April 14, 2008

Martin aims to keep up with Kansas

It's now been a week since the University of Kansas captured a national title in men's basketball. The shirts and hats marking allegiance to the Jayhawks can still be seen everywhere in the state, even in Manhattan, and the vision of smiling KU fans does not sit well with the faithful of Kansas State who wear purple year round.

As hard as a KU national championship is to stomach for many Wildcats, there is good news. K-State has been measured against the best, and it can be argued that the program under Frank Martin is not far behind.

When Martin came with Bob Huggins to K-State two years ago, they did so because of the tradition of the program. Kansas State basketball was dominant for 40 years, but beginning not long after Kansas beat K-State in the Elite Eight of the 1988 NCAA Tournament on its way to a national championship that year, the K-State program began to decay. Even after nearly 20 years of hoops mediocrity, Huggins saw the passion of the K-State fans and the hope for a return to greatness.

"We came here and shared a vision. We came here because it was up to us to elevate Kansas State to a championship level basketball program again," Martin said during the past season. "KU has been the best team in this conference the last four years and we want to be measured against them."

An entire generation of Wildcats is disconnected from this basketball past when the Wildcats and Jayhawks, not to mention the Missouri Tigers, were Top 10 and Top 20 regulars. These programs' battles on the basketball court were national news long before the folks at ESPN began deciding what was news and what were worthy rivalries.

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