Las Vegas Visiting a place known as Sin City and by the slogan “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” the Kansas men’s basketball team figures to get a much different experience than most while in the gambling capital of the world tonight to take on UNLV at 8 p.m. at Thomas and Mack Center.
“Vegas does have a lot of glitz and glamour, they tell me,” KU coach Bill Self said. “But where we are staying, in The Renaissance, I’ve stayed there many times, and that’s very limited there.”
Instead of hitting the strip, trying their luck at blackjack or doing their best (or worst) to recreate scenes from The Hangover, the third-ranked Jayhawks (10-1) will take in the same sights, sounds, faces and places they’re accustomed to seeing on most road trips throughout the season.
“This is a business trip,” Self said. “We’ll stay in (Wednesday night) and go shoot the next morning and then we’ll play the game and they leave immediately after. So this won’t be any different than going to Ames (Iowa) or Manhattan or Stillwater or Norman (Oklahoma). It really won’t, from our guys’ perspective. They’ll see the lights as we drive to the hotel.”
With Big 12 play on deck and a 10-game winning streak in tact, the Jayhawks themselves would have it no other way. Many of them have been to Vegas in the past for one reason or another, so experiencing the local flare is far from the most important thing on their minds right now.
“We’re just looking at it like every other game,” said freshman Josh Jackson. “Of course it’s gonna be a little different playing on the road, but we just approach it the same, try to play the same, try to play hard.”
Jackson, who grew up in Detroit and finished his prep career in Napa, California, said he had made several trips to Vegas and enjoyed each one. His most memorable, however, came during his junior year of high school.
“I think my favorite (memory) was when we won the Fab 48 (AAU Tournament) for the first time,” Jackson recalled. “I had been playing in that tournament since maybe I was in eighth grade and never won it so it felt really good to finally win one.”
Winning this one, in many ways, will feel better to Jackson and his teammates. Not because of the magnitude of what this one victory would mean, but more because of what it would represent.
Having yet to play a true road game this season, in an opponent’s home gym, Jackson and the Jayhawks are bracing for a different experience than any they’ve had so far this season.
“They really haven’t told me much about it,” said Jackson when asked what warnings his KU teammates had given him about life on the road. “But I’ve played in a couple games before where me and my team were the only ones on our side in the entire gym. So I think I’ve got an idea of what to expect a little bit.”
Added Self: “I’m probably as excited about seeing how our team reacts in our first true road game (as anything). We’ve played away from home, but this will be a little bit different.”