Jayhawk, Wildcat fans will be honking at each other headed north Print
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Monday, 17 March 2008 10:35
NCAAB Headline News


 KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -Cars, trucks and vans bearing Kansas plates will be clogging the highways leading north out of the Sunflower State this week.
The question is, what will normally quarrelsome Kansas and Kansas State fans do with each other once they get to Omaha?
Will purple-clad Wildcat faithful bring themselves to root for top-seeded Kansas in its first-round NCAA game against Portland State? And what will Jayhawk followers do when the hated Wildcats take the same Qwest Center court later Thursday for their game against USC?
``I don't know,'' said Kansas State coach Frank Martin. ``But we need them. This is a new experience for us.''
No one expected Kansas and Kansas State would be assigned to the same regional and the same first-round site, and even play on the same days.
But that's what happened.
The freshman-laden Wildcats will take on USC Thursday evening, about seven hours after the Jayhawks, happy not to be relying on freshman, will meet 16th-seeded Portland State.
The Jayhawks and Wildcats played twice this year, each winning at home. If they both survive their first three NCAA games, they'll meet in Detroit the following weekend in the regional finals, with the winner going to the Final Four.
``We've competed against each other real hard twice this year,'' Martin said. ``I know they've got great fans and we've got great fans. Nothing would make me any happier than to see the KU faithful in our corner this weekend.''
He's not kidding when he calls the NCAA tournament a new experience for his 11th-seeded Wildcats. They'll take nine first-year players into the high-pressure scene in Nebraska. Kansas State saw 74 percent of its scoring during a 20-11 season come from freshmen, led by Michael Beasley, who has set single-season school records for scoring and rebounding.
All that youth might be more of a problem than some Kansas State fans want to believe.
While not addressing the Wildcats specifically, Self recalled the stinging 77-73 upset a similarly youthful Kansas squad suffered two years ago in the first round against Bradley.
``We started three freshmen and two sophomores who had never been there,'' Self said Monday. ``They (Bradley) were starting a six-year senior, and they had a lottery pick inside. And their guards, all veterans. As soon as I watched tape on them I thought, 'Gosh, these guys are good.'''
Perils abound for the very young, off the court as much as on, Self said.
``When you start three freshmen and two sophomores and everybody's patting you on the back and telling you how great you are, sometimes you can start to believe what they're telling you is true,'' he said.
``It's their first time dealing with tickets, first time being more popular on campus. ... All of them got better-looking all of a sudden. You go through it the first time, I think it's hard no matter how much a staff tries to convince you, 'Now we can't allow this to happen, or this or that.'''
The Jayhawks, as a No. 1 seed, figure to have a good chance of making it to the Final Four. But it would be a mighty upset if the Wildcats overcome all their youth to advance so far.
Nevertheless, even if they do end up one-and-done, and even if the ever-so-brief Beasley era should end without a postseason win, the Wildcats will have at least broken their 12-year NCAA drought.
``Our fans have been so supportive of us in my two years here,'' Martin said. ``To know our program's going back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 12 years and they're going to have an opportunity to just get in the car and drive, it'll be a great thing.''
 

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