by Mason Voth • EMAWOnline – Managing Editor – @TheRealMasonV

The build, strike that, elevation, has been happening all season for home crowds watching K-State basketball. It started with 6,800 fans showing up for a Tuesday exhibition game against Washburn. At least that was the official start to the season, it really started in March when Jerome Tang was hired to be the next basketball coach at Kansas State University.

“Kids want to play in front of great fans and that’s what attracted me to this place,” were the words of Tang when he was hired. “I was always blown away by the fans and the community and the energy.”

Tang’s passion and energy he brought to that day, paired with building a dynamite staff and roster with legitimate pieces that could compete now all helped lead to stronger attendance in the non-conference than what K-State had seen in a long time.

There were other highlights along the way that the fan support was coming back not just on social media, but also in person. An announced attendance of 8,957 when Wichita State came to town, as most of Wildcat Nation was celebrating a Big 12 Championship in football in Arlington, Texas.

Then near Christmas time, 13,000-plus filed into T-Mobile Center in Kansas City to watch the Wildcats face Nebraska, the Wildcats also had almost 7,000 fans show up for a 1:00 PM game on a Wednesday before Christmas break to see the Wildcats play Radford.

All great signs, but Bramlage Coliseum and fan engagement at home still weren’t at the level that Tang and his staff knew Bramlage Coliseum could be from his days on the bench at Baylor. They got dealt one more bad hand for their conference opener against West Virginia when K-Staters were in New Orleans watching the Wildcats play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

An overtime win against West Virginia and then a week on the road in Texas with road wins at No. 6 Texas and No. 19 Baylor shot the team to No. 11 in the polls. Coaches and former players took to social media to try and rally the fan base to show up in droves for Tuesday’s game against Oklahoma State. It worked, as the game sold out Monday evening and 11,000 crammed inside.

The buzz was different last night, with overflowing students and GA tickets on one side of the floor and a building that got loud. It was the largest non-Kansas crowd since K-State clinched the Big 12 Championship on the final day of the regular season against Oklahoma in 2019.

The bodies were there, but it was more than that last night against Oklahoma State. The intensity and the noise started to creep back to Octagon of Doom-like levels. There is not much doubt in my mind that it helped K-State secure a tight win over a conference foe last night.

Avery Anderson of Oklahoma State had to tell Cowboy coach Mike Boynton that he couldn’t hear him on the floor. The refs had to go to the monitor, even if they did nothing after Desi Sills got tangled up under the basket and the crowd gave a large reaction.

Then in crunch time, the Cowboys got complacent as the crowd fueled a K-State run and contributed to silly mistakes by the Cowboys. After the lob from Markquis Nowell to Keyontae Johnson to put K-State up five in the waning moments of the game, Oklahoma State’s John Michael Wright fumbled a standard inbound pass out of bounds, helping the Wildcats ice the game at the free throw line. A lack of focus and concentration, maybe created by the dazzling play from the two Wildcat stars but also occurring thanks to a raucous crowd that Bramlage Coliseum hadn’t seen in a long time.

The flashes were there, the quick moments that had you questioning if the Octagon of Doom was really back on Tuesday night. All of the elements are there, a great team with an engaging staff and players, big-time plays, and large swaths of riled-up fans. The Doom was not back on Tuesday, but it’s coming and Jerome Tang is the sole reason for that.

Kansas crowds always get mass turnouts and the energy and unbridled hate is always turned up high, but it’s going to be at levels not seen since the Frank Martin Era on Tuesday. A matchup that could feature the No. 1 team in the country against a Top 10 foe and a massive rivalry with a chance at first place in the Big 12 possibly on the line.

The Octagon of Doom is on the way, it arrives Tuesday and will be around for as long as Jerome Tang is.