The Kansas State men’s basketball team lost its last game of the season this year to No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago in the Elite Eight in Atlanta on Saturday night.
Believe it or not, there was a time when a regional final appearance was not a rarity for the Wildcats. For about 30 years between the ’50s and the ’80s, K-State basketball was a force on the national level.
Then something happened. K-State lost to Kansas in the 1988 Elite Eight. In 1989 and 1990, the Wildcats lost in the first round to Minnesota and Xavier respectively. Then head coach Lon Kruger left for Florida.
K-State hired former Kruger assistant Dana Altman and success was a little harder to find than it was under Kruger.
Then K-State hired Tom Asbury, and then Jim Woolridge as the program went into a nosedive. Between the two, the Wildcats had just one NCAA Tournament appearance between 1994 and 2006. They posted a sub-.500 overall record for that stretch, too.
Somewhere along that line, the Wildcat faithful was shaken. Whether it was the relatively shocking departure of two promising coaches, or 12 years of futility, expectations dwindled toward complete apathy.
Those expectations never really came back, at least not in any meaningful way.
Sure, there have been brief pockets of hope in Manhattan since then. Bob Huggins showed promise, and his assistant Frank Martin led K-State to an Elite Eight appearance in 2010.
Then Martin left for South Carolina, and K-State hired Bruce Weber from Illinois. Weber won a Big 12 Championship in Weber’s first season.
But, expectations never really caught up, and when Weber’s teams started to slip people just stopped caring, or rather kept not caring.
A very vocal portion of the fan base became rabidly anti-Weber when he missed the tournament and his teams started losing. The negativity was ramped up when Marcus Foster and two others departed the team.
For the most part, though, the apathy that had set in under Woolridge and Asbury just remained. Anyways, the football team was winning and that is what is important, right?
K-State recovered quickly though and now, K-State basketball is back. Fans should be acting like it is.
This Elite Eight squad returns every player who provided meaningful minutes this down the stretch this season.
This team outplayed their seeding by three games, four if you do not consider the eight-seed vs nine-seed game basically a coin flip.
The expectations for Weber’s squad should be high for next season. Maybe not Elite Eight high, but still much higher than past season.
The expectations for Weber himself should be high, too. His team has delivered this year, and his hot-seat should be cooled, but K-State fans should always expect improvement from the team.
In fact, the expectations every season should be high, because there is no reason that this K-State family could not support a winning football and winning basketball team.
K-State students and fans should show out next year. They should be loud and fill Bramlage Coliseum to its rafters, because this team has earned the love and it should be a fun ride next year.
If the past is any indication, winning basketball in Manhattan is possible, so why should K-State fans expect anything less?
It is not greedy to want more.
Nathan Enserro is the assistant sports editor for the Collegian and a sophomore in public relations. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.