'Cats Close in The Polls

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Off to its best basketball start to a season in five years with an 8-1 record, Kansas State still finds itself on the outside of the weekly Top 25 listings. But with wins the last two times out against Washington State and Xavier, coupled with yet another win Saturday against No. 18 UNLV, and the Wildcats just may join the nation's elite.

Frank Martin initially says that the national rankings are "meaningless to me." But when the Wildcat coach is encouraged to talk about the polls, one gets the idea that he does care.

"Everyone talks about everyone else in the country, but nobody wants to talk about us," Martin said after defeating Xavier Tuesday night.

He continued, "Being ranked at this time of the year helps in only one way. You get on ESPN highlights and people see your team. When you're not in the Top 25, you won't be on their highlight. Part of the world has never been to Manhattan and never seen our team play. If they see you on ESPN, there's the thinking of, ‘They must be pretty good.' When you get on ESPN and they're talking about your school and your program, that's free recruiting."

Kansas State is on the verge of cracking the Associated Press' Top 25 ranking. With an 8-1 record, which includes victories over No. 18 Dayton, plus Washington State and Xavier, the Wildcats are No. 30 this week heading into Saturday's 6 p.m. tipoff against No. 18 UNLV at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

One would think that a Wildcat victory over the Runnin' Rebels might be enough to vault them past Memphis, Clemson, Vanderbilt and Florida State, who are also just on the outside of the polls.

The Wildcats were last ranked in Martins first season as head coach in 2007-08, but only briefly – the first three weeks of the season and four weeks toward the middle of Big 12 play -- and never higher than No. 18.

Prior to that, one has to go back to the 1992-93 season the last time K-State was ranked, and that was for only two weeks at No. 23.

As good as Lon Kruger was as an all-Big 8 player from 1971-72 through 1973-74 when K-State won 61 games, K-State was ranked in only one of those years (plus one week of another) after the start of Big 8 Conference play in January.

Now at No. 18 with his 7-0 UNLV team, he says, "It's nice for the players, fans and program to be ranked at this time. However, I do believe this group of players understands that you can't be complacent this early in the season and you have to make an effort to get better each day in practice."

As a player at K-State from 1986-87 through 1989-90, and a part of 81 victories, Steve Henson played on Wildcat teams ranked in only three weeks.

Now as one of Kruger's UNLV assistants, he says of the importance of being ranked, "It's not important to the coaches, or even the players. But from a recruiting standpoint, it's very important. We go to the west coast where we recruit against all the Pac 10 schools and kids take notice of what teams are in the polls.

We're ranked higher than everybody but Washington (No. 17) and that gets the attention of young players."

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