Final 4 Diary: Day 1

Friday came and went in a blur.

We landed in Houston around 11AM Houston time and hopped on the Park’N’Fly where we were shuttled to our gorgeous new Buick LeCrosse. We don’t generally drive stock, so you know we had to add some VCU magnets to that beauty.

Hit the 610 and headed to the Weston Oaks where we had two rooms awaiting us (courtesy of Buick, once again), one on the 9th floor, the other on the 15th. Great view of the pool and all the benefits that come with a pool view in 80 degree weather.

Headed out to explore the Galleria and surrounding areas shortly after. For those who haven’t been to Houston, I’d say the Galleria area is a pretty “high end” area, think Short Pump, but in more of a city location.

Tons of Final 4 banners, lots of fans exploring, really a great energy to experience heading into today’s game.

Having not eaten but a couple of peanut butter crackers on the flight, we were in need of a full belly, so we headed out to find some good Mexican food. We were surprised to discover a severe lack of that within walking distance, but ended up at the Canyon Southewestern Cafe. I highly recommend this place for anyone still in Houston, or heading down here today. Great selection of southwestern flavors, and very pro-VCU servers.

Having gotten up a 3:30AM to catch a 6:40 flight, we were pretty spent by this point, and headed back to our respective rooms for showers and some power naps.

Awake and refreshed some two or three hours later, we went to explore the Galleria mall our hotel and several others are attached to.

Saw a ton of VCU fans doing the same, as the Westin hotels are home to the majority of VCU fans during this weekend’s games.

Not only did we see Jamie Skeen taking in the miles of shopping opportunities, but several other NCAA athletes including one of Kansas’ Morris twins, last seen banging against the Rams in the Elite 8.

I also happened upon a giant VCU pep rally in a Westin ball room where there had to be at least a thousand or two VCU fans, including President Michael Rao and wife Monica who I was introduced to through Ram Nation sponsor Brian Haug of Prosperity Mortgage.

The rest of our night was pretty relaxed, including a trip to Shucker’s raw bar (also courtesy of Buick), an elevator ride with Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale, and some SportsCenter highlights to finish up the night.

Today promises to be one of the most memorable in my history of viewing college hoops, hopefully ending in a VCU win and a rowdy night in Houston.

(videos and photos to come!)

A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...