The experience of going to a University of Kansas men’s basketball game is difficult to depict. The rich history and rituals behind this prestigious program is like no other. The building isn’t emaculate from the outside, but you will receive chills and goosebumps upon entering. As an avid follower of the Jayhawks for as long as I can remember, I couldn’t wait to finally step foot inside Allen Fieldhouse, or “The Phog.” The first game that I attended was coincidentally the front row, as my camping group had miraculously drawn number one for the game. The whole camping process for KU basketball games is a difficult process to explain to an outsider because not many places have students piling in at 6am, after a game, for lottery or camping on the floor throughout the week to improve their seats.
The build-up or hype coming into each season is always high, but this season appeared to be special. First, we had a dilemma at the beginning of the season with one of our five star recruits Cheick Diallo from Mali that had apparent eligibility issues. The fans, particularly students, went to extreme measures by chanting and even painting on their chests at the games “Free Diallo!” After missing the first 5 regular season games, it was announced that Diallo had been cleared following their trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. The timing of his clearance could not have been any better; still early in the season so he could develop before the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) tournament in March and he would make his debut in Allen Fieldhouse. It was only fitting that the players let him experience his moment of glory by allowing him to lead the team onto the court as fans rose to their feet. Diallo kept the crowd involved throughout the game. The crowd erupted as he rose from the bench to approach the score table prior to checking into the game. Yet, his real impressive moment on that special night was following one of his three blocks he strode down the court with his lengthy six foot nine inch frame and slammed it home with one hand while holding the other behind his head.
The talk of the Kentucky game was noticeable before the season had even begun. Especially, this matchup versus the Kentucky Wildcats being the first meeting between the two following the devastating loss in the 2012 national championship to an incredibly talented Wildcats team. The date was circled and the anticipation finally reached its peak the week of Kentucky. The bout occurred on January 30th, 2016, a Saturday game. College Gameday was in attendance as two of the most acclaimed mens basketball programs were about to play. Doors opened at 6am for College Gameday, but fans were waiting patiently outside of Allen before 4am.
The suspense grew greater as the students, who had camped all week, were let in 2 hours prior to tip-off. The KU athletic department had t-shirts laid out on all 16,300 seats with a specific arrangement of red, white and blue. The funnels were prepared and the student sections just finished chanting the famous “Rockchalk Jayhawk” throughout the stadium before they were interrupted by a mysterious video. Typically there are two videos before tip-off, the one before they announce the starting lineup for KU and one to get the students jumping with pure excitement as the players take the court. However, this video only increased the energy within the building as a hype video was prepared to bring out the team. I had felt chills inside Allen before, but nothing like I had felt that game against Kentucky. The noise from the student section was at its highest and not to forget the game went into overtime before the Jayhawks pulled off the victory.
The quest for a 12th straight Big 12 title and a shot at the national championship with a talented returning class was also highly talked about. On February 27th, the Jayhawks had the opportunity to secure their 12th consecutive conference championship with a victory against Texas Tech. In a year where the Jayhawks struggled on the road for games and the leagues competition was the best it had been since they began their consecutive run, it seemed that this could be the year the streak ended. They won the game and a share of the conference title and then Perry Ellis, a senior, fittingly cut down the rest of the net as fans chanted, “Perry, Perry, Perry!”
Perry Ellis has his final home game this upcoming Saturday. The crowd will give him a standing ovation for his time at the University of Kansas as Bill Self checks him out of the game for the final time.
Anyone considering which college to attend, I highly recommend visiting Lawrence, Kansas for a men’s basketball game whether you follow sports or not. The atmosphere is unbelievable both on campus and especially in The Phog. Rockchalk Jayhawk.
Written by: Nathan Schmitz, University of Kansas Freshman