Officials are expecting an NCAA regional record crowd of 72,000 at Detroit’s Ford Field on Friday for the Midwest regional semifinals. Not sure I can remember a time when the venue has been discussed more than the actual matchup on the court. For days it’s been about the where and not the who for Kansas and Villanova and that did not change on Thursday in Detroit.
Yes, Kansas and Villanova will play at a larger than normal venue
– Ford Field in Detroit seats more than 70,000 vs. the 16,000
both teams are accustomed to playing in front of. As is usually the
case when teams go to a dome-setting for the first time there is talk
about how it will affect the depth perception of perimeter shooters.
You do see a few more airballs than normal in this type of arena but at
the end of the day it’s the same for both teams.
“I don't have a problem with that. I think the court setup is
unique. Of course, our players haven't been out there yet. I haven't
coached on it yet. But I'll reserve comment. We're excited to be here.
It will be a little bit different. But that's okay. It's different for
both teams,” KU head coach Bill Self told the media on
“Well, really surprised about the number of seating.
(I’m) Really excited (and) ready to play. I look forward to
that,” senior Russell Robinson said.
Self and his team got their first look at Ford Field’s unique
setup and word is the fifth year KU coach kept the tape measure in his
pocket and was not forced to re-enact a scene from the movie Hoosiers.
But the setting provided at this venue is certainly distinct.
In most dome situations the court is tucked away at one end or another
of the arena. At Ford Field for the Midwest regional, and also in
Houston at the South regional, the court will be placed at the 50-yard
line. It’s a terrific way for more fans to get a better view
of a game but the fact that the court will be raised some 27 inches.
It’s a plus for the fans but is it a negative for the players?
“You're up about three or four feet. It's kind of different
'cause you have -- it's kind of like a lower level of fans, then kind
of raises up, so the backdrop is a little bit different,”
said Villanova leading scorer Scottie Reynolds. “But once you
get used to it, you think you can shoot from halfcourt and stroke it.
We did a pretty good job out there shooting the ball out there.
Hopefully that's gonna continue tomorrow.”
“The court elevation, I don't think that's going to be a
problem,” stated Robinson. “I can play on a roof,
you know, if that's where we have to play at. At this point in time,
we're just going to go out there and play the game.”
“I thought it would be similar to playing at Syracuse. When I
actually walked out there, it was amazing. The court was elevated. So
many stands, so many fans can be seated.
It's an experience that we enjoyed when we first walked on the
court,” according to Villanova junior Dwayne Anderson.
Most of the feedback to a site type that is certainly being tested for
future Final Fours and regionals was positive but some players did
express concern over going after loose balls. Memphis’ Chris Douglas-Roberts admitted he would think twice and Nova’s
Reynolds also admitted it was in the back of his mind.
“I guess more than the seating I was like what about if we go
for a loose ball, dive and go off the court? I mean, that's the thing I
was scared about, so other than that, we’re fine,”
The border of the court will be carpeted to help protect the players.
There is also an adjustment for the coaches who will now be coaching
below the playing surface. The Villanova players had some fun with it
on Thursday joking that the shortest player on the roster, Malcolm Grant who stands 6-0 tall might not be able to see if he were sitting
on the bench.
Coaches will have a choice. There will be stools that afford the option
of sitting on stools a few feet above their players.
The NCAA will be watching at how effective this setup is and it is
likely to be the exact set up at next year’s Final Four which
just happens to be in Detroit.
For the Jayhawks, they choose to place their emphasis on the opponent
and that is a hot Villanova team.
Big Change for Kansas and Nova?
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