Friday, December 19, 2014

‘Madness’ returns for Kansas teams

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 3/14/2014

It’s March, and that means anyone can get hot, John Coen said.

Coen is an alumnus and big fan of Kansas State University basketball. While the Wildcats might not have the best record, this is the most exciting time of year for any basketball fans, Coen said.

It’s March, and that means anyone can get hot, John Coen said.

Coen is an alumnus and big fan of Kansas State University basketball. While the Wildcats might not have the best record, this is the most exciting time of year for any basketball fans, Coen said.

“Of course everybody hopes that you land in the No. 1 slot on the bracket,” Coen, Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce president, said. “With that being said, [K-State has] a young team that is probably going to play better in years to come. I would categorize the Wildcats as a very competitive and scrappy team. I think we will be more competitive going forward than we will this year but, hey, it is March and anyone can get hot. The sky is the limit.”

Coen, who was honored along with his family two years ago at a K-State football game as the university’s family of the year, hopes his ’Cats get the opportunity to play the spoiler in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Selection Sunday is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday on CBS, and K-State isn’t the only team from the Sunflower State jumping to get into the tournament, which includes the top 68 teams in the nation.

The Wichita State University Shockers have been one of the biggest stories in college basketball this year. After being the Cinderella story of last year’s tournament, making the Final Four as a No. 9 seed and narrowly falling to the eventual national champion Louisville squad 72-68, the Shockers surged to an undefeated 34-0 record through this year’s regular season. On top of that, the team cruised to a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title with their 83-69 win over Indiana State last Sunday, and have all but locked up a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. Even as a huge K-State fan, Coen couldn’t help but note Wichita State’s accomplishments.

“I think it will be interesting to see how Wichita State does in the tournament,” Coen said. “Any team that goes undefeated is a great team. It is now their opportunity to show us what they’ve got.”


Shocker fan Cole Reed, Ottawa High School junior, said he was confident his team would have a good year following its Final Four appearance in 2013, but he never expected Wichita State to go undefeated.

“I thought they were going to have a pretty solid season especially since they only lost a few starters from last year,” Reed said. “They have a core group of guys still around from the Final Four team last year. I thought they would have a pretty solid season, but definitely not 34-0.

“I would say they are the best team in Kansas until someone beats them, and then you would have to re-evaluate where they are at,” he said. “They do not slip up.”

One of the big reasons for the Shocker’s success has been the energy on their home court, Charles Koch Arena. Reed said he went to a game earlier this season when the team played Evansville. and everyone inside the dome was cheering on the Shockers.

“It is not just the student section that is always chanting and hollering, it is the entire arena,” he said. “It is a unique atmosphere.”

The Shockers most likely will end up with the highest seed out of the three college teams from Kansas expected to play in the tournament. However, the University of Kansas Jayhawks’ squad, which is expected to make its 43rd tournament appearance in program history this year, have had a year of intrigue themselves. Armed with one of the nation’s most talented freshman classes, KU has had its share of ups and downs throughout the 2013-2014 season. That hasn’t stopped basketball-hungry fans from packing Allen Fieldhouse all year, Bill Allegre, staff pharmacist at Walgreens, 1445 S. Main St., Ottawa, said.

“This year it has been, all year long, they have been coming,” Allegre said. “The place has been jacked every game, and that has been a lot of fun.

“What is exciting about this year is I don’t think I’ve ever seen a KU team with more talent than this team. In terms of just raw talent, this team is just unbelievable.”

Allegre has been a season ticket holder since 1984 and was a KU student before that, he said. He has watched through the struggles of a young team and the triumphs of such star freshmen as Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.

“With a bunch of freshmen like they have, they’ve looked silly and made a lot of stupid mistakes, but they’ve also looked unstoppable at times,” Allegre said. “They’ve surprised both ways, I guess you can say. Both good and bad.”


The Jayhawks locked up the team’s 10th straight Big 12 Conference regular season title this year and, depending on where they end up in the tournament seeding, could potentially play Wichita State, Allegre said.

“In terms of their seeding, I think they’ll end up being a No. 2 seed, which might put them in the Midwest [bracket] with Wichita State,” he said. “So, if they could both win out, that would be kind of fun to see them play in the regional final. Like most Kansas fans, I‘m rooting for Wichita State every game they play, but if they come up against KU, there is no question where my loyalty will be.”

As for K-State, with a 20-12 record and a loss to No. 16 Iowa State in the Big 12 Conference Tournament quarterfinals Thursday, things are looking bleak for a high seed. While Coen hopes the Wildcats can be a tournament spoiler, he also hopes they play with the right attitude heading into the tournament.

“We are wishing that our ’Cats were playing just a little better than they are right now going into the tournament,” he said. “Winning right now kind of builds a winning attitude and momentum, so [the loss against Iowa State] was a tough loss, but that’s why they call it ‘March Madness.’ We’ll still be back next year to watch basketball games if they are one and done or if they go to the Final Four. It is fun to be a basketball fan right now. When I fill out my bracket, I’ll have them in the No. 1 spot.”

Regardless of what happens once the Big Dance tips off Tuesday, one area where Coen and Allegre agreed was the Sunflower State’s solid representation among the field of college hoops competitors.

“I’m not going to make any predictions, but I think all three Kansas teams have the ability to play well in the NCAA tournament,” Coen said.

Allegre likes what he sees out of the three Kansas teams, he said.

“On any given night, Kansas State could be the best team in Kansas,” he said. “There are three really good teams from this state. We’ve seen some of the best basketball in the country right here in the state of Kansas.”

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