Bennet Hayes is an RTC contributor. He can be found on Twitter @hoopstraveler.
For four of the past five years, I have taken a month out of my winter to literally chase college basketball. I have followed it to places large (Lexington, Kentucky, and Lawrence, Kansas), and small (Charleston, Illinois, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri), and along the way I have developed a few favorites. I can tell you that the only thing that surpasses the fervor of college basketball fans in Murray, Kentucky, is their hospitality. I have seen 6th Street in Austin provide as much (and sometimes more) life as the Erwin Center, and I now fully understand why Big Ten teams so rarely leave the Kohl Center victorious. But among all the memorable games and cherished college basketball experiences, one stop has always stood out – Wichita, Kansas.
It was my first trip back in 2009, and I had no idea what I was getting into – in more ways than one. Travel fatigue was quickly accumulating (despite it only being week one), and the dark drive from Omaha (where I had watched Drake beat Creighton) on Saturday night was a long one. Wichita was to be but a Sunday stop-over before Bedlam in Stillwater the next day; the fact that the Shockers had a game that day was merely a superfluous reality for this naive traveler. Calling my expectations low would be false. My mind was already on Stillwater, and I had no expectations for Wichita.