The bus ride to Springfield is not a road trip the Wichita State women's basketball team looks forward to making. Entering JQH Arena to play Missouri State in front of 4,000 fans isn't an easy task, either.
Jody Adams thinks Koch Arena can replicate that atmosphere. The WSU coach, entering her fourth season at the helm, wants Wichita to become a road trip other teams detest making.
Wichita State opens its season today at 2:05 p.m. when it plays host to Northwestern State, which is led by McPherson product Jordi James.
"I know our players, they love that excitement from the crowd," Adams said. "When you have 4,000 in the stands, it can make it a tough place to play. I know for sure because I've coached against it when we play Missouri State."
Attendance hasn't been a problem for the Shockers. They have ranked in the top-half of the Missouri Valley over the last eight years. But WSU has never led.
"We definitely want to grow our fan base," Adams said. "We want to lead the Valley. You look at what Missouri State pulls in, what Illinois State pulls in, what Indiana State pulls in. We feel like we can do the same."
Adams and her coaching staff have made a point to connect with fans through countless hours of community service work. As Adams puts it, "You name it and we've probably done it."
That makes a difference, according to Wichita State senior associate athletic director Darron Boatright.
"We think that the effort and the people that Coach Adams has brought into the program are what the people of Wichita are most impressed with," Boatright said. "Obviously people love a winner. But I think when they get to see these young women and see how they represent Wichita State and the passion they play with, that's what our fan base will fall in love with."
Wichita State was picked third in the Valley preseason poll and returns four starters from a team that made it to the NIT last season.
Wichita State averaged 2,296 fans last season over 15 games at Koch Arena. That ranked third in the Valley, behind Indiana State (4,151) and Missouri State (3,433) and over the league's average of 1,883.
Adams has visions of doubling attendance. She feels like the direction is pointing up, but to do that the Shockers have to continue to win.
"I can't say that we're going to play an entertaining style of basketball, but I know we will be a fundamentally-sound basketball team that gets after it on defense," Adams said.