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On The Road: Maui Invitational

I try to attend one KU basketball road game a year. This one turned out to be particularly fantastic.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

If I didn't take the opportunity to wear a Hawaiian shirt under a Jeff Boschee jersey when that opportunity presented itself, I wouldn't have respected myself in the morning.

My wife and I took a de facto honeymoon to Maui last week and attended the Kansas/UCLA game, won 92-73 by the Jayhawks.  Here are some random thoughts, because I can't organize anything into anything close to a coherently paragraphed structure after a rough commute back to Kansas (time zones suck when they're not in your favor).

-  We heard the details on Brannen Greene's suspension while we were en route to Maui.  Indulge me a side story, that eventually will relate back to him.  Years ago, a couple of my buddies had a girl roommate, "Beth", who was struggling to find her own place, so they let her crash at their place for free.  There was just one stipulation: In exchange for no rent and no chipping in on the utilities or groceries or anything, she had to keep the place tidy, do the dishes, vacuum from time to time, etc.  She held up her end of the bargain for a couple weeks, but soon abandoned any semblance of cleaning at all, and was basically just living there for nothing.  My buddies, rather than deal with this breach in contract in a mature fashion, chose to deal with it like most dudes in their mid-20's would: by getting hammered at the bar, stumbling into the apartment, and passive-aggressively yelling things like "DO THE DISHES, BETH!" while she listened to music in her room with the door closed.  Eventually, this "catchphrase" spread to any situation where a person has one and only one job to do in order to keep themselves from being totally worthless, which is why any time Conner Teahan would miss an open 3-pointer, all of us would race each other to yell "DO THE DISHES, CONNER!"  It brought everyone great joy, even those of us like myself that were only tangentially related to the original story.

My point:  I'm not quite ready to yell "Do the dishes!" at Brannen quite yet.  But after this (admittedly harsh) six-game suspension, on top of everything else so far in his KU career....I'm definitely getting there.

-  Part of the allure of going to the Maui Invitational was that my wife and I had been watching this tourney since we respectively started watching college basketball as little kids, and I had always been fascinated by major college programs playing in a 2,400 person gym on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  I figured the gym would end up feeling bigger in person....but it actually seemed much, much smaller.  It didn't even feel like a high school gym or anything, more like the community center in downtown Lawrence that we play our city league games in.  There weren't even any concession stands-- you had to go back outside to buy a pop or Gatorade and bring it back in.  Just an awesomely weird atmosphere to watch Kansas basketball.

-  Lending to the weird vibe in the gym was the soundtrack:  AC/DC, Reel Big Fish, Fleetwood Mac, Drake, Fetty Wap...basically, if you're anywhere between 8 and 170 years old, you're gonna be nodding your head to the music at some point.

-  I know that by now, everyone has Perry Ellis Is Old Jokes-- Yo, Perry Ellis so old, his first pet was a dinosaur, son!!-- But it's basically to the point now where he looks noticeably older every time I see him.   I think time moves faster for him than anyone else, due to some weird gravitational time dilation or something.  Like in Interstellar, when McConaughey and his crew go to that planet for a couple hours, return to the ship, and every other human has aged 25 years or whatever.

-  Fun fact:  I am a master at catching t-shirts at sporting events.  Last year at Allen Fieldhouse, I had a four-game streak of catching one of the shirts that parachuted down from the rafters, and I caught another one in Maui.  It's a black Geico shirt with a florescent gecko head on it, so like the other ones (all of which are Salty Iguana shirts in various sizes, none above a size medium) it will probably never see the light of day...but I'm still absolutely going to repeatedly brag to all my friends (and now all of you on the internet) about snagging another one.

-  Although Coach Self seemed pretty OK with #freethethree during this tournament, he still sure does hate when we jack them up early in the shot clock.  After Wayne Selden rushed one and missed it-- his only three-point miss of the game-- Self yelled at him for about four possessions afterwards.  On that note, it was interesting to listen to how he chewed out different players.  It was clear that some players get the benefit of the doubt.  Some players get the butt-chewing, and some, Perry and Frank in particular, get the parental "I'm not even mad at you, just disappointed" looks and headshakes.  I don't think Perry got anything worse than a "Perry!  PERRY!....C'mon."

-  At one point, when Selden was pulled from the game, he gave out some high fives to the end of the bench, then did some little wave to Clay Young before sitting down.  It looked like something scripted, some little 'thing' that they do, and Young was beaming and grinning for about 30 seconds afterward, clearly pleased that he had his moment with the star.  I found this hilarious, then realized that I, as a distant third party, was quite pleased with myself that I witnessed the interaction.  So maybe I shouldn't be judging a walk-on too much.

-  I'm always a pretty vocal fan at games, but I'm also very rarely seated close enough to the court for my input to make a difference.  So I was taken aback when a play occurred right in front of us where I thought Frank got hacked, the ball went out of bounds, and the ref looked right at me and winked after I yelled "NO CONTACT ON THAT ONE?!?!"  I gotta say, it was nice to be rewarded as a fan.  It was also nice to get that one good ESPN moment that everyone hopes for when they attend a game.  #freethethreegoggles:

-  Sorry to go all Jason King on you for a second, but here's a list of the best food/drinks I had while in Maui:

5)  Kalua Pork at the Royal Lahaina Luau buffet:  "I'll take six Schlitz-es."  "No Schlitz."  "OK, I'll have some more pork.  Whatever's free.  Open bar, dude!"

4)  Big Wave Golden Ale at the Westin hotel bar:  I was all set to just order a Big Wave, but props to the Hawaii transplant sitting next to us (a Missouri graduate booooo!) who told me that if you ask, the bartender will give you a huge sample of every beer on tap before you make your decision.  So I chugged the equivalent of two free beers before settling on the aforementioned Big Wave-- which was tremendous, and my beer of choice the rest the trip.  So thanks, guy, now I can say I've interacted positively with a Mizzou grad.

3)  Lava Flow at Leilani's:  Normally I'm a beer guy, but when in Rome, always order the giant Pina Colada with a generous smattering of strawberry, like the Romans do.

2)  The Loco Moco at Aloha Mixed Plate:  A little hole-in-the-wall on the beach near downtown Lahaina, this place came highly recommended from friends, and easily lived up to the hype.  Hamburger patties, a fried egg and brown gravy over a bed of rice...and obviously I mixed in the macaroni salad as well, because one of the tried-and-true rules I live by is that five mish-mashed ingredients are always better than four.

1)  Fish Tacos at Leilani's:  Normally, while on vacation, I like to eat at as many different places as possible, but these fish tacos...I had them for lunch one day, dinner the next, and my only regret is that we chose to eat at the Hula Grill next door for one meal, instead of a third helping of Leilani's tacos.

-  All in all, it was a pretty incredible trip, and in my list of favorite KU games I've ever attended, this one goes to the top-- besides the last Mizzou game in 2012, which is a list unto itself.  Next time Kansas goes to Maui, I'm planning to be there for all three games.  To all of you who haven't been, I couldn't give it any higher of a recommendation.  You won't regret it.