Martin hopes to instill tenacity before Big 12 slate.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, few concessions can be made that will enable them to reach the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years under Martin. Unless, of course, they play with the intensity that has been their trademark since the former assistant stepped in after Bob Huggins left for West Virginia.
Ironically, a game against Huggins' Mountaineers reinforced some problems Martin detected from his team in the early stages of the season. Careless play with the basketball contributed to an 85-80 defeat in double-overtime.
"Our inability to run offense and pay attention to detail cost us that game," Martin said.
Actually, any collection of mistakes can be detrimental to the Wildcats. They simply lack the outside firepower that makes up for those kinds of errors and often seem prone to offensive funks. They're inability to focus almost led to an embarrassing defeat at home to North Florida, but they rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to win in overtime.
"We were totally disinterested and we couldn't make any shots," Martin said. "It's hard to win that way."
As demanding as Martin is as a coach, players often go through funks, especially when attempting to learn his system and cope with his profane instruction. The end result, at least through Martin's first four season, is the Wildcats are typically better down the stretch.
This season, however, they lack the go-to force they had a year ago when Jacob Pullen put the team on his back. No one has demonstrated that capability, though freshman forward Thomas Gipson has been one of the Big 12's most pleasant surprises.
--The nonconference schedule afforded the Diaz family a great viewing opportunity. With both parents watching, Kansas State freshman F Adrian Diaz played against his brother, North Florida F Andy Diaz. Adrian had his top scoring effort to date, posting eight points in 16 minutes, including three straight first-half baskets, as the Wildcats pulled out a double-overtime victory on Dec. 11. At times, the two brothers, who are from Miami, drew defensive assignments against each other.
--The overtime win against North Florida followed a double-overtime loss to West Virginia. It marked the first time since 1964 that the Wildcats played back-to-back overtime games.
--The game against West Virginia was the first for Kansas State at Intrust Bank Arena, a two-year-old facility in downtown Wichita. Bob Huggins, the Mountaineers coach who left Kansas State to take over at West Virginia, participated in a pregame ceremony in which his former assistant, Frank Martin, was presented a commemorative basketball for achieving his 100th coaching victory with the Wildcats.
PLAYER TO WATCH:
G Rodney McGruder -- A nice complimentary player his first two seasons, the junior will be expected to hit clutch shots in Big 12 play, but does not always exude the energy of a leader because he tends to be quiet and reserved. Still, he is capable of big games and also big plays as a 6-4 guard who can battle bigger opponents inside because of his explosive jumping ability. If McGruder can assert himself as a leader, too, the Wildcats will benefit. Their top senior, F Jamar Samuels, is too inconsistent because of foul issues.
KEY CONFERENCE GAME:
at Kansas, Jan. 4 --
The Big 12 opener finds Kansas State playing its arch-rival in the toughest environment in the league. The matchup will give the Wildcats an opportunity to gauge whatever weaknesses they must correct and also play at the emotional level needed to get through a difficult 18-game conference grind.
Since Frank Martin took over as coach in 2007-08, the Wildcats have gone 2-7 against the Jayhawks, though that was enough to restore a rivalry that had been even more lopsided.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"Once we get leads, we like to relax and let teams back in the game. We can't be doing that, especially when Big 12 comes, because if we do that, we'll be the team getting buried." -- Kansas State G Will Spradling.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010-11 CONFERENCE RECORD: 10-6, third place(tied).
Depth is always something Kansas State attempts to turn into a strength to maintain intensity both on the defensive end and pounding the offensive glass. During nonconference play, nine Wildcats were counted on most of the time, but inside strength is provided by F Thomas Gipson and F Jamar Samuels as starters, and F Jordan Henriquez and F Adrian Diaz as backups. Long-range shooting is an issue. A .278 percentage from 3-point range through seven games was the worst mark in the Big 12. G Will Spradling and G Rodney McGruder are both streaky outside shooters, but no help is available off the bench.
--Sophomore G Shane Southwell missed the North Florida game on Dec. 11 after missing a practice because of stomach flu. A starter during Big 12 play last season, Southwell has been used as a situational substitute on defense this season.
--Junior F James Watson, a seldom-used reserve, suffered a strained knee in practice that kept him out in early December.
--Freshman F Thomas Gipson recorded back-to-back double-doubles with 15 points and 10 rebounds in a Dec. 8 loss to West Virginia, then 23 points and 12 boards in a Dec. 11 win over North Florida.