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April 02, 2006|By DAVID STEELE

It was raining Friday morning in Indianapolis, and open practices at the RCA Dome for the four teams at the men's Final Four were to begin in a little more than an hour.

George Mason was to be first, and it's probably not an accident that it was going earliest, since it would be a shock to see any of the other teams get anywhere close to the overall media attention this weekend that George Mason will.

It's also a strong possibility that there are more media following coach Jim Larranaga, the players and school officials this weekend than actual, real George Mason fans.

Walking around downtown Indy on Thursday - albeit two days before the games and also on the night of a big Pacers game at which Reggie Miller's number was retired - there was not a strong Mason fan presence. At one bar, UCLA fans were making the most noise, and one observer said that this is the case at the very hotel at which your Sun correspondents are staying. LSU is also out in full force.

Meanwhile, at a team cap store on the concourse of the Indy airport, Final Four hats are on display - for LSU, UCLA and Florida, plus hats with all four team logos on them - but no individual Mason hats. Yes, I'll continue to search the city. It may just have been an oversight, or underestimation, by the one shop.

The plane from BWI was, pretty much, the state coaches' charter. At least two local head coaches (actually, one current and one former) were on board, with plenty of smaller school staffs as well. The head coaches: Jimmy Patsos of Loyola and Butch Beard, who recently resigned at Morgan State.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches holds its annual convention at the Final Four; the meetings began Friday morning at the convention center connected to the RCA Dome.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Read David Steele's blog at baltimoresun.com/steeleblog

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