OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The madness of March spreads into unfamiliar territory — Kansas State Wildcat country.
One more victory will send K-State (26-9) to the 2023 Final Four in Houston, a place the Wildcats haven’t been in nearly six decades. Those games are scheduled for next Saturday.
Every well-dressed Cat-Backer wants an Elite Eight t-shirt. Rally House stores, including the one near Oak Park Mall, are stocked with purple K-State Elite Eight shirts. The new designs arrived on Friday morning. Sweet 16 shirts are still available too. They’ve been around since last weekend.
K-State’s Thursday night thriller against Michigan State sends the Cats back to the NCAA Regional Finals. Jerome Tang’s Wildcats defeated the Spartans 98-93 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Add one more victory, and the Cats will make the Final Four for the first since in 58 years.
“We’ve seen K-U get there too much. Now, it’s K-State’s turn, hopefully,” Thomas Noll, the store’s resident K-State fanatic, said.
Noll is one of several Wildcat fans who commented that basketball success feels different from Kansas State’s winning ways on the football field. In the 2022 season, K-State notched double digits in wins (10-4) and finished in the top 15 in the Associated Press polls before losing to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on December 31.
“Just having a team to cheer for in March Madness. I always watch March Madness, but to have a team to cheer for in the late rounds is really fun,” Noll commented.
In perspective: the last time the Wildcats made it to the Final Four, LBJ was in the White House and the Beatles were a new band to Americans. K-Stare fans we spoke with face a tricky choice — if you’re only going to buy one shirt, is it Sweet 16, Elite Eight, or hold out for one more win?
“I appreciate everything Coach Tang and Markquis Nowell and Ish Massoud have done for our program. That’s what I appreciate,” Ryan Montgomery, a Kansas State graduate, said.
“Obviously, I would love to see a Final Four and a Final, but the Elite Eight is even sweeter than what the Sweet 16 was,” Jeremy Flowers, another K-State fan, said.
There’s room on store shelves for Final Four shirts too. Rally House expects to have those by Sunday, provided K-State keeps playing great.
Kansas State will meet Florida Atlantic (34-3) in the NCAA East Regional Finals Saturday at 5:09 p.m. CT. The Owls advanced after beating Tennessee on Thursday night.