The first words in the first press conference of the NCAA tournament at Intrust Bank Arena were the coach from Penn praising Wichita.
"When I saw we were going to Wichita, I was really happy," said coach Steve Donahue. "I wasn't happy when I saw we were gonna play Kansas. "
Kansas is the No. 1 seed in Wichita. Penn is 16.
And no No. 16 has ever beaten a top seed.
And, Thursday's Kansas-Penn game will be practically a home game for the Jayhawks, who roost three hours up the Turnpike in Lawrence.
Still, Donahue said he's happy to be bringing his Ivy League team to the heartland to play.
"I mean this about it, because I've been in bigger cities when there's tournaments there," he said. "It's not the same, we don't get this attention. You guys, you can tell you love college basketball. We appreciate that. That adds to our experience.
"It's a big deal, I think just being in this part of our country where they really love college basketball, playing a historic program like Kansas. There's nothing like it for our guys. They'll remember it the rest of their lives."
Wednesday was the open practice day to drum up excitement for the tournament and enthusiasm was building for the actual competition that begins Thursday. It's the first time Wichita's hosted an NCAA tournament weekend in 24 years and turnout was high for the free event.
One side of the arena was packed with more than 4,000 schoolchildren from Wichita schools, who were bused to the arena to share the NCAA tournament experience.
The other side was mostly filled with adults, clothed in a sea of Kansas blue and crimson. They mainly sat quietly while Penn went through a light workout and shootaround.
Penn's mascot, The Quaker, skipped the partisan KU side of the arena and homed in on the kids, who were less tied to a team and more than delighted to share fist bumps and high-fives with the visiting mascot.
The elementary school kids said it was one of the best school days ever.
"We were watching KU play," said Lana Shaheen. "It was really fun. They did excellent! We were cheering."
What was so excellent about it?
"They dribbled and they scooorrrred!" she said.
Harold Trammel, N.C. State's cheerleading coach and Mr. Wuf's manager, said he had never heard of a site hosting thousands of schoolkids for practice day.
As of 12:45 p.m., arena officials estimated 13,700 people had passed through the doors.
""I love it here!" said Jenna Harowitz of Swarthmore, Penn., was leading the Penn pep band and brimming with confidence for Thursday.
"We're gonna be the first 1-16 upset," she said. "We're ready.
The band flew in by charter with the team late Tuesday and hadn't gotten much of a chance to look around. But that didn't matter to Harowitz.
"Last year we went to L.A. (for the NCAA women's tournament)," she said. "There's pretty good weather here, too."
Dion Lefler; 316-268-6527; @DionKansas