Kansas will go for 63rd straight home win

Only at a place like Allen Fieldhouse would they turn the simple
act of players running onto the court into a cherished team
tradition.

Emerging from their locker room in the 55-year-old basketball
showplace, coaches and players trot past exultant fans, through a
short tunnel and then emerge on the floor to pulsating music,
foot-stomping racket and the booming cheers of 16,300 adoring fans.
Above, a huge scoreboard shows video of great plays and storied
players from the Jayhawks’ hallowed past, from Wilt Chamberlain to
Danny Manning to the miracle shot that sent the 2008 NCAA
championship game into overtime.

The whole scene is so intimidating that Baylor coach Scott Drew
once took his players back into the visitors locker room until the
Jayhawks and their fans were done with their earsplitting love
fest.

No one knows if Texas A&M-Corpus Christi coach Perry Clark
will similarly shield his players on Tuesday night.

Perhaps he should.

If the No. 7 Jayhawks (3-0) get past the Islanders, they will
notch consecutive home victory No. 63, setting a school record and
adding one more bit of history to a beloved old building where
tradition already seeps from the rafters.

”I’m proud of the streak. I think we all are,” said coach Bill
Self. ”I’d rather win six in a row in the NCAA tournament than 63
in a row at home. But yes, the streak is something to be proud of.
The building has been a big part of it. But I’ve always said the
best home courts in America are the ones that have the best players
playing in them.”

In seven-plus seasons as the Jayhawks’ head coach, Self’s had a
multitude of good players. He’s an almost unbelievable 116-6 in
what generations of Kansans have called, with reverence, ”the
fieldhouse.”

He hasn’t lost a home game since Texas A&M’s All-Big 12
guard Acie Law hit a dramatic 3-pointer in the final seconds for a
69-66 victory on Feb. 3, 2007. Four days later, the Jayhawks beat
Kansas State 97-70 and launched what will culminate on Tuesday,
barring an upset, with a team-record 63 home wins in a row.

Several former players, including many who took part in the
62-game home streak from 1994-98, will be in the crowd.

”It’s a huge deal. We want to win, especially for all of the
players that came before us,” said sophomore forward Thomas
Robinson. ”To tie it is a big thing, but to be the team that broke
it is a big deal for us. We want to be known as the team that broke
the streak. That’s a lot of games to win at home, especially with
the competition that we have every year.”

The Jayhawks have sold out 150 straight games. They have led
their conference in attendance the past 24 years.

”You can ask guys who played here long before I got here, and
they’ll tell you one of the biggest thrills is running out of the
tunnel,” said Self. ”Just entering the court has become a big
deal here. There could be snow, hail, sleet, wind, cold. But almost
every time you run through that tunnel, there’s 16,000-plus to
greet you, saying, in effect, ‘Hey guys, where you been? We missed
you.’

”I don’t think players get that at very many places.”

Seated close to the floor, fans put up a noise that can be
deafening in every sense of the word.

”Sometimes it gets so loud,” former Kansas guard Ryan
Robertson once said, ”you can’t feel your feet hit the
floor.”

Not every win during the streak has been a runaway. There was a
76-72 overtime squeaker against Arizona, a 5-point win over Cornell
and a 66-61 scare against Colorado, to name a few.

”There have been numerous games where we could have easily gone
the other way,” said Self. ”I really think the fieldhouse and the
fans – things that were external from the players – had a lot to do
with giving us the energy to pull those games out.”

Lesser players would never have won 62 in a row in any
building.

Still, it’s a special place.

”I don’t know – there’s just something about it,” said senior
guard Tyrel Reed. ”When we come to the fieldhouse, I don’t feel
like we can be beat. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. I don’t
care if it’s an NBA team, we’d come out here and play hard.”

Senior guard Mario Little recalls the first time he ran through
the tunnel.

”There were all these people screaming, and for me? I didn’t
really get it. But I get it now. It’s just a different feeling to
run out of the tunnel and all the fans are chanting your name and
rooting you on. It’s a different feeling.”