BY DENNIS CHASE
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — For Christian Wilson, it’s been two spring breaks in one.
There was Indianapolis, where the Gaylord athletic director, his two sons and their friend took in the Sweet 16 last weekend.
Then there’s Atlanta, host city of the Final Four, and where the trip reaches a crescendo tonight when Michigan faces Louisville for the NCAA basketball championship.
Not a bad way for basketball aficionados to spend a break.
Wilson, sons Mitchell and Matthew and their friend Blake Charboneau, will be in attendance tonight at the Georgia Dome.
They watched Saturday night’s semifinals on the big screen at a place called Bracket Town in the Georgia World Congress Center. Advertised as the the ultimate Final Four Fan Fest, Bracket Town offers more than 300,000 square feet — the equivalent of 64 full-sized basketball courts — of activities that include 3-on-3 tournaments, skills challenges (in several sports), and, of course, autograph opportunities.
The signatures of David Robinson, Bill Walton, Dick Vitale, Dominique Wilkins and Danny Manning are already in hand. The 3-on-3 tournament was part of Saturday’s schedule.
Bracket Town is just one element in Atlanta’s Final Four experience. There are also free concerts every day in Centennial Park. Sting and the Dave Matthews Band took the stage Sunday.
“It’s one huge party,” Wilson said. “You have anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 people downtown.”
Wilson and the boys were hoping to take in the semifinals, but found ticket prices “outrageous.”
Wilson watched one Louisville fan spend $4,000 for four tickets.
“There were upper level seats for $300, but that’s like watching the games from the moon,” he said.
Wilson used coaching contacts to land tickets tonight at a much more reasonable cost of $100 per ticket.
Wilson watched Louisville twice in Indianapolis. He’s impressed with the Cardinals, especially the way they battled back to beat Wichita State in the semifinals.
“Louisville had too much quickness,” he said. “They wore them down.”
He also liked how Michigan was able to oust Syracuse despite a sub-par offensive performance from Trey Burke.
“Michigan played well,” he said. “When you can win a game without Burke playing up to his potential, and you can have kids like Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert hit hit some shots, that’s huge.
“It’s going to be a great match-up between the guards — Michigan’s Burke and (Tim) Hardaway and Louisville’s (Peyton) Siva and (Russ) Smith . They’re (Siva and Smith) quick. We really enjoyed watching them play in Indianapolis. But I think (Michigan center Mitch) McGary is a key, too. He’s playing so well. Whoever can win that battle — McGary and (Gorgui) Deing — that’s the team that comes out victorious.”
The game will be quite a culmination to a trip that started 10 days ago in Indianapolis, where they had “awesome” mid-court seats for Sweet 16 battles between Duke-Michigan State and Louisville-Oregon and the Elite Eight showdown between Duke and Louisville.
From there, the group spent two days in Louisville and one in Nashville before heading to Atlanta.
“They (boys) weren’t too much into the country music scene,” Wilson said of the one night in Nashville. “I could have stayed a day or two, but they wanted to get down here where the action is.”
So what’s his prediction for tonight?
“The way Michigan is playing,” he said, “I would have to say Michigan on a Trey Burke shot at the buzzer.”