MINNEAPOLIS (WCAV) -- Thursday was a work day at US Bank Stadium for Virginia and the rest of the teams at the 2019 Final Four.
All four teams practiced for the first time on Thursday at the home of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, which will be filled with 72,000 fans for Saturday's national semifinals. They also faced the horde of media covering the Final Four, with locker rooms open to reporters and the four head coaches appearing on the podium.
Both UVA's Tony Bennett and the head coach of the Cavaliers' on Saturday, Auburn's Bruce Pearl, are coaching in the Final Four for the first time.
“I talk about with all those guys. Be grateful for this, but keep your edge to compete," Bennett said. "Because it’s about being ready and prepared. Be thankful, be humble, but you better have an edge to play well against Auburn on Saturday.”
In the UVA locker room, players were confident that the Cavaliers could handle the potential distractions that come with playing on college basketball's biggest stage.
“I’m not worried about that with this group at all," junior guard Ty Jerome said. "I know the coaches will do a great job with preparing us. I know myself, Kyle, Jack and De’Andre as the leaders of this team, we’ll make sure everyone is locked in. We know what we’re here to do.”
Television cameras were waiting for the Cavaliers as they arrived at the airport in Minneapolis on Wednesday. Before practice on Thursday, they had a photo shoot for CBS at US Bank Stadium. And then they experienced practicing inside the football stadium for the first time, before being descended upon by reporters from around the country.
“It’s crazy right now. It’s a lot of media and stuff," said UVA sophomore De'Andre Hunter. "But we just had a great practice. Tomorrow we’re going to have another great practice, watch film."
"We know what our job is to come down here. It’s not a just vacation," Hunter said. "And when it’s game time we’re going to be ready.”
“I mean you’re right, it is a spectacle. But at the same time we know we’ve got a job to do. And that’s to play a tough Auburn team on Saturday," said UVA senior center Jack Salt. "So we can get caught up in it a little bit but at the same time you’ve got to lock in, know the scout, and be ready.”
UVA is in the Final Four for the first time since 1984. Saturday's game will be Auburn's first-ever appearance in the national semifinals. Both teams are two wins away from the first national title in program history.
“The Final Four has been great. Getting here has been amazing, and that journey itself," said UVA junior guard Kyle Guy. "So winning two more would definitely, we could finally be satisfied, I think. And completely get the monkey off our backs.”