Final Four: Dome Buzz Growing

By - March 31, 2007

As the media shuttle turned left down Georgia Dome Drive NW and the will call windows on the south end of the venue came into full view, I had to take a look at my cell phone to make sure I wasn't much later that I thought. Nope. 2:48 p.m., 72 minutes before the gates open to the public and a full three hours and 19 minutes before Roy Hibbert and Greg Oden meet at center court for the third-to-last game of the heretofore most predictable college basketball season I can remember. The bus slows for the drop-off point and I'm seeing close to a thousand scarlet football jerseys, T-shirts and newly minted Final Four gear in a queue for the Ohio State will call window. The line leads back about 30 yards before bending on a right angle and wrapping all the way to the end of the building.

The NCAA allots 3,750 tickets to each participating school -- or 15,000 of the arena's 53,500-seat capacity for basketball. Since the Final Four wasn't set until about five-and-a-half days ago, picking up school-distributed tickets through will call is the most popular option and the Dome sets up one window for each school. As I walked from the bus into the venue, I counted two people in the UCLA line, two in the Georgetown line and maybe a dozen and change waiting for Florida. So either the Buckeyes are going to enjoy one of the most overwhelming home-court advantages in this event's 68-year history -- or the Columbus school can just claim the most hyper-punctual fan base in college sports. 2:48, kids.

The seat cushions mentioned in my final post from the Dome Friday night have been placed in every last seat in the building and a few dozen yellow-clad stadium workers are seated in Sections 200 and 201 getting a pep talk from a bullhorn-toting supervisor. In just the 25 minutes since I started writing this, the population in the media work area has quadrupled while the arena workers are testing the P.A. system. I haven't gotten to watch a ton of TV since landing in the ATL but I'm guessing CBS is going heavy with the feature stuff because my mom just called from Philadelphia sobbing so hard that I instantly thought a family member had died. Turns out she'd been watching a story on Ryan Francis, the USC point guard who was murdered 10 months ago in his Baton Rouge hometown. It's 4:07 p.m. now and I'm hearing "Let's Go Hoyas" chants from what sounds like a sparse but spirited group behind the curtain that separates the press area from the floor. Maybe the Dome won't be Value City Arena South after all.

Posted by at 04:07 PM on March 31, 2007

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