K-State Q&A: NCAA Tournament chances, keys to beating Oklahoma State and the football season that was

We’ve got a loaded K-State Q&A today, so let’s jump right into your questions.

Thanks, as always, for asking them.

Maybe I’m a bit on the optimistic side, considering the latest Bracketology doesn’t even list K-State on the bubble, but I think K-State has a great shot (maybe 70 percent) of making the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats have won eight in a row and they have victories over Mississippi, George Washington and Gonzaga. They are a good basketball team.

I understand that early loss to Northern Colorado will haunt them all year and that their RPI is in the high 80s, but a winning record in conference play should be enough to get them in. The Big 12 is surprisingly a beast of a basketball conference this season. Simply playing league games will boost K-State’s RPI.

There’s certainly no guarantee that K-State can go 10-8 or better in the Big 12, but it’s possible the way Marcus Foster and Jevon Thomas are playing. The key may be beating teams like Texas Tech, TCU and West Virginia. The Wildcats have no room for error. They need to sweep those games, split with teams like Texas and Oklahoma and try to knock off Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Baylor wherever they can.

K-State will need a committee effort. I think you will see Will Spradling, Jevon Thomas and Marcus Foster all take turns defending him. They key is getting him frustrated. He is a different player when you make him work. I think Thomas can do that with his on-ball pressure. George Washington couldn’t push the ball past half court against him at times. Spradling got in foul trouble earlier this year trying to defend Marshall Henderson. This time he will have Thomas to help.

Thomas Gipson will have an advantage inside, no doubt. Oklahoma State is built a lot like K-State. The Cowboys have several long players capable of playing multiple positions, but no dominant big men. After Cobbins, Oklahoma State doesn’t have much size. Gipson needs to take advantage. In many ways, he may be the key player in this game. But Shane Southwell has to score, too. He was hot against George Washington, and that made a world of difference for a struggling offense.

I asked this exact question to co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel following the Fiesta Bowl. He said DeMarcus Robinson, a former four-star recruit from Wichita Northwest, is the heir apparent to John Hubert. Robinson came to K-State with some hype. He was the highest-rated player in his recruiting class. Maybe he will live up to that billing as a senior. Also keep an eye on Jarvis Leverett. Perhaps Dalvin Warmack will compete for the job, too. He had a heck of a high school career. Still, as a true freshman, that seems unlikely.

Ty Zimmerman will be the hardest departing senior to replace. Just think about what he meant to K-State. He was a four-year starter who earned all-conference honors every year he was in school. And he had local ties. Zimmerman was a skilled safety and a strong leader who dreamed of playing for the Wildcats. Filling that void in K-State’s secondary won’t be easy.

The only true candidate to leave early would be Tyler Lockett, coming off a 1,200-yard season and an amazing bowl game, but everything I’ve heard indicates he is happy to return as a senior.

I agree. Bill Snyder was downright giddy following the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. That game meant to a lot to him. When will he retire? Who knows? It’s clear he enjoys coaching at K-State, and he has a good team returning. I expect him to stay on the job until part of that equation changes.

It’s probably the same reason why K-State sold 6,000 tickets to the bowl game. Last year, the Wildcats brought close to 30,000 fans to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl. Perhaps the interest in T-shirts wasn’t there for a lesser bowl game. That being said, I agree, there aren’t many great designs. These look OK. There are some here, too.

I only made it there once, sadly. I made time for a Bacon and Cheese Whataburger for lunch after media day, and it was delicious as always. Buffalo Wild Wings catered several meals at the media hotel. So I spent more time eating wings.

It will be a fun game. K-State football fans have been blessed in recent years with Miami, UCLA and Louisville all coming to Snyder Family Stadium for games. But the Wildcats rarely — practically never — ask highly ranked opponents to come to Manhattan. Southern Cal was the last team to do it in 2002. Still, this opponent is coming off a trip to the BCS championship game. K-State has a good team returning, and so does Auburn. I assume the point spread will favor the Tigers, but that won’t bother Jake Waters, Tyler Lockett or Ryan Mueller. K-State’s biggest challenge may be matching Auburn’s toughness. The last SEC team K-State faced (Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl) simply overpowered the Wildcats.

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