A few minutes with … ESPN’s Chris Fowler

A few days ago, I got an e-mail out of the blue from an ESPN publicist. She said she saw my blog post last week about how the city of Manhattan was catching “College Gameday” fever, and that Chris Fowler was interested in speaking with me.

As the longtime host of one of ESPN’s most popular shows, Fowler can offer insight into “Gameday’s” decision to head to Southern California this week for its game against Stanford when it appeared destined for Manhattan. So, I told her to have him give me a call.

The first thing he said to me today was, “I’ve heard from a lot of angry K-State people. Maybe I can explain our decision a little bit.”

We’ll go into Q&A form the rest of the way, though Fowler did most of the talking.

Why don’t we just start there with that request. What explanation would you like to offer those K-State fans?

We were disappointed. Obviously Oklahoma and Kansas State had been No. 1 on our grid for a few weeks, and the hype was building. We fully expected the Wildcats to take care of the Jayhawks and the Sooners to win. It was almost a foregone conclusion. And we’re sitting in the bus last Saturday night in disbelief, watching Oklahoma fall. When that happens, it forces you to hastily reconsider.

We don’t ever pick the “Gameday” sites until the results of the previous Saturday are in. There is no upside to doing that. Through the years we have had plenty of last-minute changes in location due to upsets. It seems to happen a lot in the Big 12. I can remember times when we were supposed to be at Texas A&M but they lost to Baylor. It happens from time to time.

This one, though, was among the most surprising. I mean, we were there. We had the location. The director of the show had been there. We had looked at locations for the set. We were set to go. But when you lose the angle of having a top 5 team, unbeaten, on the road. The game nationally takes a hit.

Now, nobody on the set makes the decision. That is handled at a management level. We are no longer given much input. But based on what happened, the idea of Stanford against a USC team that not many expected to beat Notre Dame looked pretty good.
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Frank Martin glad to be part of marathon

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ESPN is about to get the college basketball season going in style.

From 11 tonight on through 11 p.m. tomorrow, the network will show 24 straight hours of college basketball games. They will be played in every American time zone, and at all sorts of bizarre times.

Feel like watching basketball at 3 in the morning? Well, you’re in luck. Hawaii is hosting Central Michigan! Kansas State takes part in the fun at 3 p.m. against Virginia Tech in what could end up being the most compelling game of the marathon.

K-State coach Frank Martin is just happy to be a part of the big day.

“It’s great,” he said. “There are some teams that are always on TV. But this 24 hours of hoops gives a lot of kids the opportunity to play on national TV that maybe they never would have had. It’s a credit to ESPN that they go into the places they go into to provide an entire day of basketball. It’s also a credit to the schools that sacrifice to play at certain times to support it.

“I’m a fan of it. I’m glad it happens.”

Looking at Xavier, with Fran Fraschilla

While chatting Kansas State basketball with Fran Fraschilla today, the knowledgeable ESPN college basketball analyst told me he liked the Wildcats’ chances of reaching the Final Four.

“They’re a contender,” he said. “There is no doubt about that. They have all the components to get there.”

But the compliment was followed by a warning.

“I think this is a trap game for them coming up,” he said. “I think this is a dangerous game for them, because they handled Xavier so easily at home earlier in the year. This is a different, dangerous Xavier team now.

“That team at the time was still searching for an identity with a new coach. They’ve got to be careful not to fall into the trap that they’ve already beaten this team easily.”
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Tonight’s game is must-see regional TV

ESPN gave the first meeting top billing with a live “College Gameday” telecast from Manhattan and a prime-time national time slot.

The rematch tonight in Lawrence is available only regionally, and will be on the CW in certain markets.

With both teams ranked in the top 5, and some calling the rematch the biggest Sunflower Showdown in 52 years, that disparity in TV attention has disappointed basketball fans near and far.

But in this day and age, is that really a big deal? Anyone with a premium cable/satellite sports package will get the game on ESPN Full Court. Anyone with a high-speed Internet connection will get the game on ESPN360. And there’s always the option of a sports bar.
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Reliving the ‘College GameDay’ experience

As soon as the doors opened to Bramlage Coliseum at 8 a.m. Saturday, the K-State fans came pouring in.

Some had been waiting outside for hours, lining up since before 3 a.m. to get inside their beloved Octagon of Doom. Within minutes, thousands of purple-clad fans were standing on their seats, waving homemade signs and swaying to the Wabash Cannonball.

They were up early to take part in the popular ESPN program “College GameDay,” which was televised live from Bramlage throughout the morning in anticipation of tonight’s 6 p.m. tip between No. 11 Kansas State and No. 2 Kansas.

It was a party from start to finish, and ESPN announcers sent the Wildcats fans away in style by informing them that by coming out in impressive numbers — 8,159 to be exact — they had set a new attendance record for the show.
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Thoughts on the finalized football schedule

Next year’s Kansas State football schedule looks different than any the Wildcats have had in a while under coach Bill Snyder.

What does that mean? Plenty.

Let’s start with what’s good about it. First off, K-State will have a bye week next season. The Wildcats went without a week off last year, and that was not to Snyder’s liking. This time it comes in Week 5, right before a nationally televised Thursday home game with Nebraska.
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A few minutes with … Jay Bilas

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Jay Bilas, one of the best college basketball analysts in the business, will soon be in Manhattan to preview Saturday’s must-see game between No. 11 Kansas State and No. 2 Kansas for ESPN’s “College Gameday.”

It is an event both he and K-State fans are looking forward to.

In anticipation of his arrival, he took some time Thursday evening to talk about what he sees in the Wildcats and Jayhawks, why he likes the Big 12 and college basketball in general.

Have you ever been to Manhattan before?

No I haven’t. I’ve been out to Kansas a bunch of times, but never Manhattan. I’m really excited about it.

Have you caught K-State on TV much this season?

Oh yea, I’ve seen ‘em play 1,000 times.

Well what has impressed you about the Wildcats?

I really like the way they play so hard. Early in the season I think I wrote that Kansas State plays harder than any team in the nation. They are a very together team. I was really impressed at how hard they went after it.
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1,000 beards on the way for Big Monday

Jacob Pullen

Do you like the look of Jacob Pullen’s beard?

If so, you’re in luck, because a beard out is on the way.

That’s right, a beard out. That’s the term Kansas State fans are using to describe the Wildcats’ Big Monday battle with Texas, at which K-State will hand out 1,000 stick-on beards to the first 1,000 students who arrive at Bramlage Coliseum.
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