The Kansas State basketball program’s string of eight consecutive winning Big 12 records ended when the Wildcats lost a pair of games last week in Texas by a combined 41 points.
TCU blasted the Wildcats, 69-55, and Baylor made that score seem merciful by slaughtering them, 69-42.
Marcus Foster, Kansas State’s loudest talent and leading scorer, isn’t on the same page as teammates and not on the same planet as his coach, Bruce Weber.
K-State must win its final three games — in Bramlage Coliseum tonight vs. Kansas, Saturday in the same building vs. Iowa State and at Texas on March 7 — to avoid its first losing record in Big 12 play since going 6-10 in the 2005-06 season, when Jim Woolridge was the coach. The Wildcats have lost seven of their past eight games. Worse, it feels more like a downward trend than a down year.
On paper, this should be a blowout, with the team fighting to hold onto a one-game lead in the Big 12 hammering divided Team Turmoil.
All of the evidence that adds up to a blowout also could lead Kansas State to pull itself together for one night and play its best.
Basketball games aren’t played on paper with numbers and streaks. They’re played on hardwood. In rivalry games, they’re played with emotion. The crowd injects wild energy into the home team, at the expense of the visitor.
The K-State students bring a ton of energy and creative humor. They just might make the Wildcats channel the negative energy they waste disliking each other and aim it at the rock-star enemy. After all, if teammates harbor jealousy toward each other, imagine how much they must feel toward the nearby school that hogs the region’s spotlight after football season gives way to basketball.
Beyond that, it’s not as if Kansas State doesn’t have any talent. Thomas Gipson, so much stronger than any of KU’s post players, doesn’t shape up as an easy matchup. Foster scored 20 points in K-State’s 85-82 overtime victory against Kansas a year and a couple of weeks ago. He could play with his head in the right location, if only for one night, and have a big game.
Five players who combined for 47 points in last February’s game will be in uniform for K-State tonight. They’ll be looking to remember how they pulled off the upset last year and to forget just about everything else that has happened with K-State basketball since that night, except this season’s two upsets vs. Oklahoma. Any team that can beat OU twice, can do the same to KU once.