First of all, it is a long-ass drive from Memphis to San Antonio. There's just no getting around that. I drove way too fast, but because of a couple of traffic problems along the way, it still took me almost 11 hours of driving to get here. That's a long way to go. And since it is a huge drive, and since the plane tickets are stupidly expensive from Memphis to San Antonio, I can completely understand why there won't be too many Tiger fans here for tomorrow night's game. I would even venture to bet that there will be more Tennessee fans because I suspect it is cheaper to fly from Knoxville or Chattanooga than it is from Memphis.
Make no mistake, though, there will be a jillion Texas A&M fans. There are already tons all around every part of Texas - one person described Aggie fans to me today as being "a little bit frightening". They are rabid for sure. And they have weird hand gestures and sounds they make as part of their Aggie fandom. Good folks so far, but very serious about the Aggies.
They also don't know much about Memphis. I asked one family what they knew about Memphis, and the mom said, "I know they wear orange!". So, not the most knowledgeable about Memphis, then. They know Cal and they know that CDR is hurt. Not much else.
The Alamodome is enormous, and it will be unique territory for the Tigers. I don't think any of them - and I don't think any Tiger team, ever - will have played in a structure this big. Maybe an early Tiger team played Tulane in the Superdome a long time ago...we were debating that over at the Dome. But I can't imagine any of these players ever being in an arena like this. It is a little disconcerting - they've basically split the dome in half, with one side being the court and stands, with some seats rolled in to close out the rectangular court. On the other side of the curtain is all the media areas - interview rooms, dining area, satellite uplink, etc. It is gigantic. Everything is indeed bigger in Texas.
Today was open practice/press conference day. I don't really care much for it, as it really doesn't tell you much about the teams - the interviews can sometimes be revealing (and in the case of A&M coach Billy Gillispie, introductory - at least for Memphis media), but there's a lot of pomp and circumstance that signifies little.
Chris Douglas-Roberts was not seen at the Alamodome today. He did not practice, nor did I see him even with the team. He is getting constant treatment, and the general thought around here is that he will play, but he will not be 100%. He is a tough kid, and I have a strong suspicion he will give it a go, but I just don't know how effective he will be. This is going to be a brutal game - very physical and very intense - and if he isn't going all out, I just don't know if he will do much good. We will see. He's a calming influence, and the Tigers will need him for that reason, if none other.
I was impressed with Joey Dorsey's interview today - go listen to him and Jeremy Hunt via the link on sports56whbq.com. He was candid, funny, and revealing. He's normally not much of a talker, but he's really come out of his shell as of late. He is also going to be massively important for the Tigers tomorrow night; A&M aren't deep in the frontcourt and Joey can do damage if he plays well.
The Tigers were very sluggish throughout their open workout today. A lot, and I mean A LOT, of missed shots were thrown up by the Tigers. I don't know if they were tired from their earlier closed practice, or just going through the motions, but it wasn't impressive at all. Again, these open practices don't mean much, so I'll just let John Calipari's words to his team sum it up: "Better get all these misses out of your system today!"
Tennessee looked relaxed and calm as they prepared for Ohio State. They did more drills than the Tigers did (relatively speaking, of course, since very few teams actually do any serious practicing at these things). Bruce Pearl was as funny as ever on the podium - he was asked about John Calipari's proposal for Tennessee fans to cheer for Memphis tomorrow night (and vice versa), and he chuckled. He laughed harder when he was told that John had promised to wear an orange T-shirt for the game. Pearl said that if Cal did that, he would wear a blue blazer.
More telling was his comment that he didn't see any way that most Memphis fans would cheer for Tennessee. That is probably very true.
Finally, I saw Greg Oden is person for the first time. HUGE. The guy is large. And he looks as old as you would expect, since he already looks like Robert Parish's cousin. He was very fluid for a big man, and he certainly moves well. I am very interested in watching him play live tomorrow night.
San Antonio is a cool city - very laid-back and low-key. I could definitely see myself taking a little vacation here. I thought the Riverwalk would be overrated, as so many of these tourist destinations tend to be, but it's actually very pretty, and there's a lot of great food and drink to be found along it. I'm staying in one of the two Marriotts on the Riverwalk. For some reason, San Antonio has two separate Marriott hotels literally 200 feet apart. Both are huge. It's a bit strange. And of course I went to the wrong one as I tried to check in.