Wristen: It’s great to be a fan of local college teams
My suitcase is already packed, and I’m counting the hours until departure to Oklahoma City.
As a Kansas University graduate, there are few things better than an NCAA Tournament road trip, so a reunion with the old roommates is in order.
Fortunately for fans of all of the local major college programs, it’s a great time to be a fan of Kansas State and Missouri as well.
The fact that our professional football and baseball teams, the Chiefs and Royals, have been pathetic for the past few years — if not longer — only magnifies how much better it is to be a fan of local college sports these days.
Thanks to basketball, life as a Kansas fan has been pretty good for the past few years. The Jayhawks have the longest streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances at 21, and they’ve been among the best teams in America year after year during the past decade. They earned trips to the Final Four in 2002 and 2003, went to the Elite Eight in 2004 and 2007 and won the 2008 national championship.
In recent years, football has caught up quite a bit in Lawrence, making it great to be a KU fan all year round.
For Missouri, basketball was an embarrassment in the handful of years prior to Mike Anderson’s arrival in Columbia, but at least Tiger fans had an outstanding football team to root for. Now they have a basketball team to be proud of, too. Their coach is a class act, the players stay out of trouble and the team has a reputation for playing harder than its opponents. Last year’s run to the Elite Eight wasn’t a fluke (and I picked it in my bracket).
Meanwhile, K-State fans have it good now, too. After a football slump, coach Bill Snyder is back and has the Wildcats performing at a respectable level. Even bigger has been the masterpiece crafted by basketball coach Frank Martin. Wildcat fans have felt snubbed by the NCAA Tournament selection committee in recent years, but there were never any doubts that the Wildcats would be headed to the Big Dance this year.
Yes, it’s good to be a college sports fan in Kansas City these days, and with the best week of the year — opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament — upon us, local fans have plenty of reasons to be excited. I doubt many Missouri fans will make the trek to Buffalo, N.Y., to watch the Tigers play in person, but they should pack the local sports bars to see a first-round victory. On the other hand, I expect to see plenty of Jayhawk and Wildcat fans in Oklahoma City as both teams will play just four hours from campus. If my bracket picks are correct — and they occasionally are — then both fan bases should have a fun weekend before returning home with a pair of victories in tow.