The March Madness Experience – KJHK Sports Staff Edition

KJHK SPORTS STAFF | Kyle Mathas, Gabe Daniel, Riley Fitzpatrick, Daniel Litke, Gus Baylow, Nathaniel Duncan, and Landyn Welch

As KU’s National Championship win is now two weeks in the rearview mirror, it is an exciting time to elaborate on the experiences that KJHK and our university allowed for us to embark on. Below we have broken down our individual experiences with the games we called and our overall experiences within the weekend. 

Round of 64 – Kyle Mathas (Junior from Chicago, Illinois)

I was able to broadcast the Kansas vs Texas Southern game in the round of 64 in Fort Worth. Kansas was able to win by a score of 83-56 led by Remy Martin’s 15 points and Christian Braun’s 14 points. Throughout the game, Kansas led from start to finish and had the biggest halftime lead in March Madness history with a 28 point lead. This was the start of an epic March Madness run for the Jayhawks and this game gave Kansas the momentum heading into a tough second round game against Creighton. 

It was an honor to call the game alongside Landyn Welch inside of Dickies Arena as the atmosphere finally felt back to normal after two years of limited attendance and canceled tournaments in March Madness. I was able to meet Brian Anderson, play-by-play commentator for TNT and March Madness on CBS, as well as Gary Bedore, writer for the Kansas City Star. I appreciate KJHK for giving me the opportunity to call this year’s first round March Madness game. 

Pictured left to right: Gabe Daniel, Landyn Welch, Kyle Mathas — Our First day in Fort Worth

Round of 32 – Gabe Daniel (Sophomore from Wichita, Kansas)

Following their dominant performance against Texas Southern, the Jayhawks had triumphed over the Creighton Bluejays to pave their way to the Sweet 16, winning 79-72. The game remained close consisted of a lot of back-and-forths, with Creighton shooting exceptionally well from three-point range, at .429%. 

Just like the round of 64, things started slow for Kansas, but strong performances from Remy Martin and Jalen Wilson helped the Jayhawks capture the win in the end, sending them to the next round. Martin had 20 points with seven rebounds and four assists, and then Jalen Wilson contributed 14 points with 14 rebounds. 

From a personal perspective, the weekend was one that will never be forgotten. Getting to cover a piece of the historic season for Kansas is something I will forever be grateful for. The media credentials allowed us to view the other games, which some needed overtime. The most notable game we were able to see was North Carolina upsetting Baylor in the round of 32.  

Postgame Press Conference after Kansas defeated Creighton 79-72 in the Round of 32

Sweet Sixteen – Daniel Litke (Junior from Lakewood, Colorado)

Going to Chicago for the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight was a truly incredible experience. I had never been to the Windy City, and it certainly lived up to its name with the chilly weather. Although it was a cold weekend, it didn’t cool down the Jayhawk’s hot streak as they won their two games that weekend easily. Getting to the arena on Day 1 was a special experience as we got the VIP treatment in a nice shuttle and got to go courtside and look around the arena. We then got to visit the media area and watch the players and coaches be interviewed by the media. I even asked a few questions to the Providence players. 

For the game, we got to call it in the Chicago Blackhawks radio booth. We got moved to it about fifteen minutes before the game but we settled down and had a fun call. We got to watch KU bounce back in the second half and beat the Friars handily. We had no clue the amount of success this team would have but it was special watching the team move on to the Final Four.

KJHK Sports Staffers Daniel Litke and Landyn Welch on the Media Shuttle headed to the Elite Eight

Elite Eight – Riley Fitzpatrick (Junior from Des Moines, Iowa)

I was fortunate enough to call Kansas’ elite eight matchup against the University of Miami Hurricanes at the United Center in Chicago. Before the game, we had the opportunity to meet Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller and take some pictures with them on the court. It was a very entertaining matchup that ended up being a tale of two halves. 

