FINALS WATCH: Humble Laettner, '76 Hoosiers

AP News
Posted: Apr 05, 2013 5:10 PM
FINALS WATCH: Humble Laettner, '76 Hoosiers

ATLANTA (AP) — Around the Final Four and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of everything surrounding the games.



Christian Laettner is trying to be a good role model for his three children.

So the former Duke star said he hasn't shown the highlights of the play when he caught the full-court pass from Grant Hill, turned and made the last-second winning shot to beat Kentucky 104-103 in the 1992 East Regional final.

"People already think I have a big ego and big head," he said. "I don't want my children thinking that. But whenever my dad is in town he sneaks the DVD in and makes them watch a little bit of it."

Laettner was back in the Final Four spotlight on Friday as he was honored for his starring role in the NCAA tournament's most memorable moment, as voted on by fans.

Laettner, who played in four national semifinals and won two NCAA championships at Duke, also was named one of the top 15 players in the tournament's 75 years.

— Charles Odum __



It's not every day generations of college basketball greats like Oscar Robertson, Bill Walton, Danny Manning and Christian Laettner sit elbow to elbow at the same table.

They gathered Friday to be named in the top 15 players in 75 years of the NCAA tournament, as voted on by fans.

"I think it's great for the fans across the country to see what transpired over the years," said the 74-year-old Robertson. "Some of the things I've almost forgotten."

Robertson said there wasn't "all this fanfare" when he played in the 1959 and 1960 Final Fours for Cincinnati.

Also voted as top 15 players: Bill Russell, San Francisco; Jerry West, West Virginia; Jerry Lucas, Ohio State; Bill Bradley, Princeton; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, UCLA; Larry Bird, Indiana State; Magic Johnson, Michigan State; Michael Jordan, North Carolina; Patrick Ewing, Georgetown; Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston; and Grant Hill, Duke.

— Charles Odum



"The way the Big East has changed, it's not a great conference now. It's different now."

— Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim on the soon-to-be disbanded Big East conference

— Eddie Pells — —



If the oddsmakers are right, Saturday night will end with Louisville and Michigan in the NCAA tournament final.

The Cardinals are still favored to win the national championship, but if you're bracket is long busted and you're just looking to pull for an underdog, then you can't go wrong with Wichita State.

Louisville is picked over Wichita State by 10½ points, which according to makes the Cardinals the second-biggest favorite in a Final Four game. Duke (-11) against Michigan State in 1999 was the biggest.

Pregame says Louisville has a 53 percent chance to win the title, while Wichita State is the longshot at 7 percent.

In the other semifinal, Michigan is favored over Syracuse, but not by much — just 2 points.

— John Affleck —



Lionel Messi has a big fan in Gorgui Dieng.

Emphasis on the big.

Louisville's 6-11 center grew up in Senegal, and soccer was his first love. Though basketball is Dieng's game now, he still loves soccer.

And Messi.

"He's the best soccer player I've ever seen in my life!" Dieng said.

Messi has been FIFA's Player of the Year each of the last four seasons, and he's making a case for another win this season. He's scored 57 times already this season for Barcelona, including a goal in Tuesday's 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

Asked who his favorite team was, Dieng said, "Of course, Senegal." When asked his favorite club team, Dieng just laughed.

"I'll show you my Barcelona jersey," he said. "I'm a fan."

— Nancy Armour —



An outdoor concert series at Centennial Olympic Park is aimed at all kinds of music fans.

The Friday lineup included: Saints of Valory, My Morning Jacket, and Zac Brown Band. Saturday includes Ludacris, Muse and Yacht Rock Revue, among others.

The three-day series ends Sunday with Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Sting, and Dave Matthews Band.

— Bill Barrow —



Syracuse forward Rakeem Christmas and NBC's Jimmy Fallon are each enjoying the other's success.

Fallon has become a fan of Christmas — especially when he saw the sophomore forward wears No. 25. Fallon says he's cheering for the Orange in the Final Four, and that has prompted Syracuse students to tweet "Very Rakeem Christmas" photos to the talk show host.

"There have been a lot of pictures and some people at school have been going 'Christmas caroling' on their way to classes and stuff," Christmas said Friday. "It's kind of funny and it brings a smile to my face."

Christmas said he sent a congratulatory text to Fallon, who was recently named as Jay Leno's successor on the Tonight Show.

"He said 'Thank you very much,'" Christmas said. "It was kind of cool for me."

— Charles Odum



A room packed with reporters hoping to interview injured Louisville Kevin Ware had to settle for one of his best friends on the Cardinals team.

On Friday, Ware and forward Chane Behanan were scheduled to field questions together, but the decision was made to give Ware a day of rest his surgically repaired right leg when he fell asleep at the team's dinner table on Thursday night.

