Frank Martin has a question: "What have we proven? What have we proven? That we can win 17 games and that we can be 6-4 in the Big 12 after 10 games? You don't prove anything until the season is over. That's when you sit down and reflect."
Martin later added, "You can't start planning a parade down College Avenue just because you're 6-4. You have to finish the year." The first step toward finishing the year takes place Saturday when K-State entertains 16th-rated Kansas.
"It would mean a lot (to beat KU.) It would prove a lot for us as a team," said sophomore guard Jacob Pullen. "From the start of the season to now, people still say that without Mike (Beasley), we still can't do this and that, but if we win Saturday, it'll prove how hard we've worked since we lost to Wisconsin (NCAA Tournament) and since we knew we weren't going to have Mike (Beasley) and Bill (Walker) this year. It shows how hard we've worked to improve as a team."
For certain, K-State has to improve as a team over the last meeting with KU on Jan. 13 when the Jayhawks won by an 87-71 margin. That was the night that the Wildcats opened the game with an 18-0 deficit through the first six-plus minutes.
"We started out real bad. We didn't get into a flow at all," Pullen said. "We used all of our energy to get back in it (closing to within three points), but we didn't have anything left to finish it."
Darren Kent called the first six minutes "... a blur. Every time you turned around, they were knocking down a three. We were careless with the basketball and forced too many bad shots. Before you knew it, it was 18-0."
But that was then, and this is now, according to the Wildcat senior: "That's when we were struggling and not playing with the energy we have now. Now we're playing with a passion." Martin adds, "I don't mind getting beat if we have another opportunity to beat them. We have that on Saturday."
Of Collins, KSU assistant coach Brad Underwood says, "He plays with great strength and great court awareness. He has an uncanny ability to keep defenders from ever playing in balance. He's very hard to stay squared-up on."
Aldrich, along with Blake Griffin, is the lone Big 12 player to be averaging a double-double. Aldrich is averaging 14.3 points on 61 percent shooting, plus 10.4 rebounds.
"He's so big and strong," said Underwood. "Then you throw in the fact that he's the hardest working center in America. I've never seen him take a play off. He's always going to the offensive boards."
The importance of the game for Kansas State is to get that "quality win" that postseason selection committees adore. Jacob Pullen continues to predict at least a third-place Big 12 finish for KSU, and says, "Every win is a big win. We started out 0-4 and now we're trying to dig out of that hole and get back to the surface."
A DIFFERENT TYPE OF RIVALRY: After playing at Mizzou on Monday and now K-State on Saturday, KU coach Bill Self said of the two rivals, "I've always thought the Missouri game was more hatred and that the Kansas State game was more of a respective rivalry. That's how I've always viewed it since I've been here. The atmosphere in Bramlage (Coliseum) last year was unbelievable. It was terrific, and it will be that good this year, as it should be."