SALEM, Va. -- This is the 19th consecutive season the NCAA has brought the Division III men's basketball Final Four to the Civic Center. But this year has been much different.
The past 18 years, the Final Four and national championships were decided on the Civic Center floor. This year, the Elite Eight games came to Salem with the Final Four games being played tonight.
The national championship game will be played in Atlanta on April 7. It's part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the men's basketball championship.
"Locally, the fact that we were playing Friday at noon will be a little bit of a stretch. But there are evening games and Saturday games, and yes, there was more attention locally," said Brad Bankston, the commissioner of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, based in nearby Roanoke.
Bankston is the ODAC liaison with the City of Salem on all the NCAA championships hosted here. He said it's been more hectic with eight teams descending on Salem rather than four.
"We like the idea of hosting more teams. The city likes the idea of hosting more teams and kind of showcasing Salem and showcasing the hospitality," said Bankston. "The buzz is there."
Now the teams that win tonight will have a couple of weeks to rest, to practice and prepare to head for Atlanta. The men's Division II and III championship games will be played in Philips Arena on the Sunday between the Division I Final Four and title game.
Is this a one-year wonder? Is it the future of the tournament?
"Atlanta is conducive to doing it. The Georgia Dome and Philips Arena are somewhat next door to each other," said Bankston. "I don't think this is going to be an annual event.
"When it goes to Dallas, there's not a facility that's close enough to where they're playing at Cowboys Stadium to make it logistically possible."
Statistically speaking, James Klemm and Taylor Epley both moved themselves up the Williams all-time scoring charts.
Both players surpassed 1,000 points in last week's win over Virginia Wesleyan. Klemm scored 20 on Friday and he finishes his Williams career with 1,024 points. Epley scored 16 and he now has 1,039. Epley finished the season one point behind Tucker Kain.
Pat Manning was Williams' on-site athletics administrator. That made it Manning's second NCAA road trip in the last two weeks. She coached the Williams women to a third-place finish in the NCAA Division III tournament last week in Holland, Mich.
"It's much easier this week," she said with a laugh. "No film to look at. Now I just have to cheer. I don't have to work."
Manning said she's really excited for men's coach Mike Maker, his staff and players. Manning and her staff share space in the offices adjacent to Chandler Gym.
The women's coach did say she still has a hard time putting the team's run to the Final Four into perspective.
"It was amazing. It hasn't really sunk in," she said. "Even a week later, people are coming up to me here and congratulating us. It's fun."
To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.