SALT LAKE CITY -- When Kansas State takes the floor against Xavier in its first Sweet 16 appearance in more than 20 years, fans watching at home will hear the action described by CBS' Gus Johnson, one of the industry's most excitable and distinguished play-by-play men. Johnson, a veteran broadcaster who has worked in basketball, football and Olympic events among other sports, sat down with GoPowercat.com the evening prior to his call of K-State's NCAA Tournament game for a short Q&A about his impressions of the Wildcats.
First, just let me know what stands out to you most about this K-State team.
Well, they play defense. That's what stands out more than anything. They have guys that really get after it on the defensive end. When you have guys that guard they way they guard, they're hard to beat. They bring a level of intensity and spirit that immediately lets you know that they are going to fight you from the beginning of the game until the very end.
Do you think that's a reflection of Frank Martin?
That is a reflection of him. That's how Frank teaches his kids. He just makes sure they are out there giving 100 percent at all times. There is no laziness or mental breakdowns with them. I think every team you see mirrors their coach in some way, shape or form, and that's what Frank Martin has done to this Kansas State team. He's made sure that they're tough, prepared and play hard.
I don't know how well you know Frank, but as an outsider of sorts, what strikes you about him most?
When you look into his eyes. Visually, he is a very interesting person to look at on TV because he has such an interesting intensity in his eyes. He's a nice guy with a great smile, but at the same time, when he's in the heat of battle, you can see the desire to win and that he wants to make sure his guys go out there and compete. That's what you see from Coach Martin, and that's why I think his team still has a chance to go very far.
Outside of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, is there a player on this team you are excited to watch in person?
There are two; Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels. Because those two guys are big guys, at 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-7, they have a chance to have a huge impact on this game if they can stay out of foul trouble and defend. We've seen Jamar Samuels have 20 and 12 against Texas, and we've seen Kelly have 16 and 8 and also play shut-down defense. Those two are players I am looking forward to seeing, and if they have a good series of games here in Salt Lake, I think that Kansas State could be going to Indy.
Early on in the season, was this a team you thought would still be standing now?
During the season, they were ranked pretty high at times. I think they were ranked as high as fifth. So when you see them playing, and you see them on ESPN and you see those crazy fans at the Octagon of Doom, you just know that they have players that can win. Jacob Pullen is a tough kid from Chicago, and he's going to make sure his guys go at it all the time. Denis is another tough kid from Puerto Rico. He grew up not having a lot of accouterments. He grew up hard. Getting a pair of sneakers was a big deal for him. You have players that have good character. That's what you want.
One of the regional ESPN guys has spent the entire season likening this team to Dobermans. Can you see the comparison?
Yeah. I mean, yeah. They do have some Doberman Pincher in them. They will bite your head off if given the chance. If they smell fear or if they smell weakness, they will attack. That's one of the traits of a Doberman Pincher.
Do play-by-play guys like yourself think of stuff like that before the broadcast or does it just come to you?
Nah, I don't even think about that stuff. I just go out there and call the games. If something comes up, then it comes out. I did see an interview with one of the players who had an interesting nickname, but I can't remember which kid it was. I guess I'll have to go back through my notes tonight and take a look.