K-State Q&A: NCAA Tournament, Thomas Gipson, Marcus Foster, Shane Southwell, a tricky game at West Virginia and football

It’s time for another K-State Q&A, so let’s jump right into your questions.

Thanks, as always, for asking them.

Kansas State will make the NCAA Tournament. I don’t think there is any doubt about that. The Big 12 is the nation’s top-rated conference, according to most statistical measurements, and simply playing quality teams on a regular basis will keep the Wildcats’ RPI (currently 39) strong. The better question is what seed will K-State receive in the NCAA Tournament. Halfway through conference play, it is looking like an 8 seed in the latest bracket projections. Saturday’s game at West Virginia, and upcoming home games against Texas and Kansas will be important. But so will every game remaining on the schedule. If the Wildcats take care of business and win most of their home games and find a way to win a few road games, they could work themselves into consideration for a 6 or 7 seed. It they slip up against Texas Tech or Baylor and fail to perform well in the Big 12 Tournament, they could be looking at a 10 or 11 seed.
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Postgame Thoughts and Player Ratings: Kansas State 78, West Virginia 56

Three thoughts from Kansas State’s 78-56 victory against West Virginia on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum:

1. K-State made West Virginia look bad.
West Virginia entered Saturday’s game with one double-digit loss on its resume — an 80-69 setback against Texas. Every other game it had played was a victory or a close loss. It even pushed Wisconsin and Gonzaga. But the Mountaineers were no match for the Wildcats. K-State handed them (by far) their worst loss of the season. This one was over by halftime. Reasonable people can disagree on how much West Virginia contributed to the lopsided game. It looked bad by itself. But K-State definitely made it look worse. Outside of Eron Harris and Juwan Staten, the Mountaineers couldn’t get anything going. And Staten lost seven turnovers. That’s an ugly number, considering West Virginia had five assists as a team. K-State piled up 22 assists, played strong defense and got balanced scoring from Thomas Gipson, Shane Southwell and Marcus Foster. That led to a rare easy conference victory.
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The Week Ahead: Kansas State looking for confidence-boosting win vs. West Virginia

Kansas State’s hopes of a second-half turnaround begin on Saturday against West Virginia.

The first half of the season didn’t go the way Kansas State hoped it would.

First came an unexpected loss to North Dakota State. Next came narrow defeats against Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor. The result is a 2-4 overall record and three-straight losses in Big 12.

With a favorable closing schedule, the Wildcats are hoping for a stronger second half and another trip to a bowl game. Both certainly seem possible. They have the look of an improving football team (fourth-quarter leads over ranked teams in back-to-back games and solid defensive numbers) but they need to learn how to win close games.

The journey begins on Saturday against West Virginia, a team that has looked excellent at home and shaky on the road.

Here is a look at that and everything else you need to know about the week ahead:
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How K-State vs. West Virginia became reality and what is next for the series

When the Kansas State basketball team announced it would play West Virginia this season, many circled Thursday’s game at Intrust Bank Arena as the most-appealing nonconference game on the schedule.

Frank Martin vs. his mentor. Former coach Bob Huggins returning to Kansas to face the team he left after one season. The Wildcats in Wichita.

It was, and is, a very intriguing game. With West Virginia set to join the Big 12, it could be the start of an exciting rivalry.

Funny thing is, when Martin and Huggins began talking about playing each other they envisioned something totally different.

“It started out we were going to play in Kansas City,” Huggins told me today by phone. “We had an idea to do what some other people just started to do a couple years ago, which is Frank, Andy Kennedy (Mississippi coach) myself and somebody else go to a neutral site and play double headers, then go someplace else the next season and play a different team. You know, make it a three-year cycle. We just never really got that off the ground.”
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Kirk Schulz excited about West Virginia

For the second time in a few weeks, Kansas State president Kirk Schulz proudly welcomed a new member to the Big 12 today.

This time, he welcomes West Virginia, a university out of the Big East that has won two BCS bowl games and recently went to the Final Four.

“They immediately bring very competitive athletic programs to the conference,” said Schulz, who serves as the chair of the Big 12′s expansion committee. “They are consistently the top football program in the Big East. Under coach Bob Huggins they have been outstanding in men’s basketball, as well. They have been successful in other sports. They bring a lot to the table, immediately.”

Schulz also said West Virginia will be a nice academic fit with the Big 12.

The Mountaineers won’t, however, be an easy geographical fit for the Big 12. When the conference added TCU, it added a school from within its footprint. No matter where you are, it’s easy to get to Fort Worth for a game. But Morgantown, W. Va.? That’s a different story.

“It clearly is a concern,” Schulz said. “Part of the conversation we had was really focused around the additional travel time we would face with them in the conference, but at the same time we felt that the other positive attributes about West Virginia were more important than the travel considerations.

“… As a conference, we’re competing against the Pac-12 and the SEC. The only way to do that is to bring in the strongest programs that we can. That’s what we’ve done.”
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A few minutes with … Andy Assaley

A week ago, the Kansas State basketball team released its nonconference schedule for the 2011-12 season. Several coaches and administrators worked together to make the games fit, but no one contributed more time to the process than Andy Assaley.

As the Wildcats’ director of basketball operations, one of his main priorities is to head up scheduling. Every year, he makes countless phone calls to Division I coaches and sends out more than a thousand (seriously) e-mails to prospective opponents.

In the end, all that work is rewarded with a finalized schedule of a dozen or so games before Big 12 play begins.

“It’s a difficult job,” Assaley said, “but it’s a fun job.”

Earlier this week, Assaley went into great detail about K-State’s upcoming schedule and exactly what it took to put together. Turns out strategy, connections and patience — lots and lots of patience – were the main requirements.

“You have to be willing to haggle, you have to enjoy that,” Assaley said. “You have to be able to make cold calls and you have to know people … And you have to be able to handle rejection well. You can’t take it personally when you don’t get a call back, because that’s going to happen more than you can possibly imagine.

“Every time I go to a Catbacker event I hear from fans asking how come we’re not playing this school, how come we’re not playing that school. I just laugh and try to tell them it’s not that easy. They have to want to play us too.”
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