Stetson coach Glen Wilkes Sr.

— Schuyler Dixon —


The Final Four was like a Dallas Cowboys game for owner Jerry Jones: a mix of boos and cheers when he was shown on the huge video board.

Jones, the man behind the billion-dollar showplace that is hosting its first Final Four, smiled widely when he was shown early in the first semifinal between Florida and Connecticut on Saturday.

The boos were pretty strong for the man known as a business and marketing whiz who is often criticized for his football moves as the general manager of a team that has just one playoff win since 1997.

The video board is the signature piece of the home of the Cowboys, and gives basketball fans a better view of the game from the upper deck.

— Schuyler Dixon —


Final Four organizers held a moment of silence Saturday for the victims of the second mass shooting in five years at Fort Hood, the sprawling Army post about 140 miles to the south.

The three who were killed and 16 others who were injured were honored before the first semifinal between Connecticut and Florida at AT&T Stadium.

Authorities say Spc. Ivan Lopez shot and killed fellow soldiers before taking his own life Wednesday in an attack they say was preceded by an argument and didn't have any ties to terrorism.

In 2009, 13 people were killed by Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan, who had said he was angry about being deployed to Afghanistan and wanted to protect Islamic and Taliban leaders from U.S. troops.

— Schuyler Dixon —


Singer Chris Daughtry got some historic help with the national anthem before the start of the Final Four.

The Fort McHenry Fife and Drum Corps went onto the court before Daughtry sang. Their presentation included a replica of a huge 15-star American flag that soldiers raised at the Maryland fort 200 years ago during the War of 1812.

The original flag raised Sept. 14, 1814, inspired Francis Scott Key to write what became "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The flag used Saturday was carried onto the court by volunteers donning replica military uniforms from that period, and the fife and drum corps played.

Reproduction instruments are meticulously made like the originals from the hickory wood used in the drums to the special key of "C'' in the fifes.

— Stephen Hawkins —


The question was for any of the five freshmen sitting alongside Kentucky coach John Calipari, which gave all of them the opportunity to zone out.

James Young was the unlucky one asked to answer.

"I didn't really hear it. Can you repeat it?" Young said sheepishly as laughter broke out in the large interview room at the Final Four.

Calipari, who has taken aim at the "they are no longer freshmen" cliche, couldn't resist the chance to emphasize his point. "You think they're no longer freshmen?" Calipari asked, smiling as the laughter continued. "That's what you're going to say to me?"

Then Calipari, the leading coach of "one and done" players who leave for the NBA after their freshmen seasons, interrupted the first attempt to repeat the question by noting that the scene was similar to his timeouts, bringing more laughter.

The start of Young's answer once the question was repeated? "I think it's really just focus."

— Schuyler Dixon —


NCAA Finals Watch follows the Final Four as seen by journalists from The Associated Press in North Texas. It will be updated throughout the day with breaking news and other items of interest.



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