OKLAHOMA CITY — Taking full advantage of an off day at the NCAA Tournament, Kansas and Kansas State fans filled the streets of Oklahoma City's Bricktown entertainment district Friday, turning the city's downtown into a basketball lover's paradise.
"It's a party... and a big one at that," said Pratt native and K-State fan Bill Bergner. "There's just a lot going on everywhere you go."
With Sweet 16 berths on the line, the Jayhawks will play Northern Iowa and the Wildcats will play Brigham Young in back-to-back games today at the Ford Center.
NCAA officials said about 2,500 tickets were still available, starting at $68, for both games. Tickets can be purchased at the arena box office or Ticketmaster.com.
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The tournament was in full swing with first-round games at other sites around the country Friday, and watching seemed to be the rule of the day in Bricktown.
Karen Fender and Kalissa McAtee, both from Lawrence, spent the day rooted to televisions at Brix Restaurant & Lounge, meeting up with their friend Andrianna Kelly, who came in from Austin, Texas, to cheer on the Jayhawks.
The trio were headed to Mickey Mantle's Steakhouse for dinner — and to watch more games.
"We haven't stopped watching since the games started this morning," McAtee said. "And now we've got three booths reserved for dinner, all for Jayhawk fans. We feel kind of sorry for Northern Iowa."
While common courtesy was being employed in most cases, the novelty of sharing an NCAA site with their rivals had generally worn off for KU and K-State fans by Friday.
Each school had staked out unofficial headquarters at two Bricktown drinking establishments — Bricktown Brewery for KU and TapWerks Ale House & Cafe for K-State — and neither group seemed willing to cross party lines.
Translation: You stay over there, we stay over here.
"I feel like (Kansas State fans) are a lot more friendly than the KU people," said Bergner, who graduated from K-State in 1989. "You see the people with all the Jayhawk stuff on walking down the street and they won't even say hi to you."
A group of six KU fans walked by Bergner as he was talking, and he waved.
"See?" Bergner said. "Not even a smile."
Fender said she didn't mind K-State sharing the same site, but she was willing to extend only so much hospitality to the Wildcats, who are in the NCAA Tournament for just the second time since 1996. The only way the two teams could meet again this season — KU has won all three times they've played so far — would be in the Final Four next month at Indianapolis.
"It's good they're here and we can all be friends, for now," Fender said. "Until we have to play each other again.
"But I don't think (Kansas State) is going to make it to the Final Four."
In the end, though, it was still all about the basketball.
"I remember in 1988 when we beat KU at Lawrence and they beat us in Manhattan," Bergner said. "We had (Mitch) Richmond and they had (Danny) Manning.
"And then they beat the tar out of us in the Elite Eight. That still hurts."