As the Baylor Bears get ready to take on the Kansas State Wildcats tonight at 7:00 at the Ferrell Center, they have to know Kansas State is looking to avenge their upset loss Saturday to Oklahoma State. Let's take a look at Kansas State.
Handling prosperity could be an issue for Kansas State.
Rather than capitalize on a home upset against top-ranked Texas on Jan. 18, the Wildcats stumbled at home five days later, falling to Oklahoma State.
Third-year coach Frank Martin immediately pinned blame on himself, which was appropriate since he could have easily become distracted.
With the win against Texas, reports surfaced of a rift between negotiators for Martin and Kansas State athletic director John Currie regarding a raise and contract extension. While Martin deserves both, it hardly seemed like the proper time to make the matter public.
Martin happens to be the lowest-paid coach in the Big 12, with annual compensation of $760,000. He deserves more after directing K-State into the postseason with 20-win campaigns each of the past two years, and then guiding this year's team into the top 10. That rating was the highest for Kansas State since 1973.
Still, in the Big 12 it's wise not to lose focus. The Wildcats did just that, mostly with its inability to guard the league's top scorer, James Anderson, in the loss against Oklahoma State. They also faltered offensively, failing to crash the glass as their outside bombers -- namely guard Jacob Pullen -- went cold.
Again, Martin quickly accepted the blame while outlining a variety of reasons for his team's collapse against the unranked Cowboys. He's right, too, given the quick furor surrounding his contract and rumors Currie may not want to give Martin a hefty raise and extension.
If Currie indeed is reluctant, he's treading thin ice. Martin has developed a strong following among K-State supporters who have tired of the new athletic director's theme of fiscal responsibility while watching him hire several new associate athletic directors.
Martin deserves a raise and extension, case closed. But now is not the time for negotiations to go public, especially since it could have cost Kansas State a precious home win in the Big 12 chase.
--Kansas State coach Frank Martin drew his third technical foul of the season in the loss against Oklahoma State on Jan. 23. The third-year coach, though he deservedly has the reputation of being intense, was not whistled for a technical in either of his first two seasons. G Denis Clemente also received a technical.
--The Jan. 18 win against Texas was just the second against a top-ranked team in Kansas State's history. The other win came in 1990 against Missouri. The meeting with Texas was the first in Bramlage Coliseum between a pair of top-10 teams. The arena opened in 1988. The 14-game home win streak Kansas State had snapped with the loss against Oklahoma State was the longest in Bramlage.
ON THE SPOT: A recent shooting slump for G Jacob Pullen raises concerns, though it figured to happen considering how hot the junior guard was entering Big 12 play. Pullen went 2-for-15 in two successive games, a win over Texas and a loss against Oklahoma State. Both performances came at home. After shooting better than 40 percent in nonconference play, Pullen is shooting 25 percent against Big 12 opponents.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you want to compete for a conference title, you can't lose at home. We just lost at home. We've got to figure out a way to go steal a few games somewhere to make up for the one we lost." -- Kansas State coach Frank Martin.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: It's possible Kansas State cannot handle prosperity, losing at home to unranked Oklahoma State after beating Texas in the same building five days earlier. However, the Wildcats showed resiliency following their previous two defeats and have been marked by their toughness throughout the season. They don't figure to roll over on the road, though better outside shooting from G Jacob Pullen and G Denis Clemente is a must if Kansas State is to capitalize on what many consider one of the best backcourts in the Big 12.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Dominique Sutton, F Curtis Kelly, C Luis Colon, G Jacob Pullen, G Denis Clemente. Key Subs -- F Jamar Samuels, G Rodney McGruder, F Wally Judge, G Martavius Irving.
Kansas State 87, Colorado 81
Kansas State 71, Texas 62
Oklahoma State 73, Kansas State 69
at Baylor, Tuesday, Jan. 26
vs. Kansas, Saturday, Jan. 30
at Nebraska, Tuesday, Feb. 2
at Iowa State, Saturday, Feb. 6
vs. Colorado, Saturday, Feb. 13
IN FOCUS: The trip to Baylor will be difficult considering the Bears are riding an 11-game winning streak at home and have an outstanding inside-outside combination in F Ekpe Udoh and G LaceDarius Dunn. Dunn canned nine 3-pointers in a win for Baylor last season at Kansas State. Winning the game against Kansas is almost a must if the Wildcats are to compete for the Big 12 crown. Kansas has won 25 of the last 26 games played by the in-state rivals in Manhattan.
--G Denis Clemente scored 19 points against Oklahoma State, the ninth time in 10 games the senior netted double figures.
--G Rodney McGruder continues to provide a sudden spark off the bench, scoring in double figures for the third straight game with 10 points against Oklahoma State.
--F Jamar Samuels recorded his second double-double with 20 points and a career-high 12 rebounds against Texas. The sophomore reserve followed with just five points and one board in 13 minutes against Oklahoma State.