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FINALS WATCH: 'Russdiculous,' Beilein followers

Monday - 4/8/2013, 9:54am  ET

Louisville's Russ Smith laughs during a news conference for their NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball game Sunday, April 7, 2013, in Atlanta. Louisville plays Michigan in the championship game on Monday. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

ATLANTA (AP) -- Around the Final Four and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of everything surrounding the games.



Russ Smith has a reputation for being a little, shall we say, out there. This, after all, is the player whose nickname is "Russdiculous." He's never met a shot he didn't like, and his antics drove coach Rick Pitino to distraction his first year at Louisville.

And that exuberance isn't limited to the court.

Pitino was talking Sunday about the passion his players have for the other sports at Louisville. After mentioning that Gorgui Dieng goes to every women's game, Pitino said Smith had been something of a super fan for a women's soccer game.

"Russ Smith took off all his clothes -- except his underpants, of course -- and painted his body red for a women's soccer game in the cold," Pitino said.

Smith was quite proud to confirm Pitino's story, nodding his head and giving a big thumbs up.

"Now you know what I'm coaching," Pitino said, smiling.

-- Nancy Armour --



Spike Albrecht has an actual first name. Outside of his mother, no one uses it.

Heck, there are plenty of people who don't even know his given name is Michael.

"I write Spike on my papers, my tests," Michigan's freshman guard said Sunday. "My teachers call me Spike."

The nickname came from the first pair of baseball spikes that Albrecht got when he was about 5 years old.

"I was a big baseball fan," he says. "I started wearing them everywhere. I was wearing them out to eat, to go to church and stuff like that. It's kind of embarrassing. So people started calling me Spike. And here I am, a freshman in college, and it still sticks."

During the Final Four, his actual name is used in the program and on the box scores given out to the media. Albrecht figures there's at least one person who is pleased with that development.

"My mom still calls me Michael," he says. "She's got to. She's my mom."

-- Paul Newberry --



John Beilein will have plenty of fans in the crowd Monday night when his Michigan team takes on Louisville for the national title.

And some of them don't even have much of a connection to Michigan.

"We have several players here. Two LeMoyne players are here. I've heard from Erie Community College players, Canisius players," Beilein said, rattling off a few of his previous seven coaching stops. He has also coached at Nazareth, Richmond, West Virginia, and of course, Michigan.

Beilein's best NCAA tournament run before this season was a quarterfinal appearance with West Virginia in 2005. The Mountaineers finally lost to ... Rick Pitino's Louisville team. Now it's Beilein vs. Pitino again for even bigger stakes.

-- Noah Trister --



Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said 'thank you' to Shockers fans on Sunday by taking out a full-page advertisement in the hometown newspaper, The Wichita Eagle.

The Shockers were eliminated by Louisville in the Final Four on Saturday night.

The advertisement is almost entirely black -- the school colors are black and yellow -- with the Shockers' logo above the words in white that say, "Thank you, Shocker faithful."

There is a reproduction of Marshall's signature, and at the bottom of the page, the school's Twitter and Facebook handles accompany the words, "We keep marching."

This was Wichita State's first trip to the Final Four since 1965.

-- Dave Skretta --



Drury is the Division II national champion.

Alex Hall made two free throws with 22 seconds left to complete a long, methodical rally from a 17-point hole and help Drury beat Metro State 74-73 on Sunday in the NCAA tournament final.

Metro State had a chance to win the game, but Mitch McCarron and Brandon Jefferson both missed shots underneath the rim in the closing seconds, and the buzzer sounded and confetti started to fly as Drury ran to center court and began to celebrate its national title.

The Panthers overcame 19 turnovers to win the championship.

"What an unbelievable championship game," said NCAA President Mark Emmert, who awarded the trophy to the school from Springfield, Mo.

-- Dave Skretta



The Amherst Lord Jeffs have won their second Division III men's basketball national championship, defeating Mary Hardin-Baylor 87-70 at Phillips Arena.


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