For over a decade, Kansas State basketball rarely competed well in the Big 12 Conference. The league was created in 1996 and the Wildcats wouldn’t post a winning conference record until 2007. Furthermore, K-State was in the midst of a 12-year absence from the NCAA tournament.
Following the 2007 season, K-State hired Frank Martin, a former assistant as the new head coach. Martin quickly improved the Wildcats’ standing. His addition of star freshman Michael Beasley had K-State ranked in the preseason Top 25 for the first time since 1972.
Beasley wasn’t alone either. Joined by two other star freshmen, Jacob Pullen and Bill Walker, K-State was young, but ready to compete.
January was a month to remember for the Wildcats. Martin’s team was undefeated in conference play including a win over No. 10 Texas A&M, the team’s first victory over a Top 10 team since 2004. Still, there was a bigger matchup waiting for K-State: The Kansas Jayhawks — the Wildcats’ prized rival.
Unlike K-State, the Kansas Jayhawks has one of the most storied histories in basketball. As a result, K-State owned a 24-year home court losing streak against Kansas.
K-State hosted the Jayhawks on Jan. 30, 2008 and history was going to be made either way. Kansas came in two victories short of matching its program’s best start with a 20-0 record. The 24-game streak in an opponent’s gym was also one win short of tying the NCAA record.
K-State had other plans.
“We’re going to beat Kansas at home, we’re going to beat them in their house. We’re going to beat them in Africa,” Beasley said in the preseason.
The freshman trio of Pullen, Beasley and Walker scored a combined 67 points as the Wildcats defeated their rival 84-75. A sea of purple surged forward as elated Wildcat fans flooded the court. Signs in the crowd were plentiful — some read “Party Like It’s 1983,” “The Streak Ends 2-nite” and “25th time’s a charm.”
The Martin-led Wildcats would go on to win their first tournament game in an upset of No. 6 seed USC Trojans. Kansas would win the national championship.
Presently, after a three-year absence from the NCAA tournament, K-State brought in head coach Jerome Tang, another former assistant. Having to rebuild his roster similarly to Martin, Tang has the Wildcats exceeding expectations once again.
Despite being picked last in the Big 12 preseason poll, the Wildcats opened league play with four straight wins, including a Top 10 win over No. 6 Texas, though a victory over Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum was still lingering.
Tang was able to repeat history as a first year head coach. His Wildcats defeated the then-ranked No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks, the same ranking Kansas had before Martin defeated the rival. K-State fans stormed their court once again, looking ahead to a future that looks as bright as ever in Manhattan.