MADISON, WIS. This group's crimson and blue blood is definitely thicker than water.
Relatives of Kansas basketball players, as is their road custom, were sitting together Friday behind the Jayhawk bench in the Kohl Center. As a group, they greatly enjoyed Kansas' 73-69 redemption victory against Illinois, a team that bounced the Jayhawks a year ago from the NCAA Tournament.
The Simiens of Kansas, Careys of Missouri, Collisons of Iowa, Boschees of North Dakota and others waved the wheat and sang the praises of KU hoops after the Jayhawks won to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1996.
Not even savage boos directed at the Jayhawks from the Big 10 Conference-laden crowd or 40 minutes of rock-'em, sock-'em hoops against the Illini could shake their faith that these young men were playing basketball for the right team, the right coach and the right reasons.
"There are probably 300 Division I teams in the country that would gladly trade places with us win or lose," said Ray Carey, who has traveled far and wide from home in Camdenton, Mo., the past four years to watch his son, Jeff, play in a Kansas uniform.
Nope, these fans didn't waver when this Midwest Regional game was in doubt. None of the men, women and children in the Jayhawk family were rolling in the aisles pulling their hair out or tossing red seats onto the Wisconsin Badgers' home court when the situation looked bad.
Judy Collison knows that it's important to keep the joy of victory and agony of defeat in clear view.
"From a mother's perspective, I want him to enjoy what he's doing and the people he's playing with," Mrs. Collison said.
It's not just about winning, even in the Sweet 16. She believes her son understands that.
"I know Nick's enjoyed this year more than any year," she said.
The commitment required of parents who follow the Jayhawks on the road is substantial, said Floyd Boschee, father of senior guard Jeff Boschee.
Despite a staggering 10-hour, 680-mile drive from Valley Center, N.D., to Lawrence, the proud papa has been to more than half of Jeff's collegiate contests.
"I guess he's played about 130 games, and I think I've seen 75 of those."
He traveled to Madison with his wife, Rosann, son Michael and daughter Christy.
Dave Collison said the family's van is less than 2 years old and has more than 80,000 miles on it. That's a lot of trips between Lawrence and Iowa Falls, Iowa. Dave and Judy are joined on this cruise by another son, Michael, a daughter, Katie, and her boyfriend, T.J. Heither.
"After Atlanta and the Final Four, we hope there's something like 85,000 on the van," he said.
On some roadtrips, KU families cut expenses by carpooling. And in college towns all over the Midwest, and again in this tournament, they get together for low-key socializing. That unity of purpose and shared experience leaves a mark on them.
"We hang around a lot together," Floyd Boschee said.
And, make no mistake, these family-affair road warriors dearly love the game.
"I enjoy watching basketball," Floyd Boschee said. "We've been following Jeff since fifth grade."
Mr. Carey, no Bobby Knight clone, gets a kick out of the Jayhawks, too. Like Mr. Boschee, he doesn't often let the adrenaline run amok at games.
"I don't get too excited," he said. "I know the kids can play. I don't do a lot of yelling."