Low Expectations Don't Bother the Wildcats

Kansas State has opened the 2008-09 basketball season with a 5-2 record, but the Wildcats hold only a No. 109 RPI ranking. Oh yes, K-State is unranked and tabbed for a lower-division finish in the Big 12. All of that is OK with the Wildcats.

It was one year ago that Kansas State was ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press Preseason poll.

There were two reasons: Mr. Michael Beasley and Mr. Bill Walker. Kansas State was also picked to finish fourth in the Big 12 Conference for two reasons. The same two reasons - Beasley and Walker.

This year, K-State is unranked and projected eighth by the Big 12 coaches, and as low as 10th in some preseason magazines.

"We want to show people just because Mike and Bill are gone, Kansas State isn't over with," said sophomore guard Jacob Pullen.

While joking that he had a good sense that Beasley and Walker were gone with K-State's first practice this year, Martin insisted that he's not paying a lick of attention to the preseason rankings.

"I thought last year was bogus (high rankings), and now it's the opposite, but I feel the same way," said the second-year Wildcat coach. "A lot of people thought I would be a failure and the team would be a failure. I don't pay attention to those people. People that report that stuff don't know who I am and don't know our players.

"Does that mean we're not going to be eighth or ninth?" Martin said. "I don't know, but what I'm telling you is I don't pay any attention to it."

In the Big 12, K-State did better than projected with a 10-6 third-place record a year ago.

This year, the only teams they're ahead of are Nebraska, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Colorado.

"People don't think we'll be any good, but we have a new identity," said Pullen. "Those predictions make us hungry. Everyone expects KU and Texas, and every other team in the Big 12, to be better than us, but that just makes us work harder."

To sophomore Dominique Sutton, he admits, "It does get under my skin at times, but I use it as a motivator. We want people to say, 'Wow, we didn't know they were as good as they are.' We have a lot of returning players and we're all going to step up our game."

Being a senior, Darren Kent is one of those been-there, done-that players under coaches Jim Wooldridge, Bob Huggins and now Martin.

Like his coach, Kent said, "I didn't think anything about it last year when they picked us fourth, and I'm sure not letting it bother me that we're picked eighth. That doesn't mean we have to be bad. We'll just as work as hard as we can to win as many games as we can."

Martin stresses that a basketball team has only around 30 opportunities to prove its worth, and not a single one of those games should be taken lightly.

"If you can't commit yourself for 35 days and lay it on the line for your basketball team, that doesn't make you much of a person," Martin said. "For one-tenth of the year, we're asking our guys to lay it on the line for each other."

Looking ahead to the month of March, Martin added, "Every time we line up and play, we're auditioning. Every time we go on stage, we're rehearsing for that paycheck, and that paycheck is that NCAA Tournament bid. If you don't lay it on the line, then you're allowing somebody that's watching the game to have a say in the matter."

K-State fell last night to the University of Oregon 75-70 as one of 12 games in the Big 12 vs. Pac-10 "Hardwood Series."

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