Manhattan — It was ear-splitting loud in Bramlage Coliseum for last year's Sunflower Showdown ... and that was two hours before tipoff.
Then-Kansas State assistant coach Frank Martin's pep talk had purple-clad fans worked into a frenzy - cheers that continued throughout the Wildcats' 71-62 loss to rival Kansas University.
"It's as good as it gets," KU coach Bill Self said of the noise level in Bramlage, site of today's 7 p.m. KU-K-State game.
"We've played in front of three atmospheres in my opinion that have set themselves apart: Our first year in Stillwater when they hammered us," Self said of an 80-60 loss to Oklahoma State. "The first year when they closed Hearnes down (KU's 84-82 victory in 2004 at Missouri) and last year in Bramlage. To me those three were the best atmospheres we played in. I guarantee this atmosphere will go right in that category."
Self, who has been at KU five seasons, said the loudest enemy crowd was in his second of three seasons at Illinois.
"It was at Indiana. They don't like Illinois very much," Self said.
K-State fans don't like KU very much, something first-year Wildcat Michael Beasley has discovered this week.
"It's going to be nutty," said Beasley, fourth in the country in scoring at 25.3 ppg and first in rebounding at 12.6. "It's already nutty. We can't go anywhere. I was just in the Student Union and people were coming up to me, 'You've got to beat KU. You've got to beat KU.' About 50 students came up to me."
K-State officials are beefing up security for tonight's game hoping to stop fans from sneaking in live chickens and throwing them on the court during pre-game introductions as they did last year.
"I don't think they're letting the chickens in this year. But it's going to be a great atmosphere," said freshman forward Bill Walker, who averages 15.8 points and 6.6 boards. "The fans are going to be here. All our dedicated fans are going to be here to try to see us break 'The Streak' (KU's 24-game run in Manhattan).
"It's been a while since we've had a meaningful game like this. You can't add any more to it: KU versus Kansas State."
¢Believe it or not: KU enters ranked No. 2 in the country; KSU 22. It's the 11th time the teams have met when both were ranked and the first time since No. 10 KU beat No. 1 KSU, 61-44, on March 8, 1958.
Today's game will mark the fourth time the teams have met with both undefeated in league play. The first happened on Jan. 15, 1951 when (2-0) K-State beat (3-0) KU, 47-43, in Lawrence. The second took place the next season on Jan. 26, 1952, when (3-0) KSU beat (3-0) KU, 81-64, in Manhattan. The last was on Jan. 18, 1993 when (2-0) KU beat (2-0) KSU, 71-65, in Manhattan.
¢High praise: Self has been most gracious all week in discussing Beasley, who is likely to be taken No. 1 in the 2008 NBA Draft.
Here are some excerpts:
¢ "He is strong, long. He has bounce. Some guys just know how to score. Some know how to use their body better than others, initial contact, how to get to the free-throw line. He is good with either hand around the basket. He is the best prospect college basketball has seen in many years. There's no hidden mystery to that. His ceiling is still higher. He's going to continue to get better."
¢ "I'm not sure what his uncomfortable spots on the court are. We need to do a good job creating enough havoc they don't get easy vision to the post. He will get open. He will catch it from three feet. If he can't catch it from three he'll catch it at six. If not at six he'll catch it at nine. He'll go where he has to catch it."
¢ "I thought I'd never see a freshman dominate college basketball like (Kevin) Durant did as evident of him winning national college player of the year as a freshman. Michael has the same opportunity to be national player of the year."
¢ "He is not a tendency guy. He is not a guy who only does this going right. He can play over either shoulder, with either hand."
¢Martin lauds rivals: KSU coach Frank Martin has also spent a great deal of time praising the rival Jayhawks.
"The job Bill does is absurd," he said. "Two years ago all those kids were little puppies. They took a knock on their heads early and go out and win the Big 12. Now those group of guys are big boys. They've been through the grinder, the ropes.
"They've been in as many big games as any guys in the country. I don't think there's a better defensive team in the country. Offensively they have tremendous balance, depth, size, athleticism. Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush are as good a perimeter defenders you'll play against. They score, run, rebound. As coaches you watch teams on tape trying to find weaknesses to attack. In two years here, I can't see one weakness in their arsenal."
¢Team game: KU sophomore Darrell Arthur was asked if tonight was a 1-on-1 battle between Arthur and Beasley.
"No. it's not a personal battle. We're just trying to win games. I want to win games. I want to help my team win games. I think it's a big game for our whole team. It'll be a tough game going in trying to win. I just want to do my part."
¢Streaks: KU has won 35 of its last 36 versus KSU. Senior Clent Stewart played in the Wildcats' last victory - 59-55 on Jan. 14, 2006.
"It was tremendous. It was a lot of fun," Stewart said. "We were down early in that game and in the second half we came back and got it done. It's definitely one of the biggest wins since I've been here."