Frank Martin is best known for his intimidating glare, so it was jarring to see the fiery Kansas State coach so vulnerable after Saturday's 75-59 loss to Syracuse.
Asked about senior Jamar Samuels being held out of the final game of his college career due to NCAA eligibility concerns, Martin's eyes welled with tears and he had to pause to collective himself after answering.
"Here's what I told him when we got information yesterday," Martin said. "I said, 'If this is the worst thing that ever happens to you in your lifetime, you're going to be one of the luckiest human beings to ever walk on the face of the earth.' After that I choked up 'cause, you know, I'm all about kids, man."
Kansas State made the decision to sit Samuels on Friday night less than 24 hours before tipping off against Syracuse. The university declined to reveal what prompted the NCAA to look into Samuels' eligibility, though athletic director John Currie told CBS Sports the issue was not academic-related, nor did it stem from any incident during the team's stay in Pittsburgh.
[ Related: Reason behind Samuels' suspension ]
"As a university, we have to take a stance and protect our university," Martin said. "Unfortunately it put him in a tough spot. He's, in my opinion, done nothing wrong. You always have to err on the side of caution and not do something and look back on it, and then regret your decision."
With Samuels in street clothes, both Kansas State and Syracuse were without top big men as a result of NCAA eligibility issues. The Orange announced earlier this week that starting center Fab Melo will not play in the NCAA tournament.
One of the biggest factors in Syracuse's margin of victory was that Melo's replacement fared better than Samuels' did. Whereas Thomas Gipson missed seven of his nine field-goal attempts for Kansas State, Rakeem Christmas had eight points and 11 rebounds for Syracuse.
"[Gipson] tried his tail off," Martin said. "But when you lose your fifth‑year senior, who is another guy that can make shots against that zone, especially inside the foul line, that little opening right there where we got a bunch of shots from, and we just couldn't make any, you know, it puts you at a disadvantage."
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