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Fan Frenzy Swirls Off-Court, As NCAA Basketball Final Approaches

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly in for Michel Martin. Now to college hoops. Fans of North Carolina and Villanova men's basketballs teams are excited about tomorrow's national championship game. Their teams will meet in the title matchup in Houston, and Florian Martin of Houston Public Radio spoke to some fans there.

FLORIAN MARTIN, BYLINE: Houston is Final Four city. There are multiple fan events surrounding the games at NRG Stadium.

This morning, kids were getting ready for a basketball dribble challenge at an event just outside city hall. Kisha Hodges, who took her kids here, was wearing a Villanova sweatshirt. She's originally from Philadelphia, but has lived here for 20 years. She's excited that her team has made it to the championship game.

KISHA HODGES: I am nervous because the Tar Heels are a very good team, but I think they will be able to do it. I think that Villanova will be able to pull it out and will take home the prize (laughter).

MARTIN: A few blocks away at a downtown Starbucks, North Carolina junior Grace Shackelford is catching up on some school work. She was one of the 700 UNC students who got tickets for the Final Four and witnessed her team beat Syracuse. She'll be back tomorrow.

GRACE SHACKELORD: After seeing how Villanova slaughtered Oklahoma during the first game yesterday, I'm pretty nervous. But I think that if we hit our threes and defend their threes, hopefully Carolina will win (laughter). Obviously, that's my hope.

MARTIN: Many fans come here even though they weren't able to get tickets just to experience the excitement around the Final Four. For them, the NCAA has organized a Final Four Fan Fest with games and a basketball clinic and a concert series at a downtown park.

For those lucky enough to have tickets, they will be loudly supporting their team. One of the students who traveled here is Villanova sophomore Nina Hebel. I talked to her right after her school's win over Oklahoma.

NINA HEBEL: I know all the students will be here again, like, just to yell as loud as we did today. And we're all super excited to see what they can do.

MARTIN: The national championship game tips off at 9:19 p.m. Eastern Time tomorrow. For NPR News, I'm Florian Martin in Houston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.