The two teams hadn’t met on any basketball court in 22 years and certainly not with stakes as large as this since 1981.
So when the Shockers defeated in the Jayhawks to advance to the Sweet 16, it was sure to leave an impression with area sports fans – and it certainly did with Eagle readers.
Wichita State’s 78-65 victory over Kansas collected 49 percent of first-place votes on Kansas.com as the top Wichita and Kansas sports story of the year.
“As a Wichita State graduate…I was so proud, thrilled, and thankful for the victory over Kansas. Never again will I have to listen to an ignorant fan snort that ‘mid-major’ Wichita State would most certainly get demolished if it ever had to play the mighty Jayhawks,” Jason Ault wrote. “If someone does try to use that lazy argument, my simple answer is ‘78-65.’ ”
Coming in second place was the Kansas City Royals’ first World Series title in 30 years with 34 percent of first-place votes.
Some readers argued against the Royals because they thought a three-hour drive up the Kansas Turnpike was too far away to be considered a local story.
Nonsense, others argued, citing decades of devoted fandom to a team that had mostly failed to return that affection for 30 years.
“Anyone who did not vote the Royals the No. 1 story had their head in the sand,” Rod Nelson wrote.
The next two biggest stories involved coaches: Gregg Marshall spurning Alabama’s presumed offer to stay at WSU and Kansas State’s Bill Snyder being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Andy Barnard summed up his top three votes in haiku-like fashion:
“Snyder – Total class.
“Royals – What a ride.
“Gregg – Great for Wichita.”
In fifth place was the death of Liberal Bee Jays bat boy Kaiser Carlile at the National Baseball Congress World Series in August.
While Kevin Jenks is the general manager and tournament director of the NBC World Series, many voters echoed his sentiments about voting for Kaiser.
“Kaiser’s story had the biggest impact locally and nationally. It's a story outside the lines of scores and historical records,” Jenks wrote. “It was an emotional situation for many – whether directly tied to the situation or indirectly to those thousands of miles away.”
Most readers thought the list of 30 nominated stories was complete, but some suggested that the Kansas City Chiefs’ winning streak should have been its own category instead of with Eric Berry’s return from cancer treatments. Others thought Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet staying should have been its own as well, breaking off from Marshall’s entry.
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THE EAGLE’S TOP SPORTS STORIES OF THE YEAR
2015 — Wichita State defeats Kansas to reach Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament
2014 — Undefeated Shockers (34-0) earn No. 1 seed
2013 — Shockers reach second Final Four in school history as No. 9 seed
2012 — After a stay at No. 1 in BCS, K-State wins Big 12, heads to Fiesta Bowl
2011 — Falling short of the NCAA Tournament, the Shockers regroup to win NIT in convincing fashion
2010 — Big 12 loses two members; KU, K-State scramble to keep BCS conference status.
2009 — Bill Snyder’s return lifts K-State into Big 12 north football race
2008 — Mario Chalmers leads KU to National Championship
2007 — Kansas football goes 11-1, earns Orange Bowl berth