"Once he gets one minute to relax, he was just dozing at the table and he went on to his room to go to sleep," Behanan said.

Louisville spokesman Kenny Klein said Ware needed Friday's rest so he can attend Saturday's semifinal game against Wichita State.

— Charles Odum



Wichita State's Evan Wessel certainly can empathize with Kevin Ware.

The Louisville guard has been in the spotlight ever since breaking his leg in the regional finals against Duke, while Wessel has been forced to watch the Shockers' remarkable Final Four run from the bench after having surgery to repair a broken bone in his right hand.

Wessel, from Wichita, started the Shockers' first eight games before getting hurt.

"I have the utmost respect for Kevin Ware," Wessel said, "and I don't want to see that happen to anybody, and obviously my injury wasn't as severe as his was, but I know how he feels."

Wessel is part of a Wichita State dynasty. His grandfather, Evert Wessel, played basketball from 1956-59, and his father Todd played football when the school still had a program.

The school has applied for a medical redshirt, so Wessel will still have three seasons of eligibility. But then again, the Final Four could be a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

"The whole atmosphere at the Final Four has been great," Wessel said, "and whether you're playing or not you're going to remember this for the rest of your life."

— Dave Skretta —



Day 2 of the Final Four schedule of events kicked off Friday with Indiana's undefeated 1976 team honored as part of the celebration of 75 Years of March Madness.

Coach Bob Knight and seven players from the team, including Scott May and Quinn Buckner, reflected on the team's 32-0 season. It was the last undefeated season in college basketball.

"I don't think there's ever been a better representative of collegiate athletes than these kids," Knight said.

The Final Four was just gaining steam as a big national event in 1976 and the NCAA tournament included only 32 teams.

— Charles Odum



The cast of the TBS sitcom "Men at Work" is split when it comes to who they think will win the national basketball championship.

Danny Masterson and Adam Busch believe Syracuse will walk away with the crown. James Lesure is taking Louisville while Michael Cassidy is going with Wichita State.

The cast is in Atlanta promoting the second season of their sitcom, which premieres April 4.

But the four main characters of the show also plan to catch some of the festivities surrounding the Final Four and are looking to attending the games at the Georgia Dome.

— Jonathan Landrum —



There is always considerable debate about the financial benefits for cities that host big events like the Final Four and the Super Bowl.

Tens of thousands of fans spend money over several days, clearly benefiting local restaurants, bars and hotels and generating local tax revenue. But there's also lost productivity for other routine businesses affected by traffic and the other trappings. And there's increased cost for city services, from overtime for police and other first responders to expensive cleanup.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed unapologetically declares the Final Four a welcome event for Atlanta. His office pegs the economic impact at $70 million.

— Bill Barrow



Wichita State forward Carl Hall said he knows about lighting up the Final Four.

But he wasn't boosting about being able to score a lot of points, he was talking about the actual lights at Georgia Dome.

Hall made hundreds of the fluorescent light fixtures inside the arena while working a factory job near his home in Cochran, Ga., a couple hours' drive from the dome.

"Actually we made these lights they have on the ceiling here," Hall said Friday, pointing above his head. "I probably painted those parts. But we made those lights, and I remember it was very hot, and you come home covered in paint. It was just not a great feeling. It's a very hard job."

He made $12 an hour working the overnight shift, where he painted the fixtures. He would get off at 7 a.m. so that he could attend classes at Middle Georgia College during the day.

Said Shockers coach Gregg Marshall: "With Carl's degree, which he has in hand now, he can go back and at least be a supervisor."

— Dave Skretta



In case you missed it, injured Louisville guard Kevin Ware made an appearance on David Letterman Thursday night and was featured on the show's regular Top 10 list.

The category was the top 10 things going through Ware's mind when he suffered the gruesome compound fracture on his right leg Sunday against Duke. He had surgery on his leg after a bone protruded about six inches through his skin after landing awkwardly trying to block a shot.

The No. 1 item on his Top 10 list: "At least my bracket's not busted."

Presumably, Ware picked Louisville to win the championship.

— Charles Odum



OK, someone with the nickname "Dunkin' Doug" is worth mentioning.

Detroit's Doug Anderson came through with an athletic highlight in slam dunk contest Thursday night that may be tough to beat in the Final Four.

Anderson's winning dunk was a spinning, between-the-legs, 360 slam that brought two of the celebrity judges — Roddy White and Harry Douglas of the Atlanta Falcons — out of their seats.

Virginia Commonwealth's Troy Daniels beat Indiana's Aulani Sinclair for bragging rights as the overall best 3-point shooter.

— Charles Odum


NCAA Finals Watch follows the Final Four games and all the activities surrounding the event as seen by journalists from The Associated Press from across Atlanta. It will be updated throughout the day with breaking news and other items of interest. Follow AP reporters on Twitter where available.