ARLINGTON, Texas — As a basketball arena, Cowboys Stadium is a whole new world for the players from Florida, Florida Gulf Coast, Kansas and Michigan.
"This is such a great environment," Michigan F Glenn Robinson III said. "It's something different. I've been here once, but a lot of people haven't been at a place like this. It seems like so much more open space, and it's a way bigger stadium than any of us have ever played in. It will be great for us."
The domed stadium built for the NFL team has held a record 105,121 for a football game, and for tonight's NCAA Tournament South Region semifinals the capacity is 42,614. The NCAA brought in 16,000 seats, which were laid over football seats. And the replay scoreboard is so large, it extends over the edges of both sides of the court.
"This place is gigantic," FGCU guard Dajuan Graf said. "I circled around the arena a couple of times just to get the feel for it. It's like shooting outside. It's like on an open campus, but I found my shot during practice."
The facility hosted its first college game in December 2009 (Texas vs. North Carolina) and is doing a test run this weekend as it prepares to host the Final Four next season.
One of the biggest issues for the players is the playing floor, which is raised about 3 feet above the football playing surface. The Jayhawks believe they might have a slight advantage because they've played in this type of venue more often than some other South Region teams the past few seasons.
"Just the experience, knowing what to expect from the lights and the background can help," Kansas F Kevin Young said. "But at the end of the day, it's just a basketball court. We all play on them."
STATE OF AFFAIRS: With three teams from the state of Florida playing in the Sweet 16, the Sunshine State is getting its fair share of attention this week. That's great for recruiting and for Florida schools in general, UF coach Billy Donovan said.
"I think this time of year, so many people are captivated by the NCAA Tournament," Donovan said. "Certainly, when you have three teams from the state of Florida still playing in the NCAA Tournament and in the Sweet 16, I think it's certainly going to draw a lot of attention to basketball. I think people really follow the NCAA Tournament from here on out.
"Even if you look what the (Miami) Heat are doing, it's phenomenal as well. So I think for college basketball in the state of Florida it's great."
FGCU HONORED: Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson presented the FGCU team with a proclamation honoring the program Thursday morning. Henderson has a rooting interest on both sides of tonight's game between the school in Estero, near Fort Myers, and Florida: His two oldest children are Florida graduates. His youngest is a student at FGCU.