For only the second time since 1992-93, and for just the third time since the days of Mitch Richmond in 1988, Kansas State's basketball team is ranked among the nation's elite programs.
Announced on Monday, the Wildcats were No. 17 in the Associated Press listing, and No. 22 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
"It's a credit to those kids that put in all that work to grow as a team," coach Frank Martin said, only minutes after learning of the ranking on Monday. "We've been able to find some success early in the year, and they're getting credit for their efforts. You don't get ranked without winning games."
The 9-1 Wildcats are winning games to begin a season like only few others have experienced in K-State history. Here's a list of the top starts to the season "before" losing its second game:
• 1918-19 – 17-0 … lost last two games to finish year 17-2
• 1958-59 – 25-1 … No. 1 ranked ‘Cats lost to No. 5 Cincinnati in NCAA Tourney
• 1957-58 – 21-1 … lost four of the last six games to finish 22-5
• 1947-48 – 15-1 … lost three of last five to finish 22-6
• 10-1 starts – 1917-18, 1961-62, 1979-80, 1993-94, 1997-98, 2004-05
• 9-1 – 2009-10
Prior to that, K-State was ranked for two weeks in the 1992-93 season (No. 23), and in 1987-88 the Wildcats were ranked No. 14 for one week in February, but entered NCAA Tournament play at only No. 20 when they advanced to the Elite 8 in Pontiac, Mich.
Before that, one must go back to the 1981-82 season to find the previous ranked K-State team. It is also the highest ranking prior to conference play since K-State was ranked No. 14 in the preseason poll in 1975.
While saying there are no celebrative parades staged in the month of December, Martin does say, "I'd rather be ranked than unranked."
But he also knows that ranking could last only to the next game, which is in Mobile, Ala., against Alabama on Saturday.
Asked how he will present the ranking to his team, Martin said, "All I have to do is show them our schedule. We have guys who have been around and you have to trust that experience."
Using last year's 0-4 start to the Big 12 season as an example, Martin said, "We couldn't dwell on that. We had to separate ourselves from those losses and give total concentration to the emotion needed to win the next game on our schedule.
"We can't dwell on all these early wins like we couldn't dwell on the early Big 12 losses last year," Martin said. "You can only look ahead and focus on that next game on your schedule."