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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Final Four College Basketball Teams Profiled; College Basketball Championship of 1966 Examined. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired April 2, 2016 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:06] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to Houston. We are inside NRG Stadium. This is home to the Houston Texans during football season, but this weekend it is home to the Final Four. In the next half hour you're going to get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the biggest events of the year. The coaches, the players, this is "All Access at the Final Four," a CNN Bleacher Report special.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From this point on every game is a one-game battle. First position is the only one that counts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We realize, they're legacy is going to be based on what they do at the NCAA tournament.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's the most criticized, least appreciated really good team that I've ever had.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys have fought all year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to be here. You deserve to be here. Win the battle right here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, brother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hield is unconscious from there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is going to do it. Oklahoma, you're more than OK. You're on your way to the Final Four!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the three, and Villanova suddenly is on fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Villanova is going back to the Final Four.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up ahead, up top. Oh, pulled it down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the Carolina Tar Heels are moving on to the Final Four in Houston.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you kidding me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richardson, three. Richardson scores! Syracuse has done it. Back from the dead. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never been prouder in all of my 40 years of a
basketball team, than I am of this team.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think your kids are the greatest, and then when you see become great, it just makes your heart swell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: I'm Fredricka Whitfield along with Steve Smith. Steve led Michigan State to the tournament and to a sweet 16 in 1990. Good to see you. And we're also excited to have Notre Dame's head basketball coach Mike Brey. Your fighting Irish, well, they made it pretty far, but didn't make it all the way. They made it to the elite eight and that was fantastic. Good to see you both. This is exciting. Isn't it?
STEVE SMITH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is, Fred, to get a chance to be here, the excitement, the passion. And then alongside coach Brey, fantastic job, you and the Irish had.
MIKE BREY, NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH: Thank you, Steve. We had a great run. I wish we were still alive to be playing out here, but I love being around the Final Four. It never gets old.
WHITFIELD: Congratulations. The energy is palpable. It really is. Busting brackets everywhere. There were high expectations. What happened to your Spartans? The lost their spark for a second?
SMITH: I was calling the game. So every situation where you're trying to stay neutral, you're trying to stay transparent. But give Middle Tennessee a lot credit. This wasn't a fluke. They came out, outplayed Michigan State. But that was a hard call for me, coach. And for me, just to ask you as a coach, you get a chance, they lose a game. Talk about you and also the relationship you have with your players.
BREY: In the tournament, it ends so fast for you. You're riding a high. And when it does end, the emotions take a complete 180. And I think as the leader, you want to make sure everybody's head is up and let them know how proud you are. My line to our guys when we lost the other day to North Carolina was, it was an honor to coach you this year. I was honored to be around you. Walk out of here with your head held high.
WHITFIELD: Beautiful stuff. Thanks so much. We're going to have a lot of fun over the next half hour. You can feel the excitement here. We are just hours away from tip-off. The first semifinal matchup, Villanova versus Oklahoma starts at 6:00 eastern time with the broadcast on our sister network TBS. That's followed by Syracuse versus North Carolina just after 8:00 p.m. eastern also on TBS.
All right, March Madness has become not just a big part of our sports calendar but a big part of our culture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY WRIGHT, VILLANOVA HEAD COACH: I think the Final Four has become, really, with the Super Bowl, the greatest sporting event in our country. And it's something that the entire country looks forward to every year. It's very humbling to be a part of it.
ROY WILLIAMS, NORTH CAROLINA HEAD COACH: Everything's gotten bigger, but it boils down to two groups of young men who've had big-time dreaming, and they're going out playing their heart out to reach the ultimate dream for a college basketball player, and that's to be the last man standing and listening to one shining moment.
