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Jayhawks in New Orleans: Lots of fans in town; atmosphere is ‘wonderful’

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As the KU men’s basketball team prepares to compete in Monday night’s national championship game against UNC, many Jayhawks have flocked to New Orleans to show their support.

At home, fans stormed Mass Street and hosted watch parties to cheer on KU in the team’s national championship run. The support in New Orleans is strong, too, two Jayhawks in town say.

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Amie Just, a KU alum and sports reporter living in New Orleans, and Brian McClendon, a Lawrence native and lifelong Jayhawk fan, offered their perspectives on the Jayhawk experience in New Orleans.

“I went to brunch with some friends in the French Quarter on Saturday morning and the streets were flooded with Kansas fans. I remember commenting on just how many Kansas folks there were around,” Just said in an email. “That morning, we didn’t see many other fans from the other teams, but I joked that Villanova, Duke and North Carolina fans just aren’t morning people.”

Brian McClendon / Contributed Photo Brian McClendon outside the Superdome

McClendon called the atmosphere “wonderful.”

“It rained Friday morning, but (by) game time was clearing up, and (Sunday) it was perfect weather for walking about the French Quarter,” McClendon said in an email. “Many KU shirts were in evidence and, amazingly, there were already KU/UNC T-shirts for sale.”

McClendon showed his support for the team on Twitter before he watched the Jayhawks take down Villanova in Saturday’s Final Four game. He said the atmosphere at the Superdome was “not as intense” as Allen Fieldhouse due to its size, but that “the size provides its own energy.”

An analysis from Vivid Seats’ Fan Forecast projected fan makeup at the Final Four games to be 37% Duke, 22% UNC, 22% KU, and 17% Villanova. McClendon said that “seemed about right.” 

“It was interesting sitting amongst Villanova, UNC, and Duke fans through the two games,” McClendon said. “UNC and KU fans showed the most support for each other.”

Of course, that support will turn to rivalry Monday night as the teams face off for the title.

Just never had the opportunity to cover a basketball Final Four while in college. But now, five years after her graduation, she finally gets to report on the team.

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“Of course, I have to stay impartial in my reporting, but it’s not lost on me how surreal this is,” Just said in an email. “Covering my alma mater in a Final Four in the city where I live? That’s pretty cool.”

McClendon is excited to cheer on the Jayhawks in the national championship, and he’s optimistic about KU’s chances.

“This team has worked so hard and has grown up under Coach Self’s guidance and to see them peak at just the right time is the thing we KU fans always dream about. This is the year, this is the team.”

As a reporter who has been covering both teams throughout the tournament, Just also offered her thoughts on the matchup.

“I think this Kansas team has a shot. They’re a veteran team with plenty of experience, but even more importantly, they’ve played very well in their run to the title game. North Carolina will give them fits — Hubert Davis is a fantastic coach — but it wouldn’t surprise me if Kansas cuts down the nets.” 

Tipoff is at 8:20 p.m. Monday.

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Emma Bascom (she/her), reporter, can be reached at ebascom (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here.

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