Louisville and Kansas City are indisputably two of the greatest college basketball cities in America. Louisville has held the NCAA Final Four six times, Kansas City nine. Historic programs are in the backyards of both metro areas.
But, according to ESPN, Louisville has led the nation in viewership of regular-season college basketball games on its networks for 14 consecutive years. This season, ESPN college hoops games in Louisville averaged a 4.9 rating, topping Raleigh-Durham, N.C., at 2.7 and Kansas City at 2.5.
So does that give Louisville the edge over KC? KU coach Bill Self said more than TV should be in consideration.
“Obviously, in the Bluegrass State, everybody loves ball,” he said of Kentucky. “I mean, that goes without saying.”
Then Self rattled off KC’s case, noting the proximity of Kansas, Kansas State, Wichita State and Missouri to Kansas City.
(It should be noted Louisville has a proximity case too: Kentucky has won eight NCAA titles, most recently in 2012. Louisville has won three, the last coming in 2013. Kansas has won three, the last in 2008.)
Self lauded the College Basketball Experience and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame next to the Sprint Center and 80-year-old Municipal Auditorium, the site of John Wooden’s first NCAA championship with UCLA in 1964 and other classic tournament games like North Carolina’s triple-overtime title-game triumph over KU and Wilt Chamberlain in 1957.
“I think when you add up all the history,” Self said. “I think that you can make a case that … (the) Kansas City area is probably about as knowledgeable and historic a place that our game has.”
Then Self played his trump card: KU’s first coach, James Naismith, a statue of whom was placed Wednesday in Lawrence outside the DeBruce Center, where his original rules of basketball will be housed.
“When the inventor of the game is your first coach,” Self said, “I think it definitely gives you a leg up on some folks when you start talking about history.”
Kansas City will add to that history next year, when the Sprint Center plays host to a NCAA regional, the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games for the Midwest Region, for the first time