With the Sprint Center (1407 Grand, 816-949-7050) scrambling to woo an anchor tenant, the debut of University of Kansas basketball in the big glass bowl invites a fleeting breath of optimism. The annual Jayhawks game at Kemper Arena was nifty for Kansas City's KU faithful, but the event always had the vibe of a misplaced street-ball game — as if the rodeo and the circus were lurking in the wings, ready to reclaim their territory as soon as the ballers left the building. One thing that hasn't changed, unfortunately, is KU's inability to schedule a marquee matchup in KC — the middling Ohio Bobcats arouse about as much excitement as the Toledo squad that duly capitulated to the Jayhawks last December. But no game should be taken for granted in the early going, as illustrated by last year's shellacking at the hands of lowly Oral Roberts University. Fortunately, KU looks more confident this year, bolstered by hard-fought victories against Arizona and Southern California and the spunky return of Brandon Rush, who's still recovering from knee surgery. Still in question is who will emerge as the team's go-to playmaker; Rush, Mario Chalmers, Darrell Arthur and Sherron Collins (injured for now) are all worthy candidates. Tickets to see the Jayhawks play the Bobcats cost $45 for the 4 p.m. game, which should wrap up in time for ambitious college basketball hoopsters to scoot over to Municipal Auditorium (301 West 13th Street, 816-513-5000) to watch the University of Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos take on the Wichita State Shockers. Tickets start at $10 for the 7 p.m. battle, which pits the 'Roos against a squad that's seeking to re-establish itself in the wake of head coach Mark Turgeon's departure for Texas A&M. Four early road losses have been tough to swallow for new UMKC coach Matt Brown, who faces an uphill fight to lead the school to its first NCAA tournament.
Sat., Dec. 15, 4 p.m., 2007