JIM BOEHEIM, SYRACUSE HEAD COACH: It's something that we want them to enjoy, have fun with, and give it their best shot. And they will look back on this as the best thing that ever happened to them in basketball.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, three of the Final Four coaches there, and we'll hear from Oklahoma's head coach Lon Kruger soon. I can't help but think about these kids and how proud they're parents must be. And you know, you walk into an arena like this, coach. I mean, it really can rattle your nerves. How does a coach try to help a player stay calm under pressure like that?
[14:05:00] BREY: You know, I think, as you advance in the tournament, you want to keep your routine as normal as possible. And I think the leader has to be loose. You have to smile. You have to have some fun with them when you're out here in your practices to let them enjoy the moment and not feel the weight of the world on their shoulders.
WHITFIELD: All right, North Carolina, the only number one seed in the Final Four and the clear favorite this weekend. All right, coach, you just played them on Sunday in the elite eight. What's their formula?
BREY: Here's what's going on now. They're making shots, too. They struggled shooting the basketball throughout the ACC regular season. They beat you up inside, and that was enough still to win the regular season and the ACC tournament. But now they're making jump shots along with their front line power. That's a tough combination to deal with.
WHITFIELD: All right, so how does Syracuse deal?
SMITH: Well, I think for me, Fred, and coach, you know this, I think they have to rebound the basketball. I think the freshmen line has done an unbelievable job playing in the back line. Malachi Richardson, another freshman playing out of position, coach rebounding the basketball. They have to make shots and control tempo.
BREY: Their two young guys are just playing right now. And I think it's a credit to Jim Boeheim. They're loose. And you're not a rookie anymore now. You've been together for five months, had hundreds of practices. It's neat to see a group come together and just play fearlessly like Syracuse. WHITFIELD: All right, in our first game tonight, Villanova verse
Oklahoma, the sooners going for the school's first-ever NCAA basketball championship. Our cameras have been with them on this journey. It's extraordinary giving us an all access look at their ride to the Final Four.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixth to shoot. Buddy Hield with four to shoot. Buddy step back, left wing, up and down! He's done it again, 36 points. His eighth made three and Oklahoma leads it 76-59.
And that's going to do it. Oklahoma, you're more than OK. You're on your way to the Final Four!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We going on!
LON KRUGER, OKLAHOMA HEAD COACH: Guys, I'm so happy for you. You worked for it, you earned it. I love every one of you, couldn't be more proud.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On three, one, two, three!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Villanova.
CROWD: Final Four! Final four! Final four!
CROWD: Buddy! Buddy! Buddy! Buddy!
CROWD: Final Four! Final four! Final four! Final four! Final four! Final four!
BUDDY HIELD, OKLAHOMA SENIOR GUARD: Thank you guys for coming out and supporting us. Appreciate you guys so much. It means a lot you show up here even though it's raining. Let's go win in Houston!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So great! Buddy Hield, the kid from the Bahamas, the young man from the Bahamas, beloved in Oklahoma. People are calling him the Steph Curry of this tournament, Steve?
SMITH: I look at buddy, and the way he's shooting the basketball from distance like Steph Curry. But I look at him as different, more like a Glen Rice as far as college because those guys didn't have the basketball in their hands to be able to dominate. I look at him in regards to Stephen Curry, he's developed so much from his freshman to his senior year. His game has gone to another letter and also his ability to shoot the basketball.
BREY: What a great story, a senior who has gotten better every year and now is having his best year. That really is what college basketball is about, I think.
WHITFIELD: Fantastic. So much to look forward to. Coach Brey, thank you for being here with us. I really enjoyed it. We hope to see you and your team in the Final Four next year.
BREY: Deal. Go Irish.
WHITFIELD: All right. Go!
And of course we have plenty more right here on CNN. Coming up, Steve is going to tell us about this very special team.
[14:40:00] And 50 years ago they made their mark on the college game forever. You are watching "All Access at the Final Four," a CNN Bleacher Report special.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We're in Houston, home to this year's Final Four. And 50 years ago the tournament certainly didn't look like this. But one of the most important gaming in the history of the sport was played, Steve.
