Watching the Kentucky-Ole Miss game on Thursday were some familiar faces. South Carolina assistant coaches Scott Cherry, Cypheus Bunton and Michael Boynton were watching and the LSU team walked in a little later.
The Tigers looked loose but intimidating, each clad in their black warmup suits. Then Tasmin Mitchell walked back to his seat with a funnel cake, concentrating on not spilling powdered sugar on his threads.
IN THE SPIRIT: As it is at most tournaments they play in, the Kentucky Wildcats brought a massive fan base. The arena was three-fourths blue on Thursday, with small pockets of crimson, gold, orange and what-have-you.
One guy sat in the end zone wearing a white suit with a royal blue shirt and tie, silver medallion dangling to his navel. He topped it off with a blue fedora (complete with white feather), and the words "Wildcat Pimp" stitched on the back of his jacket.
The Wildcats' mascot got into the spirit of Tampa's atmosphere. He wore blue and white striped pants, his Kentucky jersey, an eyepatch and a black bandanna with pirate heads on it.
Overall, St. Pete Times Forum was about 10,000 less than capacity for each session on Thursday.
GOOD EATIN': A stroll around the Forum's concourse revealed some interesting concession stands. Outback Steakhouse had its own eatery and so did Five Guys.
The tunnels were decorated with large blow-up shots of famous front pages from The St. Petersburg Times, which if nothing else, reminded people that newspapers still exist. They ranged from Richard Nixon resigning to Tampa Bay winning the Stanley Cup.
UNHAPPY BIRTHDAY: Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy celebrates his 41st birthday today. It's doubtful he'll feel like doing too much after losing to the Wildcats on Thursday.
MAN DOWN: Arkansas checked into the tournament missing a player. Coach John Pelphrey suspended freshman Jason Henry for the tourney after violating team rules. It was the rookie's second suspension for the same reason this year.
It was good news for USC, if it was thinking ahead toward a potential USC-Arkansas matchup, which was rendered moot after Florida beat the Razorbacks in the first round. Henry scorched the Gamecocks for a career-high 27 points in an 82-78 overtime USC win on Feb. 21.
FAMOUS FACE: Leaving the Forum on Thursday, two reporters saw a familiar guy coming in. Tampa native Gary Sheffield, now playing for the Detroit Tigers, walked in for the evening session of games.