April 7, 2011

K-State, West Virginia to meet Dec. 8 at Intrust Bank Arena

Kansas State announced this morning that its basketball game against West Virginia will be Thursday, Dec. 8 at Wichita's Intrust Bank Arena.

There's a reason Bob Knight never scheduled Indiana while he was at Texas Tech and Tubby Smith hasn't tried to set up a game with Kentucky since he took over at Minnesota.

Most college basketball coaches simply aren't willing to voluntarily play against their old teams. Many also avoid going head-to-head with friends when they have the choice. Games such as those often bring back strange memories and turn buddies into rivals.

Clearly, Frank Martin and Bob Huggins are not like most in their profession.

Kansas State announced Thursday it will play West Virginia on Dec. 8 at Intrust Bank Arena, bringing an official status to a game the coaches and longtime friends have been planning for months.

The game will match student against teacher and give Huggins the chance to go up against the K-State team he coached for a lone season before his top assistant, Martin, was promoted to the top position in 2007 when Huggins left for the Mountaineers.

They’ll meet again in West Virginia — in Charleston, 150 miles from the Mountaineers’ campus in Morgantown — during the 2012-13 season.

K-State fans will have the opportunity — in person — to let Huggins know how they feel about his quick departure from Manhattan, and a friend will hand another friend a loss.

None of that matters to these two.

"You've got two best friends," said K-State assistant coach Brad Underwood. "Frank worked for (Huggins). Most people don't like to play friends. Their attitude is just the opposite. We enjoy playing. At least one of us is going to get a win. It's great for television. It's great for both programs."

The unique scheduling approach means K-State will play its first game in Wichita since 2002 next season. And it will mark the third basketball event for Intrust Bank Arena. Since opening in 2010, the venue has hosted one men’s college basketball game — Tulsa vs. Wichita State last December — and the NCAA women's tournament last month. Kansas and Southern California are also working on a game at Intrust for next season.

The Wichita Wildcat Classic has potential to be the most entertaining of the bunch.

“The game should be a tremendous matchup,” Martin said in a statement. “It gives us the opportunity to bring Bob Huggins, the man who brought us all to K-State, back to the state of Kansas. I think it will be a great experience for K-State and our basketball program.”

K-State associate athletic director Casey Scott said the game will be televised nationally. If all goes well, he hopes the Wildcats can continue playing in Wichita.

"We are excited to take K-State basketball statewide," athletic director John Currie said in a statement. "Playing in Wichita and the beautiful Intrust Bank Arena is a great opportunity for our fans and supporters in south-central and southwestern Kansas to attend a Wildcat game.”

K-State (23-11) and West Virginia (21-12) both reached the NCAA Tournament this season and narrowly missed out on trips to the Sweet 16. A year ago, the Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight and the Mountaineers reached the Final Four.

“Being at Kansas State, it didn't take long for me to figure out what a great basketball state it is with a rabid fan base," Huggins said in a statement. "We are looking forward to playing in an outstanding basketball environment and playing against top competition to help our guys prepare for the Big East."

K-State will also play a neutral-court game against Alabama on Dec. 17 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. Another longtime friend, Anthony Grant, coaches the Crimson Tide.

Martin is looking forward to both games, especially the first against his mentor.

“Bob Huggins is a Hall of Fame coach who prepares his teams as well as anyone in the country," Martin said. "Playing against a team like that will only make our team stronger and better prepared for the rigors of Big 12 competition.”

Related content