The Jayhawks have a tough game today--though few will name today's game difficult for the Jayhawks. I have been a Jayhawk since I saw Danny Manning's last home game at Allen Field House in 1988. Though KU was a place of academic failure for me, I was adopted in to Jayhawk culture. It's the closest place to sports home I have next to the Seattle sports scene. I was melancholy to watch the Jayhawks win the NCAA National Championship all on my own, without another fan. But my muscles were tense the entire game--and I got a little misty after my screams with Mario Chalmer's shot to send the game into overtime. I ran around my house like the late Jim Valvano after he won the title with NC State. I was looking for someone to hug. My dear wife grunted from her slumber, I buzzed about the house all night with my legs shaking. I supported the Jayhawks with a lot of passion--waiting in line for hours for seats, travelling thousands of miles to watch tournament appearances. I was no Jayhawk foster child. I am adopted.
So...I write this not as an NDSU apologist, but as someone with some contacts to the NDSU culture recognizing they can beat the Jayhawks today.
I think the Jayhawks have a tough opening round game today. I think they should still win, but don't let anyone fool you and say this should be an easy game for the Jayhawks. Here are the reasons:
1. Minneapolis is a home game for North Dakota State. If NSDU alums and supporters don't live in the Fargo area, they live in the Twin Cities metro. They will be at the game en masse. There will be more green in that arena than anyone could imagine.
2. NDSU is stacked with 5th year seniors who have pledged a quarter of their lives for this game, this moment, this experience. Sure, they may be nervous--but they've got nothing to lose. This is NDSU's first year in Division I (they're just out of their probationary period when they weren't eligible for championships). Though the Summit League is not great competition, it's good enough to prepare them for this game (Oral Roberts and Oakland are decent programs).
I think this game would have been harder for KU last year--with all those future NBA players and so many near misses at a title, the pressure would have been almost too much. Being the defending champs and lower expectations, they may play loose enough to withstand NDSU's experience and preparation. Or, they may play too loose and take NDSU for granted.
I will be screaming for the Jayhawks in about 75 minutes for another KU victory. Just don't count me among the surprised if the Bison come out of Minneapolis with a win or two.