ARLINGTON– Michigan came out victorious as South Regional play of the NCAA Tournament at Cowboys Stadium began Friday with the Sweet 16 and wrapped up Sunday with an Elite Eight matchup between Florida and the Wolverines.
The third basketball event ever at the stadium included a handful of storylines, from the unprecedented journey of No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast University to the rise to prominence for possible tournament MVP Trey Burke of Michigan.
"I think this was such a great weekend for us to have so many fans show up and support their team," said Cowboys executive vice president Charlotte Jones Anderson. "Over 40,000 people in attendance for the first round, and then again another 36,000 for the second round, it was an unbelievable tournament and great basketball. Everyone looked like they were having such a great time. It was truly a great event for us."
Cowboys Stadium hadn't hosted a major basketball event since hosting the NBA All-Star Game in 2010. It also hosted a regular season game between North Carolina and Texas in December 2009.
The stadium will host a men's and women's doubleheader between Baylor and Kentucky during the regular season next year, along with perhaps the biggest basketball event to ever occur in Cowboys Stadium, with the Final Four coming to Arlington in April 2014.
"How successful these games were and the ability to know what the building was like in the middle of the game and throughout the game was great," Anderson said. "Everyone will definitely be ready when the Final Four comes here."
Michigan head coach John Beilein was certainly in great spirits after the game. In fact, he cut down the final piece of the net, a tradition for teams as they advance to the Final Four. But Beilein gave Cowboys Stadium the highest of compliments when asked about the overall event.
"It was tremendous," he said. "The security, the way they ran this whole operation was
as good as I have ever seen in my life ... this is as good as it gets. The way
this whole tournament was run, they're having a great prep for a Final Four.
And next year I'm sure they'll do even a better job, learning from any
adversity they had this time."
Most of America got behind the magical story of FGCU, which became the first 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16. The Eagles fell to Florida and Kansas lost to Michigan, which will go on to play in its seventh Final Four in team history after defeating the Gators handily.
"Having a Cinderella team like that, to me, is what the tournament's all about," Anderson said. "You never know on any given day what the result of the game's going to be. This is where heroes are made."
Speaking of heroes, two teams were also honored during the Sweet 16 who weren't competing in the action. El Paso high school basketball teams Coronado and Franklin were honored for their displays of sportsmanship this season. [embedded_ad]
Team manager Mitchell Marcus of Coronado High School didn't play on the team because of his disabilities, but he suited up for the final regular season game and got into the game late. After a couple attempts, it didn't appear Marcus would score. That is, until a member of the other team, Franklin's Jonathan Montanez, called out to Marcus, passed him the ball and allowed him to score.