The Kansas University Jayhawks began their road Wednesday afternoon to defend the 2008 NCAA championship.
Although all five starters from the title squad are gone, that doesn’t mean fans have lowered their expectations.
“Good luck. Hope you win the championship again,” said Branden Patterson, 9, of Lawrence.
Patterson and dozens of his friends with the Children’s Learning Center’s spring break program met the Jayhawk players and coaches at Allen Fieldhouse, as the team boarded a bus headed for Forbes Field in Topeka.
The team opens up NCAA Tournament play at 11:30 a.m. Friday against North Dakota State in Minneapolis.
About 50 fans wished them good luck before they started their travels.
Dexton Nickey, 11, was in the right place at the right time to see his favorite team in-person. Dexton is on spring break from school in Philadelphia, Miss., and he’s in Lawrence visiting family.
“KU is going all the way,” said Dexton, after the team had signed a basketball for him.
Fans — even the youngest ones — said the No. 3 seed team will have a tough road to return to the Final Four.
Still, Wednesday’s sendoff was a thrill for fans.
“They’re taller in person, and I guess I barely get to see them,” said Austin Butell, 11, of Lawrence. “I was here just to root them on, tell them I was going to be watching them.”