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Wichita's NCAA Tournament star Rob Gray has the country buzzing for the man bun

Rob Gray taunts Wichita State fans
Rob Gray taunts Wichita State fans

Austin Evans, a recent graduate of Wichita State University, was standing on the sidewalk outside the Intrust Bank Arena with his buddies when a man walked up to him and asked if he was University of Houston star Rob Gray.

When Evans told the man he wasn't, the man replied, "If you were, I was going to tell you had a great game."

Chalk it up to Man Bun mania.

Gray rocks a distinctive man-bun hairstyle on the basketball court. Evans has a similar hairstyle.

Gray has become a cult hero and probably the most recognizable figure to emerge nationally from Wichita's first NCAA Tournament weekend in 24 years. His hairstyle's been featured by national media from USA Today to the Today Show.

And this week, Wichitans who wouldn't have known Rob Gray from Earl Gray would instantly recognize who you were talking about if you mentioned "the man bun guy," or simply, "Man Bun."

It's been a tumultuous couple of weeks between Gray and the Shocker Nation.

On March 10, he became an instant rival of Wichita fans with his celebratory gestures as he hung 33 points on Wichita State and knocked the Shockers out of their first AAC tournament. He taunted the Shocker fans in Orlando.

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In a tournament press conference this week, Gray tried to make amends. He said his family had told him there were a lot of Wichitans rooting for Houston.

"They’re supportive because they are our American Athletic Conference brothers,” Gray said. “We’re really thankful for being sent to Wichita."

At Thursday night's tournament session, the crowd was speckled with Houston fans who had pulled their hair up in buns in solidarity with their star guard. Others affixed yarn pom-poms on their Houston snapback caps.

Gray responded by scoring 39 points, including an electrifying three-pointer and the game-winning layup, as Houston outlasted San Diego State 67-65.

Meanwhile, Evans wants you to know he's been tying back his hair for a year and a half, back when Wichita State was still a Missouri Valley Conference team and almost nobody north of the Red River had heard of Rob Gray or his man bun.

"I guess maybe he took my style and I'm not getting any of the credit," Evans said. "That's what happens you've got a unique hairstyle and put up 40 points."

Contributing: Denise Neil and Suzanne Perez-Tobias