Wildcat Hoop Preview

Without making a hoop, without making a defensive stop, Kansas State is a Top 25 basketball team entering the 2007-08 season. Without a dunk, without a blocked shot, the Wildcats are being picked fourth-best in the Big 12 Conference preseason poll behind Kansas, Texas and Texas A&M.

That's pretty good billing for a program that has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 1995-96, and has not posted an NCAA victory since 1988.

"That's good, but we have to prove who we are," said K-State senior guard Clent Stewart. "Fourth is a good spot, but it's not what we're here for. We're here for the No. 1 spot. We're here to take on the big guys like Kansas and Texas. This team has the confidence that it thinks it will win every time we step on the court. Like (Bob) coach Huggins said last year: Why settle for second when first is available?"

Surrounded by a freshman class only used to winning titles, senior David Hoskins chuckled as he said, "You hear the younger guys say, 'Fourth ... what's that?' It's a good thing that younger guys don't know any better. They feel like we should beat teams like Kansas, and so do I. If Michael thinks were going to beat Kansas, I'm not going to jump up and tell him differently. I'm not going to take that confidence away."

To these early projections, not to mention the high hopes of the Manhattan/Kansas State fan base, Martin says all of that is just fine.

"I've been at places where the fan base didn't care. That's a lonely feeling," Martin said. "I want our players to expect to win. I want our fans to expect to win."

Athlon's projects Beasley as the 6th best power forward and Walker as the 14th best small-forward. Sporting News has Beasley at No. 3 and Walker at No. 15 at their respective positions, and Lindy's has Beasley No. 10 and Walker No. 23.

CBSSports.com projects Beasley as No. 2 in the "Bigs" category, and Walker No. 10 in the "Shooters and Wings" area. The Sporting News has Beasley as a second-team all-American. Is that too much pressure on Beasley, who had 42 points in an exhibition game against Marquette and 35 in an exhibition game against Fort Hays State?

"Mike puts a great deal of pride in winning. He's about winning," Martin said. "People know he's played for four different high schools in four years, and but they may not know that in each one of those years his school won a championship the year he was there. There's something to be said about that. I believe in people who win, not people that play for self-glory. Mike wants to win and plays to win.

"He taking a great deal of pride in helping K-State get back to the days of greatness," Martin said.

Martin did add, however, that Beasley was just 18 years old, and 18-year-old do go through bad days.

Smiling, Martin said, "He's going to have a bad day. That's just human nature. It's up to us as coaches and teammates to make him understand that it's OK. It's just not good to have two bad days in a row."

Kansas State opens its season Friday at 7 p.m. against Sacramento State, followed by a Sunday afternoon game at 3 against Pittsburg State.

The Western Illinois game on Nov. 17 will start at 6 p.m., following the Kansas State-Missouri football game that will begin at 11:30 a.m.

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