Alright, It's Go Time

Everyone knows the saying, "If you're going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk." Well, it's time for Kansas State to walk the walk.

Since Bob Huggins received commitments from Michael Beasley and Bill Walker to play basketball at Kansas State, KU fans have heard an annoying chatter in their ears about the two star players and the, allegedly, rising Kansas State program. That annoying chatter was loud last year with Huggins, but now it’s even louder with Huggins gone and Beasley and Walker now on campus.   

The loss of Bob Huggins and promotion of unproven coach, Frank Martin, has added to chatter from Kansas State fans. With Martin, they have seen their hoops program start off 2007-08’ struggling and looking bad at times. Now, they sit undefeated in conference play after rebounding from such a rough start. Loses to Oregon and George Washington, along with a blow out loss to Xavier, seemed to leave Kansas State fans wondering if this, despite Beasley and Walker, would be just a regular year for the Kansas State basketball team. Lucky for Kansas State, 2007 ended and 2008 began. Along with the beginning of 2008 came conference play. Going into Wednesday night, Kansas State sits undefeated in conference play and that annoying buzz is peaking.

Should the fans be excited about playing Kansas in Manhattan? Of course they should. With Michael Beasley and Bill Walker playing well, Kansas State certainly has an opportunity to take their program to another level. A level they haven’t been in decades. Having the opportunity to beat Kansas in Manhattan, for the first time since 1983 is great, but is that what the Kansas State administration had in mind when they promoted Martin and kept assistant, Delonte Hill? Just to beat Kansas once in awhile.

With that decision, Kansas State was able to keep Walker on campus and bring Beasley to campus. Two prized recruits, for one season, to bring the Kansas State program back to a level of respectability. Short sighted? It would seem so, but as the Cats sit at 4-0 in conference, that decision doesn’t look like such a bad risk right now. On Wednesday night, we’ll see how that decision looks at about 9:00 p.m. central time. If the Cats come out victorious, the administration will feel justified in their decision. If the Jayhawks win, it’s just the same thing, different year.

Media outlets all around the state have been drubbing up story lines to create even more hype for this game on Wednesday night. Radio, TV, Internet, and of course the newspapers have been hyping this game as Kansas State’s best chance to end the streak in at least the last 15 years.  Is it? I don’t think so, and I think it’s a stretch to think so. Every year, this game seems to receive some build up. Every year, there seems to be some sort of story line that seems to give Kansas State an opportunity to end the streak. The hype and chatter seemed to peak last season with Bob Huggins being hired at KSU. Kansas, once again, rolled into Manhattan, controlled the game, and went home a winner, as usual.

Kansas State has beaten Kansas seven times since 1983. None of those wins, in Manhattan, Kansas. Kansas has been ranked in the top 20, 19 times since 1983. Kansas has been ranked 11 times in the top 5. Zero, is the number of times that this match up has taken place with both teams ranked since 1983. By looking at the numbers, it certainly would see as if Kansas has had a huge advantage over the Wildcats in talent and coaching. For the most part, they have. But this year, according to some, will be different. One problem, this might be the best Kansas team that has played in Manhattan since 1983.

The reason why some believe this year is different is due to Beasley and Walker. Walker, who played in six games last season before tearing his ACL, is a 6’5” 4 man, who will have to translate into a 3 at the next level. Walker is very skilled around the basket and has shot the ball very well since the calendar turned to 2008. Don’t let that fool you though. Walker has been a very streaky shooter with limited ball handling skills, during his young career.

Beasley, a 6’10” post man has been simply been one of the best players in the country since stepping on the court. He averages over 25 points per game, and hasn’t slowed down since conference season started. He is smooth and makes the game look very easy. Beasley has shown to be very crafty around the basket. He is very good at getting put backs off his, and his teammates missed shots, and getting three point opportunities by finishing after getting fouled. He has been a match-up problem for almost every team Kansas State has faced, and a force that hasn’t been stopped by any opponents. Kansas doesn’t need to stop Beasley or Walker to win. Kansas State needs to stop Kansas. Kansas is the team with the true ‘pick your poison’ line-up.

It won’t matter how talented Walker and Beasley are.  It won’t matter that Beasley is likely to be the #1 overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft. It will make little difference to the Kansas players, coaches, or fans. You see, Kansas State has never seen a team like this. A roster full of players that were also superstars in high school and have now established themselves as stars on the collegiate level. Names like Rush, Chalmers, Robinson, Arthur, Collins, and Jackson have run rough shod through their competition so far this season. Add in Kaun, Stewart and former McDonald’s All American, Cole Aldrich, and you have simply one of the deepest, most talented teams in the country.  These former high school superstars have come together to form Coach Bill Self’s best team at Kansas, or anywhere else.

It’s this team and these players that will disrupt, frustrate, and beat Kansas State on Wednesday night no matter what Walker and Beasley do. It’s not Walker and Beasley, who will surely be impressive, that Kansas will disrupt and frustrate the most. The Kansas State back court is just plain overmatched and outmanned in this match-up. The Kansas guards, including Rush, are some of the best defensive guards in the country. The pressure they apply has done nothing but led to turnovers and easy baskets for the Jayhawks. Simply put, the Kansas State guards aren’t good enough to prevent Kansas from turning them over.

With the ball pressure being applied by the Kansas guards, it will be much tougher for the KSU guards to get the ball into Walker and Beasley. If Kansas limits their touches, turns over KSU, and continues to play efficiently on offense, the hype will be dead with 10 minutes left in the game. Kansas State has looked impressive at points this season, but they haven’t seen a team, a cohesive team, like Kansas. The 2007-08’ version of the Kansas Jayhawks, are the perfect storm of talent, coaching, teamwork, and toughness. The worst thing that Kansas State players and fans could have done is start that annoying chatter again. Kansas will be heading east, with Danny Manning’s lucky 25 on their side. Next?

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