Ready for Hoops?
"It shows all our hard work has put us in position for the national attention," said senior all-American candidate Jacob Pullen on the fact that ESPN has chosen K-State as one of just six schools to take part in its "Midnight Madness" opening night to the college basketball year. "It's a night to have fun, but it's also a recognition to how hard we have worked in this program." The notoriety has come from far and wide as Lindy's Sports has K-State as the preseason No. 4 team in the country, Athlon Sports has the Wildcats No. 5, and The Sporting News picked KSU No. 6. In the preseason Big 12 Conference coach's poll, K-State received 10 out of a possible 11 votes (coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team) and was picked ahead of Kansas to win the 2010-11 league title. "Especially from the coaches, that shows respect. Coming from them, that really means something," said Pullen. "It says we return enough talent that they look at us as the hardest team to play against." But with that ranking, Pullen understands a red bull's-eye is also on their purple and white uniform. "We know every team will have us marked down as the team they most want to beat," said Pullen, who was also named the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year. "That should motivate us to work even harder so we can prove those coaches right." Pullen recognizes that pressure, but as he says, "There is always pressure. Last year we had the pressure to hunt everyone down to become a top ranked team and reach the Elite Eight as we did. Now we have to deal with another kind of pressure that comes with wanting to reach the Final Four." Of his own preseason honors, Pullen said, "It means a lot, but as I tell my teammates, it's all because of them that I'm getting the attention. They are the ones setting the screen and they are the ones making the dunks off my assists. Without guys like Curtis (Kelly), Jamar (Samuels), Wally (Judge), and all of them, I wouldn't be getting this opportunity of a lifetime." Pullen admits that the team has talked about the task at hand, and openly admits to the mission statement of reaching the Final Four. "We understand how tough it will be, but we are also embracing the opportunity and enjoying the moment," said Pullen. "We know how hard we have worked to get to this situation. Even with the new guys who haven't put in the work at this point, they understand the work that has taken place for us to have reached this level. Once you understand how hard you have to work, then you have a chance to become that great team." On hand from ESPN to help with their "Midnight Madness" telecast will be Fran Fraschilla and Mitch Holthus. Highlighting the evening will be a men's and women's skills competition, a video presentation, comments from coaches Frank Martin and Deb Patterson, plus players Pullen and Shalin Spani. Students also have the opportunity to win $10,000 and front row seats to men's basketball games this season. Students with the most school spirit will be selected and then voted on by the crowd. The winner receives front row seats to every men's basketball game this season and take a half-court shot to win $10,000. Students will be selected by arriving early, wearing purple, bringing signs and being loud during the event. The teams open their respective seasons with exhibition games the first week of November. The men's squad will host Newman on Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m., while the women's team will host Fort Hays State two nights later on Thursday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.