Few teams in all of sports -- pro or college -- carry more tradition and historical reverence than Kansas basketball.
And when it comes to NCAA basketball, only a few schools across the nation deserve to be in the conversation. Only Kentucky has won more games than Kansas (2,105 wins to 2,089 as of Tuesday night). Only four teams have played in more Final Fours. And no team is close to the Jayhawks' 23-year streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
The fifth-ranked Jayhawks (19-2, 7-1 Big 12) return to Daniel-Meyer Coliseum at 8 tonight for the first time since Dec. 1, 2003, when the largest crowd in DMC history at the time (7,267) saw top-ranked KU beat the Horned Frogs 85-66.
Three weeks later the Jayhawks -- who eventually reached the Elite Eight that season -- were stifled by a Nevada team coached by Trent Johnson, who's now in his first season at TCU (9-12, 0-8).
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"I'm not going back in the past," he said before Tuesday's practice, half-jokingly preferring to keep that bit of nostalgia to himself. "I just know [tonight] we have to be awfully damn good and play awful hard and be loose and make some shots."
Tonight's game is sold out for the first time since BYU and Jimmer Fredette came to Fort Worth in February 2011. Despite the Frogs' struggles in their first season in the Big 12, guard and North Crowley ex Kyan Anderson said playing a team such as Kansas in front of a large home crowd was the dream scenario.
"This is what everybody wants growing up," Anderson said. "You want a sold-out crowd and a team like this to come in and play, just to see where we're at. When you played a college video game you always picked Kansas first. They are who they are. They've always been a very good team and a fan favorite. But once you step on the court, it's basketball. It doesn't matter what's on the front of the jersey; it's a competition, and we're going to fight no matter who it is."
Not only are the Jayhawks the highest-ranked team to play at TCU since their appearance in '03, but they're also most likely arriving with a chip on their shoulders. Their 33-game home win streak was snapped Saturday in a five-point loss to Oklahoma State. Kansas coach Bill Self has challenged his senior point guard Elijah Johnson, who was outplayed by OSU freshman and Flower Mound Marcus ex Marcus Smart.
"I'm not pleased with how he has played. He is not pleased with how he's played," Self told the media in Lawrence, Kan., on Monday. "He hasn't played as good as he is capable of playing. But I think most quarterbacks are judged by their record more so than their stats. ... He is my guy and will remain my guy, period."
On Monday's Big 12 teleconference, Self reminded the media as much as himself that he's still coaching one of the best teams in the country.
"We weren't very happy or pleased with how we played," he said before trying to put it in perspective. "We are 19-2. I thought we were a spoiled team Saturday. ... It's not panic time, but it is a wake-up call to say we need to fix some things."
Trent Johnson doesn't put much into the KU loss. If the Jayhawks had played poorly and still beaten OSU, Johnson said, he's certain Self would be just as tough on his team entering tonight.
"They play for a guy -- and there's a tradition there -- where they could have won and not played well, and he still would have gotten their attention," Johnson said. "That's why, in my mind, they're a team that will probably be in the Final Four, health permitting."
Despite his team's struggles, Johnson sees tonight's challenge as a positive for his players and fans.
"I think it's a great opportunity to see, for the first time at TCU in a long time, what elite basketball, elite players, elite coaching is like," he said.