Observations from Charlotte

As the Huskies take the floor against not-so-far-away Georgia this evening, it is clear that the fans in Charlotte, NC, have their favorites. Well, perhaps favorite – singular - is a better way to put it.

As the first session begins this morning, the scalpers outside hold tickets with a $75 face value. With one of those in hand, that would entitle you to go inside the Time Warner Cable Arena and watch Michigan battle Tennessee, and then see Duke, a local favorite, take on the Hampton Pirates.

Prices for the morning session were a bit inflated, as outside you could get a very good seat for $60, about 20 percent discounted from full price.

The majority of fans are going to come for the evening session, however, when the local favorite North Carolina Tar Heels will be in the building to take on the LIU Blackbirds. Following that game the Washington Huskies take to the floor to play the Georgia Bulldogs, who are expected to have a decent crowd since Athens, Ga is only about a three-and-a-half hour drive from Charlotte.

The Time Warner Cable Arena has its drawbacks if you are in the media. It is almost entirely made of brick and mortar, which is a killer for both cell phone reception as well as those "air cards" that most in the media use when they want to avoid paying a daily hook-up fee to the local internet bandwidth.

If you are a photographer, the charge for a hard-wire hook up is $200. Thus, there is a price to bringing courtside coverage to fans.

Kevin Calabro is calling all four games today from Charlotte. Kevin is a pro and is always awesome at painting the action with an exciting flair. Perhaps Bob Rondeau can borrow his voice if he loses his again as he did in Los Angeles.

Just kidding. Rondeau spoke with Dawgman.com's Kim Grinolds earlier, and he has regained his golden tones, so no worries Husky fans.

At the team shoot-around yesterday the Huskies appeared very loose. They came out with smiles on their faces, very glad to be where they were. The Dawgs spent the first 20 minutes working hard on some things. They worked on fast breaks, in-bounds plays, and ran some drills. After that, head coach Lorenzo Romar loosened up the reigns and let his kids have some fun and do whatever they wanted to do.

One particular area that got a lot of attention was an in-bounds set and play with the time set at 0:02. If the Huskies are in that position today and don't execute, it won't be because of a lack of rehearsal and coaching.

Once the team let their hair down, they turned it into an aerial show. The one guy that got the gathering crowd going the most with his throw-downs was freshman Terrence Ross. He used his extreme vertical leap and soft hands to great effect, catching lobs and shoving them through the hoop with the force and speed of a locomotive. Ross is a crowd favorite in that regard, and the back-door alley-oop play the Huskies run for him was made for ESPN. The fans that were making their way toward the Husky basket were rewarded by young Mr. Ross, and they worked into a frenzy.

Isaiah Thomas, all 5-foot-9 of him, thrilled the crowd with a one-bounce, jump-catch-and slam over his head. When the diminutive guard from Tacoma completed his dunk with a flex, the crowd showered him with appreciation.

As of 1:30 this afternoon in Charlotte, there weren't a great deal of Husky fans in the building, but keep in mind that it's still the first session, and the Huskies don't tip off for another eight hours.

The evening tickets are going for $90 - $100 with a face value of $75. That is what you can refer to as the "Carolina Tariff". As game time gets closer, more and more North Carolina fans will arrive and snap those tickets up.

Romar got to the arena today about an hour before his team. He looked fresh and ready to get it done. He was working the building, networking and saying hello. It's pretty amazing that the coach from a team in Seattle can go to Charlotte, NC and have people flock to him with well-wishes. He had a steady flow of people wanting to slap hands, hug, and tell him what a great job he's done. Everybody knows Lorenzo.

The talk around the media circles in Charlotte is that Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl may be coaching his last game, so watch his game against Michigan closely. If he loses it, people are wondering out loud if he'll have to turn in his cache of loud orange blazers after tonight. Right now the Volunteers are losing huge, so expect Pearl's exit visa from Knoxville to be stamped sooner, rather than later.

Last thoughts before the game today – How will the Husky line up respond to having Venoy Overton back in the lineup? On paper, it would appear to give Isaiah Thomas some nice rest, as well as allow the Huskies to pressure the ball more. However, the zone defense in the Pac-10 tournament was damn effective. In fact, if you watched the spacing and movement of that zone, it was as good as any Husky zone in recent memory. They moved in very good coordination, maintaining gap integrity. It was almost as if they were all on a turntable and rotating to wherever the ball went. That, my friends, boils down to four things:
- Hard work
- Coaching
- Communication
- Chemistry

Hopefully those things will remain intact with the addition of Overton back into the mix.

More later.

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