The Final Four Scene: Practice Day

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Butler Blue II

Butler Blue II made his triumphant return to the sideline. (Luke Winn/SI)

HOUSTON -- Last year, 30,000 people showed up to see Butler on open practice day in its hometown Final Four. This year, there aren't nearly as many fans, and two of the highlights were off the court: The 2011 tournament debut of Butler Blue II, the live mascot who was banned from the team's first two tournament sites due to NCAA rules ... and the first Reliant Stadium performance from the VCU band, arguably the best pep band in the nation (although bandleader/stripper Ryan Kopacsi was not present):

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The one on-court highlight? Rams coach Shaka Smart (he's the guy in white, hopping up and down under the rim) taking a charge and diving for a loose ball at the end of practice. Swag?

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Shaka signed autographs afterwards, and looked Shaka'd:


This Kentucky fan didn't skimp on material costs when making his pro-Jorts sign:

UK sign

Reliant Stadium from the outside:

Reliant Stadium

And finally ... the Final Four pennant, which still seems unreal: