Basketball Mania

How to get the most out of Final Four weekend in Dallas

How to get the most out of Final Four weekend in Dallas

Shabazz Napier from Connecticut
The spotlight is on UConn's Shabazz Napier and other players in the Final Four this weekend, and fans have plenty of opportunities to celebrate. NCAA March Madness/Facebook
ESPN College Gameday in Sundance Square Plaza
ESPN has taken over Sundance Square Plaza to broadcast their coverage of the Final Four. Sundance Square/Facebook
Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen is the biggest of a long list of big names playing at the free NCAA March Madness Music Festival. Photo by Jo Lopez
Shabazz Napier from Connecticut
ESPN College Gameday in Sundance Square Plaza
Bruce Springsteen

Around 80,000 people will descend on AT&T Stadium April 5 for the NCAA Men's Final Four. Even if you're not among those masses, there are plenty of other ways to take part in the fun and excitement surrounding the event.

Here's a guide to everything officially associated with the Final Four:

ESPN College Gameday
The still-new Sundance Square Plaza is home to ESPN's coverage of the Final Four. They start broadcasting there every day at 10 am from April 4-7, giving fans a chance to get up close and personal with their favorite ESPN personalities, videobomb a live shot or maybe even play some ball on the court the network built special for their stay.

NCAA Final Four Bracket Town
Bracket Town is one big fan fest, taking over 350,000 square feet of the Dallas Convention Center April 4-7. It's not so much a question of what you can do there as what you can't do there.

Every day features multiple youth clinics; autograph sessions with noteworthy coaches and players (including a few Dallas Cowboys); and the possibility of trying out a number of sports, from basketball to lacrosse to hockey.

Also expect pep rallies with the cheerleaders and bands of the four participating teams, a Kings of the Court 3-on-3 tournament on Saturday and Sunday, and a performance by girl group Fifth Harmony on Sunday.

NCAA Final Four Friday
Even for those with tickets to the Final Four, this might be your best chance to get close to the court as all four teams hold free open practices at AT&T Stadium. Each team, starting with Connecticut at noon, does an hour run-through in preparation for Saturday games.

After the practices are over, two teams of college players face off in a College All-Star Game, followed by a celebration of SLANT, the youth education program designed to get kids involved with their communities. That celebration is hosted by rapper/actor Common and CBS 11's Adrienne Bankert.

NCAA March Madness Music Festival
Unbelievably, this three-day festival featuring some of the biggest names in music is free. Of course, that also means that massive crowds are likely to descend upon the relatively tiny Reunion Park every day April 4-6, so you can decide for yourself whether it's worth it.

Friday's schedule includes performances by The Wild Feathers, Jack Ingram, Eli Young Band and Jason Aldean; Saturday's performances by LL Cool J, Tim McGraw and The Killers are interspersed with live broadcasts of the Final Four games; and Sunday features The Wind and the Wave, Pat Green, Fun and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, the latter of which perform a three-hour concert if the schedule is to be believed.

And even though Conan O'Brien will have left town, his Cone Zone trailer will stick around at the festival to provide even more entertainment.

Northwestern Mutual Road to the Final Four 5K
This race on April 5 gives participants a chance to get some exercise before overindulging later in day. You can also feel good about yourself because proceeds from the event support the Coaches vs. Cancer program, a collaborative effort between the American Cancer Society and National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Final Four Tip-off Tailgate
For everyone with tickets to the Final Four, there are myriad activities going on outside AT&T Stadium, including autograph and photo sessions with David Robinson and Mark Aguirre, prize giveaways, and concerts by Dierks Bentley on Saturday and Kid Rock on Monday. The tailgate is also open during the free Final Four Friday.

Final Four Dribble
This is exactly what it sounds like: 3,200 kids 18 and under dribble a basketball three-quarters of a mile from Dallas City Hall to the Dallas Convention Center on the morning of April 6. Every participating child gets a free T-shirt, basketball and entry into that day's Bracket Town.