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Mondays at The Salute

Mondays at The Salute

Goosebumps were not hard to find 378 days ago. They enveloped my arms and legs, and even creeped to my ear lobes late in the evening. After a night of raucous cheering, screaming at referees, pondering the existence of mythical birds, cringing, Sandstorming, and holding breath in unison, a sellout crowd at Bramlage Coliseum celebrated. The unranked Kansas State Wildcats had toppled the No. 7 Kansas Jayhawks in overtime. Life was good.

As I stood with family in Section 10 of Bramlage, absorbing the sweet sounds of “Wildcat Victory” and sweet sight of forlorn Jayhawks, I thought to myself, if this is the last Sunflower Showdown I see in person, it’s one great way to go out. After all, I was engaged to a Nebraskan, and while we weren’t quite sure which side of the Kans-braska border we would end up on, I was prepared to let my season ticket journey to another Wildcat fan, if absolutely necessary. I’m generous, I guess. One year later, I’m a Nebraskan.

This basketball season has been an adjustment. After attending nearly every home game since 2001, my time in the Octagon of Doom has been limited solely to the match-up against Texas this season. Oh, how things change. Sure, the purple was still there and the crowd was still loud, but on the floor, something was missing, and along with it, the hope and success of years passed. The Wildcats made it close, but as I sat dejectedly wondering why Bruce Weber had drawn up a play to pound the ball inside against the Longhorns’ forest of talented big men on their final possession, I wondered whether the phrase “you can’t go home again” was true. As I had gathered through so many televised games, elements of K-State basketball were still familiar, but I had not come home to the same version of K-State basketball.

I spent a few minutes earlier today watching YouTube highlights of last season’s victory over KU. I’m not sure whether I was trying to convince myself that this Wildcat team has a shot against the Jayhawks tonight, or to remind myself that basketball can actually be fun to watch. Either way, the highlights provided a strong reminder of the effect that Will Spradling, Shane Southwell, and DJ Johnson had on last season’s squad. (And a strong reminder that I’m a dope for thinking the Wildcats would not miss them this season.) The trio combined for 29 points against Kansas and provided three things that the current squad seems to be desperately lacking. Spradling brought a heady game to the point guard position, which has seen far too many boneheaded and/or careless turnovers through 28 games this season. Johnson brought energy (a “motor” if you’re a fan of clichéd sports lingo), while members of the current squad often seem content to let others bother with battling for rebounds. With Southwell came passion and enthusiasm. If there was a highlight to celebrate, Southwell was there, as if the mere notion of not being in the middle of it would make a piece of him die. As Bruce Weber’s recent comments magnified, that passion is something seems to have followed Southwell out the door.[Tweet “Can this Wildcat team “go home,” to find the magic that last season’s squad conjured 378 days ago?”]

For this K-State basketball team (and its fan base) life (as it relates to 94-feet of hardwood bookended by two hoops) is anything but good. Hopes for success this season have come crashing down into a train wreck of disciplinary issues and downright ugly basketball. Can this Wildcat team “go home,” to find the magic that last season’s squad conjured 378 days ago? The odds aren’t encouraging, but certain ingredients will still be there. While I’ll be taking in this game from 107 miles away, I know a packed Bramlage will still feature raucous cheering, screaming at referees, pondering the existence of mythical birds, cringing, Sandstorming, and holding breath in unison. As for the rest (e.g., good basketball and a little luck), well, those things are long overdue for this team.

Go home.

Go State!

About The Author

Hi, I’m Derek Larson. You might remember me from such autobiographical blurbs as “Yo Soy Derek” and “Paste Blurb Here.” I was born and raised in the Manhattan area and I graduated from Kansas State University in 2005. Now I’m now adjusting to life in the land of husking corn. My groom’s cake was a Powercat and I was once convinced that the future of Wildcat basketball was a seven-foot volleyball player. I’ve written about K-State sports in different capacities, often without people asking me to. My hobbies include bringing more purple to Lincoln, Neb., and making vague (and not-so-vague) references to The Simpsons. Follow me on Twitter at @dereklarson.

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