INSIDE THE MADNESS: Kobe visits, Curry influences

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A look around the sights and sounds of the NCAA Tournament from reporters at the games and surrounding events:


Kobe Bryant has taken time out of his final weeks with the Los Angeles Lakers to watch Duke in the NCAA Tournament.

Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, attended the Blue Devils' West Region semifinal game against Oregon on Thursday night, sitting in a section of Duke supporters. Bryant exchanged warm greetings with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's wife, Mickie, and their family before shaking hands with much of the section.

Bryant has played for Krzyzewski several times with the U.S. national team. He also has said he would have strongly considered going to Duke if he hadn't decided to enter the 1996 draft out of high school.

Of course, Bryant also has said over the years that he would have strongly considered archrival North Carolina, but he still has a strong affinity for Duke's history and tradition.

Bryant's 20-year career with the Lakers will end April 13. He is the third-leading scorer in NBA history and a five-time champion.

Bryant might be Orange County's second most-famous resident behind Mickey Mouse. He lives on the coast with his wife and two daughters, often taking a helicopter over Southern California's traffic on game days in downtown Los Angeles.



John Calipari says every Kentucky player eligible to declare will submit their names for this year's NBA draft.

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey says that's fine with him.

''Putting his whole team in? Well, he's not getting any pub here lately, because he's not playing,'' said Brey, as he prepares the Irish for Friday's game against Wisconsin. ''So he's doing anything to stay out there. They guy's a master. He's a master.''

Under new NCAA rules, players declaring for the draft can return to school if they don't sign with an agent. They have up to 10 days after the pre-draft combine to withdraw from consideration and can try out with an NBA team.

''It's great for the young people. I don't want to hear about, it's tough on coaches,'' Brey said. ''One of my assistants started whining about it. I almost fired him last night. I said: `Shut up. I think it will save some bad decisions that we've had that a kid can go, get the information and still have time to digest it.''`

Indiana coach Tom Crean, whose Hoosiers sent Kentucky packing last week, said the new rules could benefit players, if their best interests are considered.

''There's still very little real, honest, truthful, unfiltered, non-agenda-driven feedback,'' he said. ''And the whole key is to get that feedback, because so many mistakes are made because people get into the other part of it. And there's so many opinions and voices and everybody's got an idea on it but there's very, very few decision makers. I do love the new rules. And hopefully they're here to stay. And we'll see how it goes.''



A 3-point barrage between Miami and Villanova in the first half of their Sweet 16 game Thursday night is just the latest reminder of how much influence NBA MVP Stephen Curry has had on today's college players.

Especially when Villanova's Kris Jenkins hit a long 3-pointer near the end of the first half.

The junior forward hit the shot just a couple paces away from midcourt, his left foot planted on the half-court logo. It was Villanova's sixth 3-pointer of the half.

Villanova forward Daniel Ochefu said he knew Jenkins could shoot from far away but had never seen him attempt such a long shot in a game.

''I know I was running back on defense, and I looked at Darryl (Reynolds). We both got eye contact like `Wow!' That was Steph range,'' Ochefu said.

It's just the latest example this NCAA Tournament of players showing or expressing admiration for Curry, the Golden State Warriors guard who's become known for absurd accuracy from long range. Fans and coaches can see it, too.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked Wednesday whether he tries to remind players not to necessarily play like Curry, in an era where they all love him.

''I've coached Steph twice, and if they can play like that, that would be cool, man. It would be a lot better,'' Krzyzewski said. ''I think Steph is a great example of preparation and consistent preparation and love of the game.''

In the round of 32, after Wisconsin sharpshooter Bronson Koenig hit a tying 3-pointer from well beyond the arc against Xavier, the Badgers drew up another play for him and he buried the game-winner.

After clinching the Sweet 16 berth, Koenig said: ''I just tried to channel my inner Steph Curry.''

In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Northern Iowa's Paul Jesperson banked in a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to give the 11 seed a win over No. 6 seed Texas.

Last month and just a few feet away in the same Oklahoma City arena, Curry hit a long 3-pointer in overtime to beat the Thunder.



Bo Ryan came from the land of cheeseteaks long before he found a home among the cheeseheads in Wisconsin.

Before former Saint Joseph's guard Jameer Nelson, now in the NBA with Denver, set nearly every record at Chester High School, Ryan was the best point guard to play at the school just outside of Philadelphia. Ryan went on to star at Wilkes University and did his graduate work at Villanova.

His father, Butch, was a longtime youth coach in the Chester area and passed along a tireless work ethic that Bo used to work his way from the lower coaching ranks all the way to Wisconsin in 2001.

Ryan retired in December and missed out on a happy homecoming with Wisconsin's Sweet 16 game against Notre Dame on Friday at the Wells Fargo Center.

''They've heard all the Chester stories. I promised I wouldn't recite any of them this weekend for them,'' coach Greg Gard said. ''The last time I was here was, coincidentally, for Butch Ryan's funeral, that we flew out, myself and the seniors at that time, I think it was the 2013-14 season. Our seniors came out for Butch's funeral. We got a chance to get a little tour of Lincoln Financial Field. We couldn't get in here, it was closed.''

The building is open for the Badgers on Friday. They would love to take a weekend tour before hitting Houston for the Final Four.


For more AP Inside the Madness coverage of the NCAA Tournament, with embeddable photos, video and social media posts, go to:


Associated Press writers Dan Gelston in Philadelphia, Greg Beacham in Anaheim, California, and Teresa M. Walker in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.