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Atmosphere makes tourney memorable

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, March 24, 2011, at 12:06 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, April 7, 2011, at 12:39 a.m.

LAWRENCE — There is the most basic way that the NCAA Tournament is unlike the regular season for the Kansas Jayhawks, and forward Markieff Morris addressed it right off the bat.

"You lose and you go home," Morris said. "That definitely makes things feel different. That's the very first thing. It's not the only thing, though."

Taking that into account, it could be argued that nothing else about Friday's Sweet 16 game against Richmond in San Antonio matters.

The Jayhawks would argue otherwise. Even after a season in which Kansas jet-setted to places like Berkeley, Las Vegas, Memphis, Michigan and up-and-down the Big 12 schedule, the uniqueness of March Madness wasn't lost on anyone on the Kansas roster.

"Sometimes you're grinding out games in league play and you're places for one night and then you take off the next day," Morris said. "You don't get a feel for your surroundings. You get to the NCAA Tournament and it's more of an experience. You're there for longer. You spend four or five days in one place.

"I didn't grow up watching basketball or the NCAA Tournament because I was a football guy. That was all I cared about. So this is something new to me."

Kansas senior guard Brady Morningstar, a Lawrence Free State product, grew up listening to tales of NCAA Tournament glory from his father, Roger, who started on the Jayhawks' 1974 Final Four team that lost to Marquette in the national semifinals.

"This is supposed to be the best time of your life," Morningstar said. "You work so hard to get in this position and you want to enjoy it. You want to be able to take everything in. This is supposed to be the best part of your career so you want to make sure you cherish it."

Morningstar admitted he'd never gone back and watched the Final Four his father played in — adding that he had never seen one of his father's games, actually.

"I've seen clips, but never actually gone back and dug up a whole game, although I've been meaning to for awhile," Morningstar said, smiling. "But I've talked to some of the guys he played with and they said he never played defense."

Kansas senior guard Tyrel Reed said he appreciates what the tournament gives back to the legions that faithfully follow the Jayhawks all year.

"It's the best time of the year for fans," Reed said. "It's been a crazy year, so this isn't just a payoff for us, it's a payoff for them, too."

Morris also said that a bump in attendance when different, larger locales come into play also was something the players take notice of.

Allen Fieldhouse seats 16,300. Tulsa's BOK Center, where the Jayhawks posted opening wins over Boston University and Illinois, seats more than 17,000 but had closer to 15,000 for the two games.

The Alamodome, where the Jayhawks hope to make a run to the Final Four, can pack in 30,779 for basketball games.

"You're in a different arena, which is something in itself, but you also have those extra fans," Morris said. "You'll notice when there's another 10,000 people at your game."

Kansas forward Marcus Morris, the Big 12 Player of the Year, pointed out one more difference for the Jayhawks that was unique to March before heading to practice on Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse.

"The media," Marcus said, looking at a row of television cameras and digital voice recorders. "It seems like there's a lot more of y'all."

Reach Tony Adame at 316-268-6284 or tadame@wichitaeagle.com.

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