Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/19/2008 03:14:00 PM
Kansas' Qwest Begins ...
OMAHA, Neb. -- I finally landed at the Qwest Center around 1 p.m. Wednesday, and while this may not be the most glamorous NCAA tournament destination, you can buy a frozen Omaha Steak before you hit baggage claim, reach the arena within five minutes from the airport, and find your hotel right across the street. Amazingly convenient. Also, this may be the only place I've ever seen that serves Mr. Pibb in the press room.
If you don't think the NCAA is paranoid about "live blogging" of its events ... get this: After being handed your media credential, the first question you're asked this year is, "Now, will you be blogging?" "Not any play-by-play," I promised, and then was allowed to enter the building. Just in time to catch the major attraction, too. Kansas was in its locker room, where junior swingman Brandon Rush chose to conduct interviews in a beanie.
• The buzzword around Rush was "aggressiveness" -- mainly, reporters wondering whether his 28-point outburst against Texas A&M in the Big 12 semifinals was something that would be repeated in the NCAAs. By the Big 12 final, he was back to playing a complementary role to Mario Chalmers' 30-point, eight-three barrage. In that win over Texas, Rush had 19 points, six rebounds and six assists -- not a bad afternoon by any means. But even today he admitted that unless his scoring gets going early, he's not likely to try to take over a game. "If things aren't working out too good for me, I back off a little bit, and look for somebody else to make the shots," Rush said. "Mario got the hot hand against Texas, so I backed off my shots."
• Sophomore forward Darrell Arthur, who was sitting in the next chair over, said that Rush "either wears that beanie or his Yankees hat everywhere." He pointed out the strange phenomenon on this team: five different Jayhawks are known wearers of Yanks caps -- Darnell Jackson, Russell Robinson, Sherron Collins, Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers -- while only Robinson is from New York. Perhaps Kansas considers itself the Yankees of college basketball?
I asked Robinson about this, and he took the credit: "When I first came to Kansas [in 2004], nobody had a Yankees hat on. Nobody. I think I started the trend. And now I don't even wear my Yankees hat anymore because they all do it." (Apparently both Robinson and Collins have switched to wearing classic Cincinnati Reds hats to go with their blue KU warmups.)
• Robinson does not however, claim to be the team's only trendsetter. He did add that he's responsible for the "New York swagger" in the locker room, but gave credit to these players for the following:
Arthur: The infusion of "Texas music" -- mostly Chopped & Screwed rap -- into the Jayhawks' pregame playlists. Robinson has adopted these tunes as his own, listening to Arthur's Houston tunes as much as he does New York stuff. "I can probably sit here and sing a couple of songs for you right now," said Robinson. "But they might not be appropriate language-wise."
Rush: The Macbook invasion. "He's the original Macbook guy," said Robinson. "He got one, and then everybody on the team went and bought Macs."
Collins: The iPhone invasion. "He got it, and then everybody else got it," said Robinson. "We all take after each other."
• When KU played its first- and second-round games at Chicago's United Center last year, the talk of the locker room had been Michael Jordan's car, which they were in awe of upon walking by it in the parking lot. "That was sweet," Arthur said Wednesday, breaking into a smile at the thought of his Airness' wheels. "He had a light-blue Range Rover on some light-blue 23s."
Arthur said the team had yet to see anything similarly amazing during their short time in Omaha. "I asked people what there is to do out here," he said, "and they told me, 'You can go to the zoo.' But I don't like animals like that."
Kansas will stick to entertaining itself, most likely, by beating Portland State and UNLV to book a trip to Detroit, where Arthur can opt not to visit another zoological attraction.