Tulsa, Okla. With about five minutes remaining during Thursday’s media session, all interviews in the Kansas University locker room came to a screeching halt.
“Ohhhhhhh,” was the only sound that could be heard bouncing off the walls of the cramped quarters inside the BOK Center, where top-seeded KU will take on No. 16-seed Boston University at 5:50 tonight.
The reason? Princeton’s Dan Mavraides had just hit a step-back jumper that tied the game with Kentucky at 57 with 36.7 to play. For the next few minutes, reporters and players alike watched one of two televisions situated in the KU locker room, waiting to see if the 13th-seeded Tigers could knock off mighty Kentucky.
Though their vertical jumps are higher and their dunking ability a tad more impressive, when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, even the Jayhawks are just like everybody else.
“We’re fans, too. It’s exciting to watch games like this,” junior forward Markieff Morris said.
Added freshman guard Josh Selby, who’s experiencing the tourney for the first time: “We want to see who wins and who loses, so I think everybody wants to watch the games. But we have to focus in, do media (interviews), practice, and I guess we have to see the scores on ESPN SportsCenter at the end of the day.”
Not this one. The Jayhawks were able to watch the Princeton-Kentucky thriller play out in its entirety before taking the floor for a light practice in front of hundreds of adoring fans. On the next possession, Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight drove the ball to the rim and hit a scoop shot off the glass to put the Wildcats ahead by two with two seconds to play. The dramatic drive drew similar cries from the Jayhawks, who did not tip their hand as to which team they were pulling for.
“Like any other person in America, you want to watch the Cinderella stories and the teams that weren’t as heralded during the season,” senior guard Tyrel Reed said.
At the same time, a big reason these guys pay such close attention is that they know so many players on other teams.
“There’s a kid named Lamont Austin who plays for Morehead State, and I didn’t realize he played for them, and he was on my Pump ’N Run (AAU) team, with (KU teammates) Travis (Releford) and Conner (Teahan),” Reed said. “So you learn some things, too.”
Releford referenced the same player, whose team shocked fourth-seeded Louisville earlier in the day, but added that he also knew one of the Cardinals as well.
“When the TV’s on, it’s kind of hard to keep your eyes off of it,” Releford said.
After a Princeton timeout, the Tigers inbounded the ball, looking for one last miracle. As the ball reached halfcourt, a Princeton player heaved a shot toward the rim. With the shot — and the game’s outcome — hanging in mid-air, one of the twins yelled out, “You never know, you never know.” The shot fell short. Kentucky survived.
Back to focusing on Boston.