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St. Louis notes: Fans from KU, WSU mostly root for their in-state brothers

  • Eagle staff
  • Published Sunday, March 23, 2014, at 8:44 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, April 18, 2014, at 11:39 a.m.

ST. LOUIS – Fans from Kansas schools should cheer for each other at times like these.

Shouldn’t they?

During Kansas’ loss to Stanford on Saturday, many of the Wichita State fans already in their seats in Scotttrade Center waiting for their game were on their feet, cheering on the Jayhawks.

But when pressed about it after KU’s 60-57 loss, they were non-committal. Most would not go so far as to admit they were cheering for KU.

They were, however, showing support for the Wichita guys on KU’s team — sophomore Perry Ellis and freshman Conner Frankamp.

“Frankamp definitely made a name for himself today,” said Jason Ream, a WSU student at the game.

KU fans returned the lukewarm love during WSU’s game. Most filed out after KU’s loss. Those who did remain showed little emotion.

Though a few cheered, and some some stood along with WSU fans, they mostly appeared as neutral as Switzerland.

Bad boys – When Andrew Harrison and Ron Baker shook hands following Sunday’s game, they had some kind words for each other.

“He said, ‘You’re a bad, bad boy,’ ” Baker said. “And I told him the same. He’s a great player and I wish him the best.”

Kentucky and Wichita State players shared their respect up and down the handshake line.

“They were saying pretty positive things,” Cleanthony Early said. “They said, ‘Keep your head up. You’re a bad boy.’ It was one of those things where it feels pretty good, but at the same time it doesn’t because we lost.”

Evaluating Early — Miami Heat president Pat Riley was at the Scottrade Center on Sunday, and Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early, a 6-foot-8 senior popping up on mock drafts as a second/late-first round pick, put on a show.

Early hit 12 of 17 shots, including 4 of 6 three-pointers, on his way to 31 points and seven rebounds. He also had arguably the best dunk of the NCAA Tournament so far, a one-handed slam on Kentucky seven-footer and Olathe native Willie Cauley-Stein in the first half.

“The work isn’t going to stop,” Early said. “Just because the season’s over doesn’t mean I’m going to stop working on my game, on getting better. I’ll get right back after it.”

Forbes’ protege — The Shockers’ loss denied WSU asssistant coach Steve Forbes a matchup with probably his most talented protege from his time in the junior-college ranks — Louisville guard Chris Jones.

Jones, a 5-foot-10 junior, went to play for the Cardinals after helping lead Forbes’ Northwest Florida State teams to back-to-back NJCAA runner-up finishes and being named an NJCAA Division I All-American twice and the NJCAA player of the year in 2013.

Jones, who signed with Tennessee out of high school, averages 10.4 points for Louisville, the defending national champion.

Hello again, rival – Kentucky will play Lousiville in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Indianapolis.

“We’re going to try it like just an NCAA Tournament game, not a rivalry game,” Wildcat senior Jarrod Polson said. “Of course, that’ll be hard to do with everyone and their mother talking about it.”

Kentucky defeated Louisville earlier this season, beating the Cardinals 73-66 on Dec. 28 in Lexington. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 31-15.

The Midwest and Vegas – The Missouri Valley Conference’s contract with Scottrade Center ends in 2015 and the conference is open to a looking for a new home for its men’s basketball tournament.

St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, Indianapolis and Las Vegas received requests for proposals from the MVC, which wants to award the 2016-20 tournaments in June. The MVC is also looking for a title sponsor and a city-sponsor package may be attractive. The MVC lost State Farm as a title sponsor in 2012. Also under discussion is returning the women’s tournament to campus sites.

“We are aggressively pursuing title sponsor candidates,” MVC commissioner Doug Elgin said. “We have some markets that are very aggressively pursuing securing one or more events from us.”

Wichita State senior associate athletic director Darron Boatright said the Valley is right to check out options. Next season will be the conference’s 25th tournament in St. Louis. Scottrade Center, built in 1994, is primarily used as a hockey arena and is showing its age in the seating bowl, concourses and service areas.

“I think we would agree this facility is looking a little tired,” he said. “St. Louis has been a fantastic host. It’s obvious St. Louis was the best (site) for a long time, and maybe it still is. I’d like to see this facility get updated in some areas.”

Earlier this month, Elgin said Kansas City is an attractive option. The Sprint Center opened in 2007, and the nearby Power & Light District offer comforts not found in St. Louis. Moving the tournament 248 miles closer to WSU’s fans possesses an obvious attraction. The Sprint Center is also closer to Northern Iowa (46 miles closer), Missouri State (49 miles) and Drake (194).

“It would be something very favorable to our fan base,” Boatright said. “For the other Valley schools, it wouldn’t be a ton different than coming to St. Louis, some of them, when you look at the whole league in totality.”

Las Vegas is not as attractive. The Shockers don’t play regular-season tournaments there, unlike many schools. Boatright said WSU coach Gregg Marshall isn’t a fan of the Vegas atmosphere.

“We generally take measures to stay out of Vegas to schedule games,” Boatright said. “You shouldn’t educate your guys on staying away from gambling and then take them to Vegas. I don’t think that’s consistent.”

Elgin said the athletic directors suggested including Las Vegas in the process. The Mountain West, West Coast and Pacific-12 conferences hold tournaments there.

“We do know that there is certainly a lot of interest from Vegas,” he said. “It certainly is an interesting consideration.”

Contributing: Tony Adame, Rustin Dodd, Jeffrey Lutz, Denise Neil, Rick Plumlee and Paul Suellentrop of The Eagle.

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