In the first half, Miami was able to control the tempo and force KU to play at a much slower pace. The Hurricanes were also able to hold Kansas to just 29 points and held a six-point lead at the half. When the second half started Kansas came out like they had been shoot out of a canon and completely dominated the second half. The Jayhawk’s offense went on to score 47 points in the second half while holding Miami to just 15. This allowed Kansas to cruise to an easy 76-50 victory and advance to the Final Four. 

After the game, we got to go onto the floor while Kansas was cutting down the nets and watch the team celebrate. Overall I had a sensational time in Chicago, and I am grateful for having received this opportunity and the memories that will stay with me forever. 

Blessed with the opportunity to meet NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller

Final Four – Gus Baylow (Sophomore from Marblehead, Massachusetts)

The National Semifinal between KU and two-seeded Villanova was controlled by the Jayhawks the entire way. With the Wildcats having no answer for David McCormack, who finished the game with 25 points, the Jayhawks filled up the basket with threes, shooting 13-24 (53.7%) from beyond the arc. 

After taking an early 10-0 run to start the game, Kansas never took their foot off the gas despite Villanova cutting the lead to as small as six in the second half. The Jayhawks built off their momentum from earlier in the game and therefore punched their ticket to the National Title game on Monday night. 

Getting to call the second half was as good as advertised. With the teams trading baskets throughout, the game never felt over until the final moments when McCormack slammed one more home to put it away. 

The whole weekend was surreal. From the moment we left Lawrence to the moment we came back, it was truly the best experience any college broadcaster could ask for. Whether it was the people I met, to the food we tried, and to the memories we made, it was the best experience I’ve ever had. 

Pictured left to right: Gus Baylow, Landyn Welch, Nathaniel Duncan — After the Championship Win

National Championship – Nathaniel Duncan (Senior from St. Louis, Missouri)

My experience in New Orleans this year was probably my greatest memory that I have made while at KU. This is the kind of stuff you dream about when you enter sports journalism and to have this be the last event I covered over my 4 years here. The experiences that I shared with Gus and Landyn made the trip even more special for me. 

Whether it was laughing the whole car ride down, going to the finest establishment Vicksburg had to offer in Waffle House at 10 at night, visiting one of my dream schools Tulane (twice), or calling the Final Four games from 2 rows back, every memory that I made down there was with my friends. I am so incredibly lucky that I was able to get this experience just 8 months into my play-by-play career, and it closed on a storybook ending, which is one that I will certainly remember the rest of my life. 

March Madness Tournament – Landyn Welch (Junior from Sioux Falls, South Dakota)

This past summer I got the honor of becoming Sports Director at KJHK 90.7 FM. I have been involved with Sports Staff since the second day of school my freshman year and have loved my time throughout. Getting this position not only provided me with great excitement, but it was also something I also had a goal of obtaining since the day I walked into the station. To say this year was anything short of a success for both the Sports Staff and KU athletics would be a major understatement.

This year allowed for us to grow the department at a great rate with some new talent joining the staff this year to go along with eight returnees. This staff not only grew in their broadcasting skills, but we really grew together as a unit that wanted the best for one another. We went from 2/3 of the group being new to having a group that has fostered friendship outside of the station. 

Moving over to my experience with March Madness, it’s hard to pick out the right words to describe what these three weekends meant to me. Between getting to travel to three different fun cities to being part of the tournament media, I am so honored to have experienced these games. These games not only allowed for us to see the behind-the-scenes media rooms and game press conferences, but also allowed for the opportunity for us to get up close and personal with what it takes to succeed in an industry like this. 

I want to thank Bobbi and Mike for their help throughout this process as well as Janet and the KU Union for helping with the financials behind this trip. I also want to thank Kyle, Gabe, Daniel, Riley, Gus, and Nathaniel for experiencing these weekends with me along with Shane Price and Nishant Brahme for all their work on board in the station throughout the tournament. Watching this year’s team evolve throughout the season en route to a national championship win was the icing on the cake to a historic run. This was an unforgettable experience and one that I will cherish for a lifetime.