SMITH: Fred, this was powerhouse Kentucky versus Texas Western. This was more than just a game.
DAVID LATTIN, TEXAS WESTERN CENTER 1965-67: March 19th, 1966.
DR. GERALD SMITH, KENTUCKY PROFESSOR OF HISTORY: When you mention that game, one of the first things that African-Americans do, they can tell you where they were when they watched that game.
SMITH: The 1960s was a decade of significant change in this country. In many ways athletics was at the forefront. By the mid-60s the Civil Rights Act had already been passed into law, setting the country on a path to desegregation nationwide. Some parts of the country were making strides more quickly than others.
LATTIN: Deep down in the south black and whites weren't going to school together. They weren't doing anything together.
SMITH: Everyone watching the game or listening on the radio was witnessed to something unprecedented at the time.
TIM FLOYD, UTEP HEAD COACH: If you're living in Mississippi you understand the racial significance that there were five blacks playing against five whites and nobody had seen it before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready to go. Stand by. The game is under way.
PAT RILEY, FORMER KENTUCKY FORWARD: Very first play of the game, I'm on the back line.
[14:45:00] I shift over to the ball, and David Lattin goes to the rim and they throw a lob. He absolutely pulverizes it over the top of me. I actually tried to contest the shot. I went up, and I had my hand above the rim, and I went up and he just right through my hand, right down through the rim.
LATTIN: There's no way. There's no way they were expecting that. They weren't even thinking about it.
SMITH: Kentucky closed the gap slightly in the second half, but the day and the championship belonged to Texas Western.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ballgame is over.
LATTIN: For a minute you think about how difficult it was to get there, all the sacrifice and practice. Not the easiest thing in the world, but I'm telling you right now, it's the most gratifying thing in the world.
WHITFIELD: How incredibly poignant. We're talking about 50 years. Even the president of United States acknowledged this marker.
SMITH: It was because it was definitely a powerful piece and at that time did a lot. And you talk about sports getting a chance to bridge the gap to a lot of different things.
WHITFIELD: Indeed. Steve, as powerful as that two minutes was, I know that you have so much more on the story to show us. That's coming up on TBS when the show ends.
And for the super passionate fans, team stream presented by Bleacher Report. The Oklahoma home announcers on TNT and the Villanova team stream on TruTV. That's followed by Syracuse versus North Carolina. And when we come back, we'll be joined by a man who has lived the spirit of this tournament. He has seen it all, from cheerleader to sideline reporter. This is "All Access at the Final Four," a CNN Bleacher Report special.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I'm Andy Scholes at the Final Four fan fest in downtown Houston. And this is like a basketball fan's dream. You can get autographs from some of the greatest players ever to play the game. Try your hand at a number of shooting games. And my personal favorite, try to dunk an Oreo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[14:50:05] WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, Andy.
Welcome back to NRG Stadium in Houston. This place seats more than 70,000, and it will be packed with fans in just a few hours. But no one knows the passion of these fans better than Craig Sager. You have been with Turner for a very long time, w5 years. Working as a sideline reporter for TNT. So what is the difference between -- wow -- this, reaching the Final Four, this March Madness hype, and the NBA playoffs?
CRAIG SAGER, TNT BROADCASTER: I love covering both, but it's totally different. They're different sports, basically. When you get to the NBA playoffs, you play a series. You got the best players in the world. They're professionals. Yes, they may get a little nervous, but not like these kids. These kids are playing a passion, and it's one game and done. In the NBA when you play a best of seven, the best team's going to win.
SMITH: Craig, you talk about it and you've been around it so much as a professional career, like you said, over 35 years covering this game. Let's talk when you were a student at northwestern. Willie the Wildcat and you were a cheerleader. Take me through those days.
