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K-State coach Bruce Weber suddenly popular

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber gets excited during the first half, Friday, March 9, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber gets excited during the first half, Friday, March 9, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Once college basketball emerges from its current embarrassing scandal a couple of years from now, bright minds will figure out how to make it an even bigger, more profitable industry and by then it might be so big that polling companies will release weekly data on approval ratings of coaches with the fan bases of their schools.

When that time comes and a coach's popularity spikes upward rapidly, call it a Bruce Weber. Taking a team with modest expectations deep into March will do that for a college basketball coach.

K-State was picked eighth in the 2017-18 Big 12 preseason poll, finished fourth with a 10-8 record and made it all the way to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Creighton, UMBC and Kentucky before losing to Loyola.

"I don't worry about it as much as you guys do, probably," Weber said of his popularity with K-State fans. "I just worry about our kids and being prepared and ready to play. There are always people who don't like you. Jud (Heathcote, former Michigan State coach) told me many times when you get a job, 90 percent of the people like you and 10 percent don't and each year it's going to go down and it's going to get tougher and tougher. As a coach, if you worry about every negative fan and every media person you're not going to be able to coach."

He spends more time studying X's and O's than expletives on message boards after tough losses.

"Everybody says, 'How do you deal with it?' Very rarely does somebody come up to me in the grocery store and say, 'God, you suck as a coach.' No one does," Weber said. "Those people are the faceless opinion guys that, you know, continually say stuff but they don't ever do it to somebody's face."

He sounded as if he didn't know he had a popularity problem.

"I've thought it's always been positive for me at Manhattan," Weber said. "We've got great fans. Obviously they're excited about our team. We've got an older group that made a nice run. It's always fun when people like you. It's human nature. But at the same time I just worry about helping the players do their best."

Kansas State was picked to finish second to Kansas in this year's preseason poll.

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