Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Men's Final Four ~ April 2-6, 2010

For the second year in a row, we had the awesome opportunity to attend the Men's Final Four. The tickets were a very special Christmas present from Steve's parents who have been lucky enough to get them through the ticket lottery.

This year's Final Four was held in Indianapolis, IN which is less than five hours from our house. We had originally planned on staying at a hotel near the airport due to the exorbitant cost and unavailability of downtown hotels, but just 5 days before we were scheduled to leave, I received an email from the Fan Housing Group. Apparently, the NCAA had released 60 rooms at the Crowne Plaza which was only one block from Lucas Oil Stadium and close to tons of restaurants & bars as well as the Convention Center. We couldn't resist! Being so close to the action made us even more excited and by Wednesday we were both itching to leave! 

On Friday night we made our way to Indianapolis and arrived at approximately 10:30 pm. We checked into our hotel, which was also the Butler team and fan hotel (awesome!) and then headed out for a few drinks to see what the city of Indianapolis was all about. We were immediately impressed with the vast number of bars and restaurants in the close vicinity to our hotel and Lucas Oil Stadium. Also within very close walking distance was Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers. We turned in early that night since we knew we had a long few days ahead of us.

As I have done a few times in the past, I planned a pub crawl through Indianapolis. In total, we visited 27 bars and restaurants, all of which were within about ½ mile of our hotel. On Saturday, we started at the Ram Restaurant & Brewery because it was the host restaurant for the Butler Bulldogs.

After a quick bite to eat, a Bloody Mary for Steve and a beer for myself, we ventured around the city with my map in hand. This is exactly where Steve loves being married to such a compulsively organized person!

The city was electric and eventually packed! After stops at Alcatraz Brewing Company, Champps, BW3, O’Reilley’s, Wild Beaver Saloon, Buffalo Wings & Rings and Have a Nice Day Cafe it was finally time to head to Lucas Oil Stadium.

With a 6:07 tip, we watched as Butler took on Michigan State in the first semi-final. It was a very exciting game that came down to the wire. Eventually, Butler held on to win 52-50. We were so excited and proud to see a Horizon League team (also Cleveland State’s conference) in the Championship game. With an enrollment of just over 4,000, Butler would be the smallest school to ever play in the National Championship game.

In the second semi-final game, we watched an impressive performance from the Duke Blue Devils as they beat West Virginia 78-57.

We knew that Butler had a challenge ahead of them, but despite the media criticism and doubt, we knew they’d be ready…They had won 25 straight games and had held all of their Tournament opponents to under 60 points. It would be an interesting game. We headed back to the Ram Brewery following the games to celebrate with other Butler fans.
It was a late night, but as Stephen would say, it was F-U-N!!

Sunday was Easter, but we really didn’t do anything to celebrate…We slept in after a late night and then headed to Shelbyville, IN to visit a casino and try our luck. We watched the Cavaliers/Celtics game, ate lunch at the Nascar CafĂ© then spent about an hour at the slot machines where we threw a few $$ away. Unfortunately, I did not encounter the same luck that I had last year in Windsor. Oh well…

After a short nap (I said it was a late night!), we headed back out for food and drinks and to watch the women's semi-final games. This evening took us to Ike & Jonesy’s, Claddagh Irish Pub, Tiki Bob’s, Kilroy’s Bar n’ Grill, Scotty’s Brewhouse, Coaches Tavern, The Pub Indianapolis, Jillian’s and Taps & Dolls and then finally back to our hotel. As you might have guessed, it was another late but great night!

On Monday we eventually met up with some friends who joined us for a few drinks before the Championship game, set to tip-off at 9:21 pm. We knew we had a long day ahead of us, so we took it slow…We started at Harry & Izzy’s, the sister restaurant of the famous St. Elmo’s Steakhouse. St. Elmo’s is famous for their amazingly hot shrimp cocktail. Steve has told me about this shrimp cocktail for years, so it was only appropriate that I give it a try. It was HOT (we were both wiping the tears away with each bite), but surprisingly really delicious!

Next we made our way to the Convention Center where we walked around BracketTown, a fan fest with activities, skills competitions, youth clinics, autograph sessions, etc. On our way we stopped at Champions, Shula’s Steakhouse and Pullman’s Restaurant.

After BracketTown, we met up with Russ and Mary (Russ works with Steve at the Cavs is a diehard Duke fan) and visited The Whistle Stop Inn, The Ugly Money, The Slippery Noodle and St. Elmo’s.

A few hours later, we all met up with Lori & Chris back at the Ram Brewery (they both worked at the Cavs, but have since moved to Tennessee…Lori is also a Butler alumni). We made one last stop at Rockbottom and then finally headed to the big game!

We were really excited to see Butler play in the Championship game, but knew they had a challenge ahead of them with Duke. At halftime, Duke held the lead over Butler 33-32.

We were walking around during halftime when Steve received a text from someone he works with. He had 2 lower level seats in a prime location (we had to take 3 escalators down to meet him!) When you’re sitting in a 71,000 seat venue at full capacity, the upper level seats are very high and they're aren't any open seats to move to. It was really neat to be able to sit so close to the action, especially for such a fantastic second half! The picture above is the view from our new seats...

Although Duke maintained the lead for nearly the entire game, it was close and never more than a 6 point differential. It was an epic game that would make any mid-major team proud and goes down as an instant classic. With less than 40 seconds remaining in the game, Butler closed to within one point. A defensive stop by Duke forced Butler to foul and with an intentionally missed FT, Butler was down by two with 3.6 seconds remaining and the ball. A shockingly close half court shot attempt by Gordon Hayward had us all on the edge of our seats, but it bounced off the back of the rim and Duke barely squeezed out the 61-59 win. It was an unbelievable game and we are so happy to have the opportunity to watch it in person. Truly a game that we’ll never forget!

We rose up early on Tuesday as Stephen had to get back to work the Cavaliers game that afternoon. Overall, this may have been one of the best times we have had together. Not only did we luck out with our hotel location and second-half seat location, but we also visited a new, impressive and entertaining city, met up with some old friends, met a few new ones, saw some absolutely AMAZING basketball, and of course had F-U-N together. That seems to be a constant with us :)

Who knows where our next adventure will take us…with the Cavs playoffs set to start during the next two weeks, we may be staying in Cleveland for a little bit while our life surrounded by basketball gets (hopefully) even more exciting! Go Cavs!!

2010 One Shining Moment ~ Luther's Version

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