MINNEAPOLIS (CBS19 SPORTS) -- The Virginia men's basketball team practiced at US Bank Stadium for a second time on Friday. This time, one side of stands was filled with fans, as unlike Thursday, Friday's Final Four practices were open to the public.
An estimated crowd of 72,000 fans is expected to fill the home of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings on Saturday for the NCAA's national semifinals.
“When you first walk out there, I kind of just looked around and I was like, wow. This is it," UVA guard Ty Jerome said. "And once we started stretching, I got locked in and it was a normal practice.”
The last time UVA played in a Final Four game, 38,471 fans were in the stands at the Kingdome in Seattle. A crowd of 21,623 fans watched the Wahoos beat Purdue in overtime last Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville to advance to the program's first Final Four since 1984.
The biggest crowd the Cavaliers played in front of this season was 29,052 at Syracuse a month ago. UVA matched the school record by hitting 18 3-pointers in that victory. But in the locker room, UVA players said playing at US Bank Stadium will be a unique experience.
“I feel like it’s completely different," sophomore guard De'Andre Hunter said when the comparison to the Carrier Dome was made. "The atmosphere is going to be different. The depth perception, it’s kind of close, but it’s a lot bigger out there. So I mean, when it’s filled with people, we’ll see.”
The Cavaliers also don't believe the large crowd will distract them, as the try to reach the first NCAA title game with a victory over Auburn.
“Once we have the tip-off, I don’t see anything but I only see the ball, my teammates and Auburn. That’s it," said UVA junior Mamadi Diakite. "It could be a million people in the crowd. I mean, I care, but I’ve got to be focused on the subject if I want to win.”
“This is what we dream for, what we live for. So I’m looking forward to it," said UVA guard Kyle Guy. "You know I love when people are heckling, so someone being loud doesn’t really bother me. No matter how many fans we’re playing in front of, I’m just excited for the opportunity.”