Category Archives: Basketball

Race for second heating up in the Big 12

As the Big 12 season enters its final week, the most fascinating race is for second.

Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma are all tied with 10 conference victories. All four teams have two games remaining, and all four teams could finish second as easily as they could finish fifth.

A breakdown:

Kansas State
Remaining Games:
at Oklahoma State, vs. Baylor.
Why they could finish second: The Wildcats won their last road game and have already beaten Oklahoma State this season. Winning in Stillwater, though difficult, is hardly impossible. And they should be favored against Baylor at home, where they have won 15 straight. K-State also benefits from tie-breakers, by virtue of its victory over Kansas. Texas also beat the Jayhawks, but it is hurt by losing twice to Oklahoma. That could come in handy when its time to seed the Big 12 Tournament.
Why they could finish fifth: Oklahoma State has been on a roll since Marcus Smart returned from his three-game suspension, and K-State is 2-6 on the road. There’s a reason the Cowboys are favored by 8.5 points in Stillwater. Baylor has also been playing well since it downed K-State in Waco. Beating the Bears at Bramlage Coliseum isn’t a given. The Wildcats face arguably the toughest schedule of this four-team group.
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Postgame Thoughts and Player Ratings: Kansas State 80, Iowa State 73

Three thoughts from Kansas State’s 80-73 victory over Iowa State on Saturday:

1. Iowa State and Kansas State do not like each other.
A few years ago, Kansas State players went out of their way to let the public know they detested Missouri. They didn’t like the way the Tigers played or acted. So K-State made beating them a high priority. I’m not sure if their dislike for Iowa State has reached those levels, but it could be close. K-State and Iowa State played one of the most physical games I’ve seen in a long time. Their were hard plays, harder fouls, taunting and Marcus Foster took a shoe to the face. Melvin Ejim looked like he wanted to fight during a few dead balls, and Shane Southwell clapped in Ejim’s face when he was hit with a technical foul in the second half. K-State was the tougher, and more composed, team on Saturday. That’s a big reason why it won. But if these teams meet again in Kansas City, things could get even more physical.
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K-State Q&A: Have the Wildcats locked up a spot in the NCAA Tournament? Plus, Iowa State, running back options and baseball

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another K-State Q&A.

Let’s go ahead and jump into your questions. Thanks, as always, for asking them.

Yeah, K-State will be a part of March Madness. Ending the regular season with three losses, falling to the No. 7 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and losing to TCU in Kansas City would leave the Wildcats sweating on Selection Sunday, but I think they will make it. The bubble is very soft this year. No team that goes .500 in the Big 12 is missing the NCAA Tournament. They face a wide scenario of seeds, though. If they win out and hoist a trophy in Kansas City they could be looking at a 5 seed. Four straight losses could put them in the First Four. More realistically, they will win two or three more games and claim a seed in the 7-10 range. Right now, most online projections have them as a No. 9 seed.
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Wesley Iwundu tries to high-five teammates after free throws, even when they aren’t there

Wesley Iwundu has been a popular person on the Internet today.

A video of the Kansas State freshman forward giving high-fives to imaginary teammates (they were all on the other end of the court, because of a flagrant foul) following a made free throw has been making the rounds. You can check it out below.

Iwundu seems to be enjoying the attention. He promoted the video on his twitter account Wednesday. And why not? If you’re going to make a push for ESPN’s “Not Top 10″ Plays of the Week, this is a good (and funny) way to do it.

Postgame Thoughts and Player Ratings: Kansas State 60, Texas Tech 56

Three thoughts from Kansas State’s 60-56 victory at Texas Tech on Tuesday:

1. Wesley Iwundu may have smashed through the metaphorical freshman wall.
For much of the season, Welsey Iwundu was one of the most dependable players on K-State’s roster. He never gave the Wildcats 25 points or 15 rebounds, but he rarely made mistakes. He made shots when he was open, he grabbed boards when he could and he made smart passes. He was consistent. Then, his play dropped dramatically. He was so bad against Baylor and TCU that Bruce Weber barely played him and his teammates began privately criticizing his play. He didn’t look much better at Oklahoma. But his old form returned at Texas Tech. He made two clutch free throws after a flagrant foul and he knocked down an off-balance shot while being fouled to give K-State a late lead. And, surprise, the Wildcats won. They are a much better team when Iwundu plays well. Perhaps he is over his slump.
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Postgame Thoughts and Player Ratings: Oklahoma 86, Kansas State 73

Three thoughts from Kansas State’s 86-73 loss at Oklahoma on Saturday:

1. Bruce Weber’s road struggles are not isolated to this season.
As frustrating as a six-game losing streak in road games has to be for K-State, it is not new territory for Weber. K-State’s second-year coach lost six straight road games in his final season at Illinois and four straight road games in 2011. In between, he led K-State to a 7-3 road record last season. So it’s not as if he doesn’t know how to win on the road. But he has a 12-24 road record in his past four seasons. K-State doesn’t appear close to solving its road woes. Perhaps those numbers explain why.
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Kansas State beat Oklahoma with defense last month. Toughness could decide rematch

Ask Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler what it will take for the Sooners to beat Kansas State on Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center, and he doesn’t hesitate with his answer.

