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NCAA searches for larger venues

When NCAA officials looked in on the largest crowd to attend a basketball game — the more than 78,000 who watched Kentucky beat Michigan State at Detroit’s Ford Field almost 16 months ago — they were surprised.

Sightlines from distant seats weren’t terrible. Jumbo video screens and other modern technology helped. Fans seemed satisfied.

And so the association, which went exclusively to 30,000-capacity or better domes for the Final Four in 1997, is taking a preliminary look at even larger facilities and more liberal configurations that could widen access to the event.

“Going up into what would be determined as the undesirable seats and looking at those sightlines and comparing them to, say, the 25,000th or 40,000th seat in some of the other facilities we’ve been in,” NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt says, “we were astonished at how attractive (they’ve) become. They’ve become desirable seats.

“We haven’t taken this to the (Division I men’s basketball) committee with the layouts. But based on what we saw that day and from talking to the fans who were there, we think that kind of model is something we’ll definitely further review. We may very well end up going into the 60,000 and 70,000 range for future Final Fours.”

That could mean use of a 63,000-seat, retractable roof stadium the Indianapolis Colts hope to open by 2008. The most recent Final Four held in the city’s RCA Dome held a little more than 43,000.

The NCAA also has its eye on a stadium going up in Phoenix; it would offer the Final Four a Western site it has lacked since the demolition of Seattle’s Kingdome.

The Final Four is scheduled for Ford Field in 2009, but the 78,000-seat configuration might not be feasible because of the need for media and other ancillary space.

The men’s Final Four will be in Atlanta in 2007 and in San Antonio in 2008.

Redick wins Adolph Rupp Trophy

With Duke decimated by injuries and defections to the NBA, J.J. Redick never expected the Blue Devils to finish as one of the top teams in the country.

A player of the year award came as another surprise.

Redick won the Adolph Rupp Trophy as the nation’s best player, announced in St. Louis, the Final Four site, Thursday after leading Duke to a 27-6 record and the No. 3 ranking in the season’s final poll.

Bruce Weber, whose Illinois team has been No. 1 since Dec. 6, won the Rupp Cup as coach of the year.

Redick earned All-America honors after averaging 22 points in 37 minutes for the Blue Devils, who lost to Michigan State in the Austin Regional semifinals.

“When this season started, I never dreamed we’d end up with me winning an award with such prestige,” the junior guard said. “I’d like to thank my teammates and coaches for putting me in a position to win an award like this.”

Pitino would like NBA age limit

Louisville coach Rick Pitino thinks a 20-year-old age limit in the NBA draft would benefit high school phenoms. Last year, Louisville recruits Sebastian Telfair and Donta Smith decided to bypass the Cardinals and enter the draft.

Pitino, who coached the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks earlier in his career, said most teenagers who make the early jump pay for the decision down the road.

“When you go into the NBA and you’re not mature and you’re not emotionally ready, it can lead to later problems in life,” he said. “It takes tremendous emotional maturity, tremendous basketball maturity to play at that level.”

Pitino said most players who skip college lose money in the long run.

“In the end, the NBA is going to have a lot of veterans that are going to be really disappointed they can’t make teams,” he said. “A lot of people are on injured reserve right now, not showcasing their skills, not ready for the NBA. The next contract, which is the one that’s supposed to be big, is going to be miniscule. By staying in college, it could’ve been much bigger.”

Beilein’s contract extended

West Virginia coach John Beilein received a two-year contract extension through the 2011-12 season after guiding his team to the NCAA Tournament regional final.

West Virginia had a school-record eight wins over nationally ranked teams en route to a 24-11 season. The team also received an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 1998 and made its best showing since Jerry West’s 1959 squad went to the national title game.

Two leaving Grizzlies program

Corey Easley and Lamarr Farr, both juniors, have decided to leave the basketball team at the University of Montana and hope to play elsewhere, coach Larry Krystkowiak said.

Easley, from Inver Grove Heights, Minn., is a 6-8 center-forward who played in all 31 games this past season, starting six. He averaged 4.5 points per game and was UM’s eighth-leading scorer.

Farr is a 6-4 forward from Beloit, Wis., and came to UM from Northwest College in Powell, Wyo. He played in 29 games, starting in 12, and was seventh in team scoring at 4.7 points per game.


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