Though UCLA is trying to keep away from the hoopla, the Bruins couldn't avoid it Thursday evening, when their plane was met by about 250 loud well-wishers at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport.
"I want to get to the hotel," said center George Zidek, minutes after getting through the pack.
"It was just absolutely crazy when we got off the plane, people asking for autographs, everybody's patting me on the back. I don't think we've done anything so far. We still have two more games to play, and then we can really say we've accomplished something."
Forward Charles O'Bannon acknowledged he was stunned by the reception but said he was sure the Bruins would not lose their focus heading into Saturday's semifinal against Oklahoma State.
"The coach has us like 45 minutes away from the Kingdome," O'Bannon said. "The distractions are going to be around. But as long as we stay focused, we'll be OK."
With Maryland sophomore Joe Smith expected to be named the Associated Press player of the year today, Charles O'Bannon had a sharp response about his brother, Ed, being denied another major award.
"What, (Maryland) made it to the Sweet 16? That's pretty much all I have to say about it," Charles said. "A team led by Ed has made it to the Final Four."
The Bruins are eagerly awaiting today's practice session in the Kingdome, one of the centerpiece events of Final Four weekend. The team took a tour through the Kingdome earlier this year, when it was in Seattle to play Washington, but that time the arena was filled with a recreational vehicle show.
"Coach said it's going to be like 20,000 people there," Ed O'Bannon said. "I've never even played before 20,000. To have that many at practice, it's going to be a trip."