Starting the season at No. 3 in the nation, Kansas State now finds itself below .500 in Big 12 play (4-5) nine games into the season. That's the bad news. The good news is that the Wildcats have won three of its last four starts and are still in the hunt for a first-round bye in the Big 12 Championships, and, the NCAA Tournament. But from here on out, no slips will be allowed for the Wildcats.

Only twice before in the first 14 years of the Big 12 Conference has a team managed to finish in fourth place with a league mark of 9-7. In all other years, it's taken at least 10 wins.

This year a 9-7 record just might be good enough for third place. The league is either, A – that balanced, or B – that mediocre.

Half-way through the season 8-0 Texas and 7-1 Kansas appear to be the absolute clear favorites in the Big 12 Conference. Next in line? Flip a coin; fire a dart.

While still below .500 at 4-5 in the league, K-State's in as good of position as anyone to go on a tear and finish … say 9-7, which would be quite a feat considering its 2-5 start to the league year.

"It's an absolute grind. Every year by Game 14 I don't know how I'm going to make it to Game 16, and a year from now we're going to have 18 of them (league games)," said KSU coach Frank Martin. "It makes me lose sleep."

While 4-5 is the record, Martin points out that the Wildcats were in games to win at O-State and at A&M, and at home with CU, "… but we couldn't close them out. We've lost a couple hard fought games, but do you know what, we're a young team. You've got to earn the right to win those games and our guys continue to battle to earn that right. After nine games, I think we're better prepared to win games than we were at Game 1."


In the first 14 years of Big 12 hoops here are some facts and figures.
• On average, five to six teams go "Dancin'." It's been as high as seven, like last year, but also as low as four in four separate years, and as recently as 2007 and 2006.
• A 10-6 league record is nearly a lock to get into the NCAA event. Only twice – KSU in 2007 and NU in 1999 – won 10 conference contests and did not advance.
• A 9-7 league record has advanced 16 out of 19 times. The only misses were KSU in 2009, CU in 2006, and MU in 2004.
• An 8-8 team has advanced to the NCAA Tournament only once – Texas A&M in 2008. As strange as it sounds, only six times in Big 12 history has a team finished 8-8. ( Note: This does not included the 1997 Texas Tech team that went 10-6, but had to forfeit games. )


According to ESPN's Joe Lunardi, Kansas and Texas will be No. 1 seeds, Texas A&M a No. 5, Missouri a No. 6 and K-State a No. 12. The RPI bracket includes Kansas and Texas as No. 1s, Texas A&M a No. 6, Missouri a No. 7, Oklahoma a No. 10, and Kansas State a No. 11.


Here's a look at our mid-year all-Big 12 basketball awards, which differ dramatically of those of the league's coaches prior to the season.
• Team of the Year: Texas … a preseason choice at third has proven to be the conference's top team by way of a win at Kansas. (Preseason – K-State)
• Coach of the Year: UT's Rick Barnes
• Player of the Year: Marcus Morris, Kansas (Preseason – Jacob Pullen, K-State)
• Freshman of the Year: Tristan Thompson, Texas (Preseason -- Josh Selby, Kansas)
• Top Five: Marcus Morris, KU; Markeiff Morris, KU; Jordan Hamilton, UT; Alec Burks, CU; Jacob Pullen, KSU (Preseason – Lacedarius Dunn, BU; Cory Higgins, CU; Marcus Morris, KU; Curtis Kelly, KSU; Jacob Pullen, KSU)
• Second Five: LaceDarius Dunn, BU; Marshall Moses, OSU; Quincy Acy, BU; Tristan Thompson, UT; Marcus Denmon, MU

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