As they advanced over the first two weekends of the NCAA tournament to reach the Final Four, the University of Kansas Jayhawks played inside arenas relatively close to Lawrence, which gave them some friendly crowds.
But at the Alamodome in a dome in San Antonio, it’ll take more of an effort to win over Texans in the crowd who aren't dressed in Villanova, Michigan or Loyola colors.
Here are three ways KU could earn the loyalty of non-committal Texans:
1. Give back to the Lone Star State.
This is the NCAA’s first return to San Antonio since the Jayhawks won the NCAA championship in 2008 — and shipped the basketball court's centerpiece back to Lawrence. It’s prominently displayed on the wall at KU’s practice facility on campus, reminding the team during each daily workout where they want to be at the end of this season.
So, when the team takes the floor for its first public workout at the Alamodome this week, the KU band's first song needs to be “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
2. Get the Spurs on board.
The most popular team in San Antonio not named the Dallas Cowboys is the San Antonio Spurs. Because Bill Self is a long-time friend of Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, who was a volunteer coach at KU during the Jayhawks’ 1986 Final Four run before he was elevated to assistant coach on KU’s 1988 championship team, they’ve most likely made behind-the-scenes arrangements to use Spurs facilities for closed practices.
But to get Spurs fans in San Antonio on board with KU, they'll have to use one of the Spurs most popular players: All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, who’s sidelined and available for a public appearance because of an injury. Self has said that Leonard is one of the NBA players he most admires who isn’t a former Jayhawk (Leonard went to San Diego State). Leonard is a low-key individual, but all he'd need to do is walk into the arena before KU’s semifinal game against Villanova — for all the Texas fans to plainly see — and take a seat behind the KU bench.
3. Make a late addition to the San Antonio organizing committee.
Sherron Collins, a starting guard for the Jayhawks in ’08, has demonstrated that he's capable of public speaking — just ask anyone who witnessed the retirement of his jersey at Allen Fieldhouse this season. Collins has been a great ambassador for KU since me moved to Lawrence; now it’s time to mix him in with the San Antonio community. Perhaps as a tour guide at the Alamo, where Collins can incorporate a few historical anecdotes involving Sam Houston and Jim Bowie when he talks about how KU defeated Roy Williams and North Carolina to reach the title game in ’08. Mario Chalmers, who hit the most memorable shot in KU history, is unavailable because he’s still playing in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies, so Collins is the next man up.
Anything to help KU get an edge when it plays Villanova, the other No. 1 seed that made it to the Men’s Final Four.
Greg Echlin is a freelance sports reporter for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter, @GregEchlin.