KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In these glorious times for basketball in Kansas, maybe it’s best to call on an impartial voice to assess the NCAA Tournament and the March Madness about to go down Friday, when the University of Kansas and Kansas State University both play games at the Sprint Center.
So does a former NCAA champion, All-American and eight-year NBA veteran work?
“I’ve never been to Kansas City before, matter of fact,” said former North Carolina center and current Tar Heels’ color commentator Eric Montross, who won an NCAA title in 1993. “The NCAA Tournament is a magical ride. ... You love to come into an atmosphere that’s as excited as this is for the tournament with Kansas and Kansas State here. It’s perfect.”
There’s your impartial opinion. After that, the lines get much more blurred.
At best, fans of the Jayhawks and Wildcats are being cordial about having to share an NCAA Tournament location for the third time in five years, after Omaha in 2008 and Oklahoma City in 2010.
North Carolina, Wisconsin, Western Kentucky, Mississippi, La Salle and Villanova are the other teams in Kansas City for games Friday and Sunday.
K-State, the No. 4 seed in the West Region, plays La Salle at about 2:10 p.m. on TruTV in the early session of games. KU, the No. 1 seed in the South Region, plays Western Kentucky at about 8:50 p.m. on TNT in the late session.
Wichita native and K-State graduate Phil Guillen, a partner with corporate tax search firm Hurn, Ruckle and Associates in Kansas City, was at the Sprint Center on Thursday for the Wildcats’ open practice sessions.
“Kansas City is KU’s town, but I still think it should be a great fanbase of K-State fans down here,” Guillen said. “I think when you win two Big 12 championships (in football and basketball) it gives you a little more power in the town. ... Like I said, there’s a strong KU presence but there’s also a lot of K-Staters.
“I think everybody is a fan of the Big 12. We’ll watch the KU game, but we won’t necessarily cheer for them, and it won’t hurt my feelings if you get beat.”
Pep rallies were scheduled in the Power and Light District for both K-State and KU on Friday afternoon, and Jayhawk fans came out by the thousands for KU’s open practice session, a glorified walk-through but a chance to show support – and to one-up the Wildcats one more time. Kansas had at least double the number of fans out for the open practice as K-State did.
Former KU guard Greg Gurley, a radio analyst for the Jayhawk IMG Radio Network, was in the Sprint Center on Thursday afternoon. Gurley played for the Jayhawks from 1992 to 1995, including a Final Four appearance in 1993.
As a member of the media, Gurley has to do his best to toe the line between journalist and fan. But, like Guillen, he couldn’t help but take a slight dig at the folks in Manhattan.
“It’s great to have Kansas back here; we’re spoiled to have such a great facility in the Sprint Center so close to home. ... Kansas earned a spot here, and so did Kansas State,” Gurley said.
“Me, personally, I probably won’t come to the early session. I’m a Big 12 guy, so I want to see the Big 12 do good.”