CHAMBERLAIN -- Doug Knust remembers seeing Villanova upset Georgetown for the 1985 NCAA men's basketball national title.

Knust also remembers watching coach Jimmy Valvano running around the court looking for someone to hug when North Carolina State upset Houston in 1983.

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He vividly remembers Gordon Heyward's missed half-court shot that almost sent Butler past Duke in last year's national title game.

But Knust was not watching those events on television, like most fans of March Madness. He was sitting in the arena for all three events. In fact, Knust has been at every NCAA Final Four semifinal and championship game for the last 29 years.

This year's Final Four begins today at Reliant Stadium in Houston, and for the 30th straight year, Knust will be there. Knust will be joined by his friend Chris Korth, from Kansas City, Mo., who started the streak with Knust back in 1982 and has been with him all 29 years. Five other friends also will join Korth and Knust.

"It's been a great run, and looking back, I am really fortunate," said Knust, an automobile dealer from Chamberlain. "A lot of things have to happen for us to do this. I had to have good health, a good family that is also understanding, and good friends that I could do this with.

"It's been a fun run and I hope to continue the tradition."

The streak started in 1982, but the planning started during the 1981 tournament. Knust saw a commercial advertising a chance to win tickets for the 1982 Final Four in New Orleans. He called the number and sent in multiple applications. The applications cost $1.50 and Knust said he "cleaned out" his checkbook.

Several weeks later, he was told his name was drawn in the lottery and he would receive four tickets for the Final Four. But since Knust and Korth were both cash-strapped Creighton University students, the streak almost never started.

Knust decided to give one of the tickets to his dad for his birthday in October, who agreed to go to the Final Four with his son and two other friends.

"It's kind of a joke, but he was cool with it because he likes basketball," said Knust, 50. "It was a throwback to college for him to go with me and my college friends.

"He wasn't complaining, and it started a fun tradition because he went on probably 15 of those trips."

Knust and Korth did not plan to start a 30-year streak after the first trip in 1982, but they did decide to return the Final Four for the next few years.

After witnessing such memorable games, Knust and Korth were addicted.

"The first five years we went, there was (Michael) Jordan's jumper for North Carolina, North Carolina State winning, and then a couple years later, Villanova beat Georgetown," Knust said. "Then there was the first year of the three-point line in 1987, and Steve Alford and Indiana won it.

"That's part of the thing that got us hooked. There were so many good games right away."

Meeting some of the best coaches in the NCAA didn't hurt, either. Knust and his friends always visit the coach's hotel, and the first year they sat down and talked to DePaul coach Ray Meyer, who won 724 games in his career. Knust and his friends would later meet coaching greats including former Kansas and current North Carolina coach Roy Williams, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, former Creighton and current Oregon coach Dana Altman and former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson.

"We have had some visits with some great coaches, and they are very gracious," Knust said.

One of the biggest hurdles Knust had to overcome each year was convincing his wife it was OK to go -- mainly because her birthday is April 1, which means Knust usually misses it.

Knust said his wife has never really complained about his trips to the Final Four, though.

"She is a good basketball fan ... and she understands that this is something I enjoy doing," he said. "My wife went with me for a while before we had kids.

"She's probably scored better gifts than she probably would have, and it might take a few extra flowers and chocolates."

Even though Knust has witnessed many memorable games throughout the past 29 years, the trips have evolved to become more about spending time with friends.

Each year, Knust, Korth and the group of friends who go along with them pick out a steakhouse to go to the Friday night before the semifinal games. This year, the steakhouse is Vic & Anthony's in Houston.

"I really enjoy the opportunity to get together with friends more than I used to," Knust said. "I took them for granted earlier, but now I look forward to the steakhouse outing as much as the basketball."

A couple of years ago, Knust met someone from Springfield, Mo., who had a streak of 48 years at the Final Four. Knust thinks he can break that streak, but with one condition.

"I joked with my friends and said we can beat that, but if I hang out with them, I won't live until 70 to do it."