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KU pep rally rocks Tulsa Convention Center

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Sprinkled throughout the BOK Center crowd are a handful of Kansas fans, decked out in KU gear, waiting for their team's 5:50 p.m. tipoff against Boston U. later today.

About a half mile to the west, there's a crimson and blue storm brewing at the Tulsa Convention Center and in the next couple of hours the storm will find its way to the arena, where the top-seeded Jayhawks will look to begin their run to what many fans are hoping and expecting to be a Final Four, perhaps more.

The doors at the convention center opened just before 3 p.m. and within minutes, hundreds of Jayhawk fans filed in, picking up KU souvenirs, food, drinks and whatever else the pre-partying called for.

Some, like 16-year-olds Cole Hamilton, of Leawood, Kan., and Austin Regier, of Independence, Mo., came with their parents and were simply waiting for the game to begin. But even they were swept up by the scene at the pep rally, which featured performances by the KU spirit squad and the KU band.

“It’s nice to be around other KU fans,” Hamilton said.

Added Regier, “It just shows that we’re the best traveling fans in the nation.”

That was the hope when the KU alumni association set up the event, which filled one of the largest ballrooms at the convention center. Three, giant inflatable Jayhawks greeted fans at the doors, a mini hot-air balloon hung from the ceiling and Rock Chalk Jayhawk signs were everywhere.

One event organizer, Jodi Nachtigal, said they were expecting between 400-500 KU fans to stop by the event before the game. When the final numbers came in, more than 750 Jayhawk fans made an appearance.

“It’s a great location,” Nachtigal said. “We’re so close to the arena, it’s awesome.”

Many fans at the pep rally were there as a way to kill time before tipoff. But Nachtigal said a few in attendance didn’t have tickets to the game. For them, KU set up four big-screen TVs, which will show four different NCAA Tournament games the rest of the day.

Organizers first showed up at 1 p.m., and the whole set-up took a little more than an hour-and-a-half to complete.

The KU fans at the rally ranged from groups of friends ready to roar to families of all sizes. One thing they all had in common was the colors they wore and a undying love of all things Jayhawks.

One family, the Piles, who live in Tulsa, Okla., brought their children, Carson (8) and Adrian (6) and each was allowed to bring a friend. The parents, Todd and Carol, along with all four children were decked out, from head-to-toe, in KU gear.

“My husband’s originally from Kansas,” said Carol Piles, whose husband hails from Topeka. “So I married into it, but we’re Jayhawks all the way.”

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