Houston is a beautiful city and they are doing a great job of handling the Final Four. The shuttle services took awhile to get used to but once you figure out your color and where to find it on the buses, then you can get to the three separate venues relatively easily, minus the traffic. The three venues are Reliant Stadium, Bracket Town, and the Big Dance which is a concert venue. Bracket Town and the Big Dance are walking distance from each other which is great for the fans.
Open practice was at the Houston Texan's stadium and is on a raised platform, which isn't the best way to have a basketball game. It separates the bench, cheerleaders, and courtside seating from the game which is what makes basketball a unique game. Still there are plenty of good seats to see the game unless you are up in the nosebleed sections. I finally got to see Micheal Bradley in practice. He has put on some muscle and is fluid in his shot selection. He will make an impact next year. One of the highlights was seeing Ben Stewart's mom. She was extremely proud of her son and wasn't shy of showing his old basketball photo where he had an amazing afro. There should be a petition to get him to grow it back.
The team had a generic practice with plenty of shots being taken to get the team familiar with the rim and court. They ran through their staggered screens, both baseline, and free throws, working from ten feet and out. They separated the back court and front court twice to work on post moves for the bigs and driving shots for the guards. Shabazz shot the ball well, Oriakhi struggled a bit from the line, and Walker drew iron on most of his shots that missed and went in. Overall it looked like a loose group, laughing and joking around. They seemed to be enjoying the experience with each other and there was a lot of playful banter between Coombs-McDaniel, Lamb, Walker, and Oriakhi.
Across Houston at Bracket Town there was a great interaction events but was mainly tailored for kids. There was plenty of hoops to shoot threes, dunk and play pick up games. They set up a souvenir stand, a place to kick a soccer ball for some reason, and Buick had a challenge going on all day where people had thirty seconds to make as many shots from specific locations on the floor and the winner for the day won tickets to the Final Four.
The night ended with a Sublime concert at the Big Dance hosted by AT&T. It was free to enter and the crowd had a mixture of all ages but they were very hospitable. Other then the failed crowd surfers who entered a patch of fifteen year olds that couldn't hold them up and disappeared head first, everyone enjoyed a great performance. With the clock striking midnight we returned to our hotel which is hosting VCU. There we met many staggering boisterous VCU fans showing their school spirit at my UConn shirt. Rookies. On to day two.