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FINALS WATCH: Wall, Allen take in title game

April 8, 2014
Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — A huge cheer arose from the Kentucky student section for John Wall as if the guard was making his way pregame through Rupp Arena.

Except on Monday night, the Washington Wizards point guard was winding through AT&T Stadium to take his seat near the Wildcats family section for the national title game against Connecticut.

Wall was a "one-and-done" player at Kentucky in John Calipari's first season as head coach. On Monday, Calipari had a team chock full of promising first-year players.

Connecticut fans honored their own basketball royalty after applauding Ray Allen, a three-year player for the Huskies in the 1990s. Allen plays for the Miami Heat, which leads Wall's Wizards by 13½ games in the NBA's Southeast Division.

— Genaro Armas — https://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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Former President Bill Clinton initially took a back seat to his successor during the national anthem at the NCAA championship game.

But once the game began, Clinton and former President George W. Bush gathered in the same row and sat next to each other in the luxury box belonging to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at AT&T Stadium. They laughed while their images were being shown on the giant stadium video boards, and drew applause from the crowd during a break in the first half.

Former first lady Laura Bush was also in attendance for the title game between Kentucky and Connecticut. Both former presidents are noted sports fans, and Bush, is a regular attendee at Texas sporting events.

— Genaro Armas — https://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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When Darius Rucker was introduced before performing the national anthem, one group in the crowd yelled "Hootie!"

The award-winning country singer-songwriter did get his start in mainstream music in the mid-1990s as the frontman of the band Hootie & The Blowfish. He released his third country album last year, including the No. 1 hit "Wagon Wheel."

Rucker was backed for his NCAA championship game performance by the Jazz Singers vocal ensemble from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performance and Visual Arts in Dallas.

— Stephen Hawkins — https://twitter.com/hawkaptexas

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Absolutely no chance that that Susan Hughes would forget where she was parked Monday night.

Hughes and the rest of her party of hardcore Kentucky fan backed up their Wildcats blue pickup truck right underneath a billboard of a screaming Louisville fan decked in red.

In case you haven't heard, Kentucky and Louisville backers aren't exactly fond of each other. Hughes, 55, of Paducah, used the occasion to torment a friend who works at Louisville.

"I took that picture and sent it to him and said 'Thinking of you,'" said Hughes, wearing a blue No. 11 jersey for former guard John Wall.

Not surprisingly, Big Blue Nation turned out in force at AT&T Stadium. Kentucky fans outnumbered Connecticut fans by about 4-to-1 in the parking lots about two hours before the game.

Hughes and fellow tailgater Terry Donovan, 62, also of Paducah, were the pictures of Southern hospitality pregame, graciously offering food to bystanders. On the menu were "one-and-done" zucchinis in a joking nod to the freshman-filled Kentucky team.

Hughes has been really basking the Kentucky success the last few days. She and her son are Kentucky graduates; her husband and two daughters went to Louisville.

"We have 'house divided' stuff and license plates, and when they play it's really, really bad," Hughes said.

— Genaro Armas — https://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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Everyone knows that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is a jet-setter.

He's sure putting that jet to work this weekend.

It began when he attended Saturday night's national semifinals at his billion-dollar showplace near Dallas, and was booed when he was shown on his $40 million TV hanging over the court.

After the games, Jones hopped on a plane to Las Vegas and was front-and-center for the Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand. During the show, it was announced that his stadium will host the 50th anniversary of the star-studded awards next year, the first time it will move out of Las Vegas in more than a decade.

By the time he was walking through the doors to AT&T Stadium for Monday night's title game between Kentucky and Connecticut, Jones was capping off quite the whirlwind weekend.

— Dave Skretta, http://www.twitter.com/apdaveskretta

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Just call AT&T Stadium's first Final Four an audition for its next one.

The NCAA has been keeping a keen eye on how things are running at the mega-sized arena near Dallas because it is also bidding to host another Final Four at some point from 2017-20.

Official bids for that period are due to the NCAA next month, and the cities will make their final pitches to the Division I men's basketball committee at its meeting in November.

Dallas is also a finalist to host a women's championship at American Airlines Center.

"This is a superb arena, stadium and experience. There's no better stadium probably in the country than this one," NCAA president Mark Emmert said Sunday. "This one works pretty darn well."

The size of the Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Arlington helped the NCAA establish a record crowd for a college basketball game of 79,444 during Saturday night's semifinals.

Among those competing with AT&T Stadium for the next round of Final Fours are: Indianapolis, which will host it next year; Atlanta, which hosted the game last year; New Orleans, which hosted it two years ago; Minneapolis, which is building a new stadium for the Vikings; Phoenix-Glendale, which is hosting the upcoming Super Bowl; and former hosts St. Louis and San Antonio.

Houston is scheduled to host the game in 2016.

"It's a great venue," Emmert said of AT&T Stadium. "I know there's a critique about playing in a big venue like this or San Antonio or somewhere else, but the reality is you can get 80,000 people in to watch a game, and that's pretty exciting."

— Dave Skretta, http://www.twitter.com/apdaveskretta

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NCAA Finals Watch follows the Final Four games and all the activities surrounding the event as seen by journalists from The Associated Press in North Texas — from the big stadium in Arlington where the games are being played to downtown Dallas.

 
 

 

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