Practice...we're talking about PRACTICE! That's what Friday was all about. After a morning breakfast with Buick and the folks from Kentucky's A Sea of Blue, we made the rounds in the French Quarter and caught a couple of solid street performances. I posted one fanshot yesterday with one of the bands and another one can be found here after the jump.
New Orleans is definitely in FULL effect as of Friday! After a relatively tame Thursday, the city has filled to the brim and without question the two dominant fanbases would appear to be Kansas and Kentucky, although I will say that Kentucky has everyone beaten by a mile. The perception in the media and around town seems to be that the Wildcats have all but locked this thing up. They certainly have the best chance, but it will be interesting to see how they handle the fact that they've already been crowned in this city and elsewhere as the NCAA Champion.
The afternoon brought a round of open practices for the fans. I checked in on the Kansas practice session and there were quite a few shouts from the crowd congratulating Danny Manning on his future position at Tulsa while the players went through a pretty simple walk through. They looked loose, they definitely appeared to spend a little more energy actually working on things than the Wildcats who held their walkthrough just prior.
The evening was another great night in the BIG easy. A long casual dinner at the Court of Two Sisters followed by a red carpet event at the House of Blues hosted by CBS and Turner Sports with Kid Rock as the featured performer. I'm not a huge Kid Rock fan, but he puts on a show. I made it back to my room a little damp from the rain and took one last elevator right with Nolan Richardson himself. I wanted to ask him how bad Mike Anderson wanted the hell out of Columbia, but I figured he didn't want some random Kansas fan taking a jab at the Tigers for no apparent reason.
I will say that the size of this event for a basketball game is huge. I can't imagine the adjustment that the players have to make when playing in a dome on an elevated floor and I can't imagine the nerves of playing in front of this many people. That makes two more reasons that the best team doesn't always win this thing.
As always, a great deal of gratitude to Buick for making this possible and I just want to mention that these little plugs are completely unsolicited. I've just been so incredibly impressed with how first class they've been with this whole thing that I feel compelled to give them props when documenting this trip.