He still ranks as the all-time leading scorer (2,951 points from 1985-88) and rebounder (1,187) at Kansas. He's also third in steals (250) and fifth in blocked shots (200).
The amazing thing is that Manning still looks like he could play. "I don't know about that, especially with the athletes playing today," Manning said.
Kansas is athletic. And quick. And versatile. And strong. There's no team in the Southeastern Conference except Florida that could match Kansas' overall athleticism.
That was evident when the Jayhawks dismantled Niagara 107-67 Friday. Five players scored in double figures. The Jayhawks shot 54.1 percent (40-for-74) from the field and 59 percent (13-for-22) from 3-point range. They had 29 assists and seven blocked shots.
"Today was a good day for us," Manning, who led Kansas to the 1988 national title, said. "We shot the ball fairly well. We defended. We shared the ball. We have a few things to tighten up, but we liked what we did. We like to get up and down the court like that if we can."
That could be a big problem for Kentucky, especially after the Wildcats credited being able to control the tempo as a major reason they outlasted Villanova 67-58 Friday.
"They are the No. 1 seed in our bracket, so to slow them down we will probably need to try to control the tempo and control the boards and limit what they like to do," Kentucky center Randolph Morris said.
"They are a fast-paced team, and we will have to combat that. Not many teams are going to beat Kansas by trying to outrun them."
The Cats faced a similar dilemma in the second round last year against Connecticut, the team many experts thought was the most talented in the country. Yet Kentucky never backed down and easily could have won before falling 87-83.
Team chemistry makes UK better this year
This Kentucky team is better than last year's team if for no other reason than team chemistry. That was evident by the effort UK put forth Friday.
And while Kansas was overpowering against Niagara, the Jayhawks certainly are no better than last year's UConn team. That means there's no reason for UK to feel overwhelmed going into the game, even if almost no one gives the Cats a chance to win.
"I have watched Kentucky on TV several times this year. I think they are talented. I think they play hard. I think they are unselfish. They are going to fight. That is a characteristic of all the teams that coach (Tubby) Smith has," Manning said.
"Kentucky is never going to be intimidated by anyone, and shouldn't. It is Kentucky basketball. They are going to come out, lace them up and do everything they can to win the game. That's a given."
Manning knows not to put any stock in Kansas' 73-46 thrashing of Kentucky last year when trying to determine what might happen today.
"I think we were catching them at a time last year where Morris was not playing (because of a NCAA suspension). Our building is a pretty tough building to play in, too," Manning said.
"It will be much different this time. Their team is not the same as last year. We aren't, either. Once we step on the court, anybody can win. If you have watched Kentucky play, you should understand that."
Manning rattled off the success Smith's teams have had in NCAA Tournament play at Tulsa, Georgia and Kentucky.
"All the places he has been, the teams have always gotten better. The program has always prospered. He moves individuals' games to another level," Manning said.
Admires the way Smith handles criticism
Perhaps because Manning always was in the spotlight because of his immense skills - and often was criticized for not doing enough - he admires the way Smith handles the criticism he receives for not winning enough at UK even though he has averaged 26 wins per year for 10 seasons.
"To be able to go to Kentucky and stay as long as he has in that pressure and be as successful as he has been, that's a testament to what type coach he is," Manning said. "I think he is a role model. I think he understands the younger generation will be looking at him to see what you have to do to succeed at the next level.
"I don't think criticism of him is fair, but it also comes with the territory. I am pretty sure coach Smith has thick enough skin that he can handle it.
"He knows what he is capable of doing and what he wants to do with his team. I am sure he is molding those players into fine young men as well as good basketball players."
And what about today's game? "You have two of the most storied programs in the history of college basketball going at it to advance to the next round. It should be fun," Manning said.
"We feel if we step on the court and play the way we are capable of playing, we should be competitive with anyone in the country. That's what we expect, but it is also what Kentucky expects. That's why this will be fun."