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Everything’s simple for the Vikings, but only because of effort.

“We’ve worked hard and coach has worked hard to get this program where it is,” said Cole, whose haircut resembles a high-top fade from the 1980s. “And it’s great to see how it’s paid off.”

Cole, and juniors Jeremy Montgomery and Trevon Harmon form a trio of shooters and end-to-end defenders that highlight the Vikings’ three-guard offense. Their one weakness is rebounding, but Waters expects that to improve once senior forward D’Aundray Brown returns following finger surgery.

Waters also anticipates Cleveland fans to warm up to his team. With the Cavaliers falling from NBA contention after losing James, Cleveland State has a chance to capture this city’s hungry-for-a-title fans. This has never been much of a college town, and CSU, which is trying to shed its commuter-school image, has long struggled to attract fans despite playing in a 13,000-seat area worthy of a big-time program.

It has a long way to go in that regard, clearly. The student section was more of a student row against West Virginia Tech.

“People have been disappointed by our crowds, but I understand it,” Waters said. “In November and December, you are not going to get great crowds. It’s football season. If we can continue to do what we do, when time comes around, we’ll have some people here.”

The school is doing all it can to promote the Vikings. Compared to the NBA, tickets and concession items are cheap and there’s a growing interest on a campus that’s undergoing a major makeover with new student and recreation centers, as well as dormitories.

Butler’s magnificent run to the NCAA title game shook college hoops unlike anything in years. In previous tourneys, a first-round upset by a low seed was usually followed by a second-round drubbing. Butler, though, kept going and gave mid-level programs a renewed belief that anything is possible.

“What they did, uplifted us all,” said Waters, who built Kent State into a mid-major power before struggling with the Scarlet Knights in the Big East. “It gave us hope. It gave us recognition. People started realizing, that ‘Hey, mid-level can play this game at the highest level.’ What Butler did was take them all head on: Michigan State, Kansas State and all of them and beat ‘em. That sent a message.”

Waters has noticed something else about his team, a chemistry and closeness he experienced before with his best squads. These Vikings are united.

“They like each other,” Waters said. “We have a training table, and they’ll stay there an hour afterward just talking. At Rutgers, I couldn’t get guys to stay together for five minutes. They legitimately care about each other, and when you get that, you got a chance.”