ATLANTA (AP) — Around the Final Four and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of everything surrounding the games.
DIVISION III CHAMPS
The Amherst Lord Jeffs have won their second Division III men's basketball national championship, defeating Mary Hardin-Baylor 87-70 at Phillips Arena.
There's no better nickname in Atlanta than the one sported by Amherst, which is playing in the Division III championship game at Philips Arena. Ladies and gentlemen, the Lord Jeffs.
The school and its namesake town in Massachusetts were named after Lord Jeffery Amherst, a famed officer in the British Army during the 1700s. Hence, the unique moniker for the college's athletic teams.
— Paul Newberry — http://twitter.com/@pnewberry1963
Louisville will be playing for its third national championship on Monday night.
The Cardinals are 2-0 in championship games, beating UCLA in 1980 and Duke in 1996. Coach Rick Pitino's team will take a 15-game winning streak into the final. It is Louisville's longest streak since the 2003-04 season.
The last team to beat the Cardinals was Notre Dame, in overtime, on Feb. 9.
But Cardinals center Gorgui Dieng said Sunday that going 3-0 will depend on how effective Louisville's press is against Michigan.
"We could not win without our pressure," Dieng said.
Louisville's come-from-behind 72-68 semifinal victory was its 34th of the season, a school record for wins.
— Charles Odum — http://twitter.com/@CharlesOdum
AMHERST IN CONTROL
It took Amherst about 3 minutes to seize control of the Division III title game.
The Lord Jeffs scored the first 10 points, and while Mary Hardin-Baylor never allowed them to stretch that lead much, the Crusaders never managed to trim into it, either.
Amherst has had to play most of the first half without national player of the year Aaron Toomey, who picked up two fouls and earned a seat on the bench next to coach David Hixon.
Amherst led 38-30 at the break.
The highlight, though, belonged to the Crusaders, who picked up a loose ball and passed it ahead to swingman Thomas Orr, who left the entire goal rattling after a thunderous dunk.
— Dave Skretta — http://twitter.com/@APdaveskretta
LONE STAR PRIDE
Mary Hardin-Baylor is carrying the weight of Texas on its shoulders.
The Crusaders became the first program from the Lone Star State to appear in the Division III national championship when it faced Amherst on Sunday.
Not only that, the Crusaders are doing it in a year in which none of the Division I schools from the state so much as managed to make the NCAA tournament. The closest was Baylor, which was left off the bubble on Selection Sunday and then ran roughshod through the NIT tournament.
Metropolitan State, which will play Drury for the Division II title, knocked out San Antonio-based St. Mary's University earlier in the tournament. That left Mary Hardin-Baylor, based in Belton, Texas, as the pride of the state this season.
— Dave Skretta
Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed will lead up to 3,000 kids who will dribble basketballs on a one-mile trek through downtown Atlanta on Sunday.
Those taking part in the Final Four Dribble will make their down Andrew Young International Boulevard through the heart of events that are part of the national semifinals.
They picked a great day — it's sunny, 70-degrees in Atlanta once again.
— Charles Odum
Fans of college basketball who've grown weary of the wrestling matches that take place in Division I hoops these days ought to make their way to small-college games.
Amherst and Mary Hardin-Baylor are playing in the Division III championship on Sunday, and there wasn't a single whistle blown — not for a foul, a turnover or even for a ball that went out of bounds — for nearly five minutes at the start of the game.
Just crisp screens, solid defense, good shooting and a nice tempo.
The way basketball used to be played.
— Dave Skretta
LITTLE GUYS, BIG STAGE
Louisville and Michigan fans aren't the only ones left partying in Atlanta.
It's time for the Division II and Division III national championship games. He will be played Sunday at Philips Arena, a short walk from where those two will play for the Division I title Monday night.
First up is Amherst takes on Mary Hardin-Baylor in the D-3 title game, followed by Drury and Metropolitan State for the D-2 title. The games are being played as part of Final Four weekend for the first time as the NCAA celebrates its 75th anniversary.
And while they may not be as numerous, fans of all four schools are just as vocal.
There was a contingent of about a dozen students who drove from Texas to root on Mary-Hardin Baylor, and they made quite a racket a couple hours before tip as they marched toward the arena dressed in everything from a garish golden toga to a snazzy purple bodysuit.
When one curmudgeon shot them a "keep it quiet" glance, one of the students replied cheerily, "I didn't drive 16 hours not to yell!"
— Dave Skretta
NCAA Finals Watch follows the Final Four games and all the activities surrounding the event as seen by journalists from The Associated Press from across Atlanta. It will be updated throughout the day with breaking news and other items of interest. Follow AP reporters on Twitter where available.
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