STORRS – The Final Four is a new, eye-opening experience for most teams.
"The event of the Final Four is almost like the Super Bowl," Florida coach Billy Donovan said this week. "The players just need to understand what they're walking into. When the ball gets thrown up on Saturday, both teams are going to go out there and play."
The Huskies have three seniors, Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander, who have been through the hype and hoopla leading to the semifinals. Kevin Ollie was an assistant on Jim Calhoun's staff in 2011.
"It's tremendously valuable," Ollie said. "They know what it takes, they know what the feeling is. I don't think they'll be overwhelmed with the crowd and they'll be helping our young guys understand what it takes. They won't get distracted."
During the run of the season, media access to the Huskies is controlled by the team and somewhat limited. At the Final Four, the NCAA sets the schedule and it is much more extensive for coaches and players. In addition to press conferences, there is a practice open to the public and other fan-driven events.
"I'd rather do this than have all those honey-do's I have piling up at home," Ollie said.
The games are also different, played in a cavernous football stadium where there could be 10 times the attendance of Gampel Pavilion
"It's going to be an insane atmosphere," Olander said. "Just really, take it all in, the shoot-around and open practices and stuff and when the ball goes up, try to forget about all that. The court is still the same length, the basketball is still the same, it's still a basketball game, still 40 minutes."
UConn installed what it could of the game plan Tuesday before leaving for Dallas-Fort Worth. The rest of the prep will occur in the closed practice sessions. There could be a team dinner at a restaurant on Wednesday night, but come Thursday morning the schedule is full.
"You don't have a lot of time," Ollie said.
Familiar Faces, Voices
TBS will have its normal "neutral" broadcast with Jim Nantz, Steve Kerr, Greg Anthony and Tracy Wolfson on its regular channel, and debut "team-specific" telecasts elsewhere. There will be three separate sets of announcers and production crews.
The UConn telecast, on truTV, will have Eric Frede doing play-by-play with former Husky Donny Marshall doing analysis and former UConn women's basketball forward Swin Cash as sideline reporter. Frede, a Connecticut native, did UConn women's play-by-play on SNY this season.
The team-specific teamcasts concept will "present the game with unprecedented local flavor, including comprehensive team and player storylines, custom music, graphics and show packaging, additional cameras and team-specific replays, custom halftimes with school features and more," according to TBS. … Caron Butler, who played for the UConn team that reached the Elite Eight in 2002, sent along good wishes: "I'm so incredibly proud of the guys in that locker room," Butler said though a PR firm. "They've embraced the underdog role and have made a great legacy for themselves at the university. Florida is a tough team, those guys will have to prepare well for all that they do. It's an uphill battle but like I've been saying, just when you think you can't, UConn." Butler plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder. … Ollie was born in Dallas and still has family there. He said he has a lot of ticket requests. "I'll be going into my wallet," he said.