“We can’t let them out-physical us,” Spangler said. “We have to be the tougher team.”

That wasn’t the case when K-State defeated Oklahoma 72-66 last month at Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats were clearly the tougher team, particularly on defense.

The Sooners sport one of the nation’s top offenses. They average 83 points, with all five of their starters averaging double-figures. But they couldn’t get anything going in Manhattan, outside of Spangler, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds. Shane Southwell and Nino Williams held Cameron Clark to two points and Oklahoma made 33 percent of its shots.

“They do as good a job as anyone defensively,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “It’s hard to simulate, because they are so good at it. But you know what you are getting. They just line up and guard you like crazy. Executing against it is difficult.”
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K-State Q&A: Looking ahead to important road games, looking back on the Baylor loss, plus NCAA Tournament and Justin Edwards

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another K-State Q&A. Apologies for taking last week off, but it was 86 degrees in Texas leading up to the Baylor game. I chose to spend every second I could away from the computer.

Anyway, there’s a big week of basketball ahead. The Wildcats play at Oklahoma and Texas Tech and then return home to take on Iowa State. All three games could be considered toss-ups. They will certainly impact the seed K-State earns in the NCAA Tournament.

Let’s go ahead and jump into your questions. Thanks, as always, for asking them.

1. The expectation has to be 0-2, given K-State’s recent history. Though it has often looked dominant at home (winning 14 straight) it has played poorly on the road (losing every away game other than at bottom-feeder TCU). But the majority of its road losses have been close, so it’s also reasonable to assume K-State will break through and win a road game at some point. Oklahoma is 11-3 at home. Texas Tech is 10-5 at home. K-State could win in both venues, but both games will be difficult. Too difficult to expect victories given that K-State has lost five straight on the road.
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Postgame Thoughts and Player Ratings: Kansas State 65, TCU 53

Three thoughts from Kansas State’s ugly (yes, I think ugly should be in bold) 65-53 victory over TCU on Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum:

1. The Wildcats need a healthy Shane Southwell.
An argument can be made for Nino Williams replacing Shane Southwell in the starting lineup. The junior forward has scored 20 and 11 points with Southwell on the bench with an injury to his left ankle. That’s a lot more production than Southwell has given K-State lately. Still, the Wildcats need Southwell in their rotation. Why? Because when Williams gets into foul trouble and Wesley Iwundu plays poorly, as was the case against TCU, Bruce Weber puts walkon Ryan Schultz into the game. They are much better off with Southwell on the floor. Williams and Southwell are both foul-prone players. Williams averages nearly three fouls and fouled out against TCU. Southwell has a bad habit of picking up two quick fouls. When both players are healthy, they have some room for error. One of them can afford to be in foul trouble. When only one of them is healthy, they have to play cautiously. K-State is at its best when Weber can sub them in and out for each other.
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Postgame Thoughts and Player Ratings: Baylor 87, Kansas State 73

By now, Kansas State is used to losing road games in heartbreaking fashion. The Wildcats have now lost five straight away from home in varying ways.

Still, a 87-73 loss to Baylor (in double overtime) at the Ferrell Center on Saturday had to feel like a punch to the gut. K-State was in control the whole way, leading by nine at halftime, by 10 midway through the second half and by three with 24 seconds remaining, but it couldn’t close the door.

At 17-8 and 7-5 in Big 12 play, the Wildcats still have a strong NCAA Tournament. They could afford a loss. But this was a missed opportunity. They were in great position to put an end to their road woes (their only road win of the season came at bottom-feeder TCU) and will continue to carry the “home warriors” label.

A few thoughts from the game: Nino Williams may have earned a spot in the starting lineup. The junior guard torched Baylor’s zone defense for a career-high 20 points. He also had eight rebounds. Williams played in place of an injured Shane Southwell, who watched the game with a walking boot on his left foot. Southwell has been in a month-long slump. Perhaps it is time for Weber to give Williams a shot in the permanent starting lineup.

Also, K-State had several breakdowns at the end of regulation. Marcus Foster missed a free throw that could have put the game out of reach, the Bears grabbed three offensive rebounds on their final possession and Brady Heslip was left completely wide open on his game-tying three. I wonder if some of that could have been prevented. Bruce Weber told his players to back off during Foster’s second free-throw attempt and to drop back into defensive stances. Why? An offensive rebound would have meant more to the Wildcats.
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