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Readers vote undefeated Shockers as top sports story of 2014

Wichita State University basketball players Cleanthony Early, left, and Fred VanVleet clap after it was announced that WSU was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in March.
Wichita State University basketball players Cleanthony Early, left, and Fred VanVleet clap after it was announced that WSU was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in March. File photo

Wichita State’s pursuit of perfection captured the attention of college basketball fans throughout the nation.

The Shockers’ run to 34-0 and their selection as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament also ran away with the votes in our annual survey of the top Wichita and Kansas sports stories of the year.

Sixty-seven percent of voters on Kansas.com chose WSU’s record-setting season as the story of 2014.

“As a lifelong fan …and an alumni, I would have never in my wildest dreams believed that the Shockers would ever get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament,” Phil Stevens wrote.

No other nominated story topped 10 percent of the vote, with the Royals nearly winning the World Series, the Shockers’ loss to Kentucky in the tournament, the Royals’ Wild Card win and the Jayhawks’ 10th straight Big 12 title rounding out the top 5.

Voters returned to the Shockers, who topped the poll for the third time in the past four years, and their historic mark.

They “are our hometown heroes and have collectively put Wichita in the national spotlight in the most positive manner possible,” Sara Jones wrote. Seeing them enter the tournament as the first undefeated team since 1991 was bigger news than their eventual ouster for most fans.

Their final game, however, was nearly as spectacular.

“I will most remember the epic Kentucky-WSU NCAA game. Though we lost, it was the best game of the tournament, and one for the March Madness history books,” Chris Tyson wrote. Sports Illustrated voted the Round of 32 matchup as the Game of the Year in any sport.

The Royals’ first playoff appearance in 29 years wasn’t ignored either.

If the UK-WSU game wasn’t the best in any sport, Kansas City’s comeback victory over Oakland in the Wild Card probably was.

It was the biggest story for Ryan Cunningham because he will remember “Running back to my seats at Kaufman stadium after thinking it was over in the eighth inning.”

Three of the stories readers felt should have been included in the survey were the Butler Community College women’s basketball team and its 30-game winning streak, the ECHL absorbing the Wichita Thunder’s league and the Big 12 football teams missing out on the inaugural playoff field.

Thank you for voting and sending us your feedback.

Reach Joshua Wood at 316-268-6413 or jwood@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @joshwood.

The Eagle’s Top Sports Stories of the Year

▪ 2014 — Undefeated Shockers (34-0) earn No. 1 seed

▪ 2013 — The 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

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