LAWRENCE — The snow began falling on the campers sometime before 10 p.m. on Friday night. A small group of KU basketball fans and students had congregated outside Allen Fieldhouse, building a mini-tent city and waiting for the next morning.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
It was the unofficial beginning of a Game Day at Kansas, a full slate that included the live recording of ESPN’s “College Game Day” in the morning. The cameras started rolling inside Allen Fieldhouse at 9 a.m. with an hour-long show on ESPN — before the main broadcast began at 10 p.m. on ESPN.
Saturday’s broadcast followed a pretty standard formula. Host Rece Davis was joined by analysts Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas and newcomer Jalen Rose … and they spent the two hours breaking down the day in college basketball while spending most of their time on Kansas, Allen Fieldhouse and the traditional KU history talking points: Naismith, Chamberlain, Beware of the Phog, etc.
Earlier this week, Bill Self called “Game Day” a day-long infomercial for your school. And that was a pretty apt description.
Here’s a review of the morning highlights:
Best sign: ESPN’s Game Day franchise, especially the football preview show, has become pretty famous for the witty signage that always shows up in the background of the live shots. You can always count on a variety of high-brow and low-brow topics to be covered on small pieces of white poster-board. Still, we were transfixed by a simple sign that kept showing up right behind the ESPN studio set. A young girl, presumably a KU student, had a sign that read: “I wanted to say something funny but I’m just not.” Well played.
Best rant: ESPN analyst Jay Bilas has become famous for his pointed and informed criticism of the NCAA, and what he believes is a bloated rulebook. With Kansas set to play Texas, Saturday’s setting provided Bilas a fat NCAA fastball right down the middle. Texas point guard Myck Kabongo was suspended 23 games this season for receiving improper benefits last offseason (essentially travel costs to a private workout). Bilas criticized the NCAA for going overboard on Kabongo’s investigation and punishment, while also drawing his point back to the recent questions surrounding the NCAA’s investigation into the University of Miami. (The NCAA has admitted its own misconduct during the Miami investigation and is looking into its own investigation.)
“Look who’s got unethical issues now,” Bilas said. “The NCAA, and they are not investigating themselves with the same fervor (that they did Kabongo).”
Best segment: ESPN aired a feature on KU strength-and-conditioning coordinator Andrea Hudy, who was recently selected National College Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The segment focused, in part, on her work with KU senior center Jeff Withey, who learned a hard lesson when he arrived at Kansas as a skinny freshman.
“You’re not working hard unless you throw up,” Withey said.
Best unintentionally funny skit: KU seniors Withey and Travis Releford took part in a “Know Your Teammate” skit with host Rece Davis. The segment began with Withey being asked to name Releford’s favorite Twitter account to follow. Without pausing, Withey came up with the PG-13-rated @KUBoobs account, and Davis responded with a nervous “Easy there…”
Best nostalgia moment: KU coach Bill Self joined the set for a brief discussion, and Self reminded analyst Jalen Rose that he had been an assistant at Oklahoma State when the second-seeded Cowboys lost 75-72 to Rose’s Fab Five Michigan squad in the 1992 Sweet 16. Rose had admitted that he didn’t play defense back then, and Self countered by saying that’s why Oklahoma State had gone after him.
Honorable mention: Rose also reminded the audience that he played against KU during his career. One of the first former KU players that he remembered? Guard Calvin Rayford.
Best Paul Pierce impersonator: The broadcast ended with the traditional half-court shot, and the kid who took it sure looked familiar. Turns out, it was Paul Pierce II, a third-cousin of the former Kansas star. Mini-Pierce had good form, but he couldn’t any shots to go down.