Final Four approaching tip-off in Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) 5:35 p.m.
There were no surprises in the starting lineups for Saturday night's first semifinal.
Michigan State went with the quicker lineup it adjusted to after some early struggles, which means freshman Tum Tum Nairn joined senior Travis Trice and junior Denzel Valentine in the Spartans' backcourt. Gavin Shilling and Branden Dawson started at forward.
The Blue Devils are sticking with their three freshman phenoms Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones along with guards Quinn Coke and Matt Jones.
The NCAA brought out some big names for its Final Four music festival, including Rihanna and country music acts Lady Antebellum and Zac Brown Band headline Sunday.
As for the national anthem, the NCAA kept things focused on students-athletes.
With the help of Amy Thornburg, a local vocal coach, officials selected one from each of the participating schools. The impromptu quartet got together for practice Friday night, and will take the floor to sing the anthem before a packed house at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The singers: Michelle Dear, a soccer player from Michigan State; Vitto Brown, a basketball player from Wisconsin; Deion Williams, a football player from Duke; and Kennedy Collier, a member of the Kentucky women's soccer team.
Brown is a sophomore forward who has rarely played of late. But he nevertheless had to head back stage quickly to prepare for the Badgers' semifinal against Kentucky.
The festive atmosphere that built on the streets of Indianapolis made its way inside Lucas Oil Stadium, where Michigan State was preparing to face Duke and Wisconsin was meeting Kentucky in Saturday night's national semifinals.
As the NCAA likes to say, "The road ends here."
At the fan fest in in the massive convention center across the street from the stadium, the predominant color was red. Maybe Kentucky fans will catch up later, but Wisconsin supporters were winning the competition early.
This is the first time that Indianapolis has hosted the Final Four since 2010, when the Blue Devils knocked off upstart Butler to win coach Mike Krzyzewski's fourth national title.
Krzyzewski, by the way, has been wearing that title ring lately.
"Usually I don't wear a ring on my right fingers, but I did for the tournament," he said. "Not for luck or anything, just a constant reminder of what it is. To come back here, again."
Well, the Blue Devils are here. So is Big Blue Nation, chasing perfection. Thousands of Badgers fans. And the green and white of Michigan State, Wisconsin's Big Ten rival.
Let the games begin.