IT'S BIG 12 TIME

With an 11-3 record, it's time for the new season … the Big 12 season … that begins for Kansas State Saturday against No. 6 Oklahoma. The Wildcats have won six games in a row.

History tells us that nine Big 12 wins is a guarantee to go dancin' in March at the NCAA Tournament.

The next question: Is that nine-win figure within reach for this year's Kansas State basketball team, which would also likely mean an overall ledger of 21-10 entering the Big 12 Conference Tournament.

Coach Frank Martin?

"We don't look at it that way," Martin said. "We focus only on our next opponent. If you sit around saying you have to win nine or 10 games, then you're settling on winning nine or 10 games when there's a total of 16 games to play."

Still, the facts of the first 12 seasons of Big 12 hoops are these:

* In all but last year (9 wins), it has taken at least 10 wins to place in the top four in the league standings, which earns a first-round bye in the Big 12 Tournament.

* On average, five teams advance to the NCAA Tournament.

* Only twice - Nebraska in 1999 and K-State in 2007 - has a 10-game Big 12 winner "not" gone to the NCAA tourney.

* Teams winning nine Big 12 wins have been rewarded with NCAA tourney invitations 11 out of 13 times.

* Only one time has an 8-8 Big 12 team advanced to the NCAA tourney.

To reach nine-victory status, Martin said, "We need to continue the development of our players in our offensive concepts, so we can become a better offensive unit, which in turn will give our defense a chance to set up. We need to focus on taking good shots and not turning the ball over. That, and defensive rebounding."

Like in football, if you're an up-and-comer, this is the time to be in the Big 12 North Division where it's easier to rack up victories.

In the preseason Big 12 coaches poll, five of the league's top division teams were out of the South, and now past the one-third mark to the season, there's no reason to question that with Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor and Texas A&M all ranked among the nation's elite. From the North, only Missouri is currently ranked at No. 25.

To that, Martin says, "We can't judge this year's conference teams just 10 games into the season. Let's wait until the end of the year. I do know this, our conference has the third best overall record of any conference, so we're not bad top to bottom."

K-State, 11-3, is on a six-game roll entering Saturday's 12:30 start against Oklahoma, which will be followed by a game at Kansas on Tuesday.


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