With his usual insight and humor, Curtis Kitchen today reminds K-State fans to forget everything but right now. He's exactly right, don't worry about the last 22 years, or the 40 before that. Enjoy what this team is doing, because even if they lose to Xavier on Thursday night, they've already done something special.
Frank Martin and this year's squad have won the hearts of their fanbase and also captured the minds of journalists and analysts who four years ago probably weren't entirely sure K-State fielded a basketball team. In a perverse twist, the national media actually has more love for a basketball program than the program's local media does.
But for us as fans, even if this team were to lose to Xavier tomorrow, or to Syracuse or Butler on Saturday, don't lose sight of what they have accomplished, both this season and in general. Don't forget about the four big wins early in the season that propelled K-State into the national consciousness. Don't forget about the win over then-No. 1 Texas. Remember the atmosphere the night we came oh-so-close to knocking off the regular season's clear-cut champion, KU. Most importantly, remember the team that showed up last weekend in Oklahoma City and handled North Texas and BYU with surprising ease.In a more general sense, don't lose sight of what this program has become. Think back to the late 1990s, or early 2000s, and how stale and boring we thought Bramlage Coliseum was. Remember those KU games, when thousands of opposing fans would get into the building and we had to endure that chant haunting us at the end of yet another blowout. Think back to non-conference games in December, when only a smattering of people would show up. Compare that to now, when even the national media latched on to a nickname for our arena that described the atmosphere inside, if not always the actual results. Think about how ear-splittingly loud it gets in that place. Remember the night the streak ended in 2008, and we showed for the first time that we were moving toward a point where we could compete with the better programs in the country. Consider how astonishing it is that our team has finished in the top four in this conference for four consecutive years, or that we are a two seed in the NCAA Championship this year.
Enjoy this team for everything it is, both its considerable strengths and its occasionally maddening flaws. Love Denis Clemente for his game-changing speed and wonderful ability to enter a zone where he can throw the ball into the hoop from anywhere, but also for the fact that you're likely to scream "No, Denis, NOOOOO!" about half the time he puts up a shot. Enjoy Dominique Sutton's stifling defense and live with his inconsistent offensive game and frustration over bad calls. Marvel at Curtis Kelly's incredible athleticism and smooth jumper and just deal with his incredulous reactions to calls. Get over the fact that Luis Colon and Chris Merriewether are not the most gifted basketball players and love the fact that they love to put on that K-State uniform and give it everything they have when they're in the game. Learn to love the growing pains Wally Judge has endured and salivate over his potential in the next few years. Don't worry about the fact that Jamar Samuels has only tapped about 1/100th of his talent and enjoy the fact that he's still the best first player off the bench in the Big 12.
Finally, for anyone who still worries about this, learn to love Frank Martin for what he is. Yes, he yells (OK, screams). Yes, he swears. Yes, sometimes he looks like a maniac on the sideline. You know what? It works. He's doing something right. No good player would play for him if it didn't work. None of his players would bust their ass for him if he didn't know what he was doing, and nobody can doubt that these players absolutely bust their tails every night they are on the court. He's proven he knows what he's doing, and that if they listen to him, they will win. He's proven that as long as they give him full effort all the time, he has their backs no matter what. He proved that loyalty to his players, and to K-State in general, by signing an extension when he could have held out to see which jobs came open and how much money other schools would offer him.
This coaching staff and these players represent the very best of what we see as the ideals of K-State. We have less money than most. Outsiders don't always like our location. Our calling card is outworking the competition for everything we get. Frank Martin and this team exemplify that, and they're showing that hard work pays off. It already has paid off, even if the run ends on Thursday. It stands to pay even bigger dividends than that, however.
No matter what, as Kitchen said, enjoy it. Go Cats!