SAGER: I really wanted to play Big Ten basketball so I walked out of Northwestern made the freshmen team and played there. After I had a scholarship cut down, I still wanted to be involved in the game, so I became a cheerleader. And I loved every minute of that, just, you know, because -- I can't stand to just sit and watch. It's exciting. We had a pretty good team then.
WHITFIELD: What a great legacy for you, your legacy, Northwestern, and so endearing to see these great pictures, too. Northwestern loves you so much. The university asked us to pass on a message to you, Craig, saying this, quote, "We wish Craig well and want him to know he has a lot of fans at northwestern who are supporting him."
SAGER: Well, thanks. I went down to the ballgame this year to see Northwestern take out Tennessee. Oh! It was painful. That was more painful than going through a blood transfusion.
WHITFIELD: Oh, god.
SMITH: Craig, how are you doing? A little birdie has told me you've been on the golf course. An update now with your health?
SAGER: Fortunately everyone's here in Houston. The NBA game earlier in the week, my home away from home. And it's the best cancer treatment center in the world. They have some clinical trials and some research that hasn't been approved or even used before, and their testing it on me. So it's been successful on rats. They couldn't wait to try it on a human.
SAGER: So I volunteered and it's working so well. So we're doing pretty good. And, yes, I did play golf last weekend. I didn't hit the ball as far as I used to, but I'm playing pretty good.
WHITFIELD: You are a champ and we are rooting for you all the way, wishing you well.
SAGER: My bracket tie.
WHITFIELD: I love the tie.
SMITH: Always stylish, Craig, always stylish.
SAGER: I had Michigan State winning it down here.
WHITFIELD: Good to see you, Craig, thank you so much. And we'll be right back with much more. This is "All Access at the Final Four," a CNN Bleacher Report special.
[14:56:52] SCHOLES: One of the best parts of Final Four weekend is the March Madness music festival. It's free to everyone. This year's headliner is Maroon 5. Also performing Pitbull, Flo Rida, and Panic! At the Disco.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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WHITFIELD: I think I'm going to take a moment to brag a little bit. Andy and I are actually tied for first place in the CNN bracket challenge. I don't know how that happened. How about that?
Let's cut to the chase now. Everyone watching wants to know who is going to win? And I understand that you really can see to the future, Steve?
SMITH: Well, you look at it, Fred. You talk about now the Final Four. You talk about the first game on Saturday. You get a chance to watch Villanova versus Oklahoma, going to be fantastic guard play. I think the best player on the floor will be Buddy Hield, so I'm taking the Sooners over the Wildcats. Tough choice, I'm going with Oklahoma.
The second game, Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse two-three zone versus Roy Williams and that talented UNC team. You have inside-outside with North Carolina. Yes, Syracuse will have to control the tempo but I think there will be too much depth and too much size with the University of North Carolina, so I'm picking the Tar Heels to win that game.
WHITFIELD: All right, are you going to take it any further than that? Oklahoma, maybe Tar Heels in the final?
SMITH: I love what you're saying, making me predict it. Definitely for sure I'm going to go UNC versus Oklahoma, unbelievable matchup. I have Carolina winning it all.
WHITFIELD: Wow, OK, I like it. All right, fun predictions. We will be watching. We'll all be on the edge of our seats. It is so exciting. Enjoy the games tonight on TBS, and on Monday night the final, the national championship for the first time on TBS.
That's it for us from Houston. From our partner Steve Smith, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks so much for being with us. We leave you with some of our favorite moments of March Madness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone in the building on the edge of their seat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The madness officially under way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a man's jam!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: March Madness for the Yale bulldogs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got it to go!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's good!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Little Rock is moving on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Half-court heave for the win -- he got it!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Middle Tennessee, a 15 seed, has won it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All-time March moment for the Aggies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Notre Dame wins it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rises up, the shot. It's good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sweet 16!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rebounded and put back up and in!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The steal -- Jackson with the bucket.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Load up a three, and he buries it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is unbelievable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a comeback.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Villanova is going to the Final Four.
(END VIDEO CLIP)