Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After hosting portions of the NCAA men's basketball tournament on campus 16 times since 1968, the University of Utah's initial downtown March Madness venture got off to a successful start.
An announced crowd of 17,254 attended Thursday's West Regional semifinal games at EnergySolutions Arena.
And they were treated to a pair of good ones.
Butler surprised No. 1-seed Syracuse 63-59 in the opener, while Kansas State outlasted Xavier 101-96 in double overtime to cap things off.
"The fans seem to be enjoying the games," said media coordinator Mike Lageschulte. "And that's what it's all about."
The tournament's move from the Huntsman Center, he explained, came without any major problems on opening day.
"It's run pretty smooth, getting in and getting settled for the first time. There's always challenges when you do something in a new facility — just getting the lay of the land and so forth," Lageschulte said. "There's always things you don't think about. But for the most part, I would say it's been a smooth set-up, a smooth event. And we're pretty happy with the way it's gone."
BLUE ORANGE: After Syracuse became the second No. 1 seed to be knocked out of the tournament, head coach Jim Boeheim acknowledged how difficult it is end the season with a setback — especially when it was as close as the Orange's four-point loss to Butler.
Boeheim noted that it's easier to handle a 20-point defeat, as sometimes happens in the tournament.
"There's not that much emotion involved because you just weren't good enough," he said. "But when you know you're good enough, that makes it hurt even more."
And after ending a 30-win season on a negative note, Syracuse is hurting.
"I think whenever you lose a game like this, it's very difficult for players to think about what happened for a long time. That's as it should be," Boeheim said. "It should hurt when you lose at this stage. It hurts especially when you're young."
THE 'R' WORD: Butler coach Brad Stevens had plenty of nice things to say after his team rallied from a four-point deficit late in the second half.
"I was really proud of their moxie," Stevens said. "We've said this word over and over in Indianapolis, and that is 'resolve.' These guys have resolve. Hard to measure, but they've got it."
The Bulldogs are now 31-4, setting a school record for wins in a season.
MEDIA MADNESS: Credentials for the West Regional were issued to 388 members of the media. The group includes representatives from Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and ESPN. Miami Heat president Pat Riley was among other faces in the crowd.
FAST BREAKS: Butler and Kansas State will both have closed practices today. Media interviews are scheduled for this afternoon ... Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton and retired coach Stan Morrison (Pacific, San Jose State, USC) are the NCAA committee members on site. ... Butler has won 23 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NCAA.
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