If you polled the KU coaching staff on Tuesday you'd come up with one universal answer: "this place is going to be juiced up tomorrow night".
I've been fortunate enough to be at some pretty special Fieldhouse
environments since Bill Self arrived as the head coach at KU but I
think this one may rival all of them.
It's impossible to escape the hype. Kansas Media Relations Director
Chris Theisen told Phog.net that the amount of media requests for KU's
final two games is a lot larger. It was so large that some media will
have to use passes leftover from a game played earlier this season! The
KU Athletics website is streaming the game and Sherron Collins senior
day speech live.
Tuesday Kansas proceeded as normal and held a spirited two-hour
practice and scout of Kansas State with a film session after.Wednesday
will be anything but normal and everybody knows it.
"It will be as hard a game as we've played," Self concluded. "I am sure
that they're thinking if they knock us off and Missouri knocks us off
they can get a piece of the Big 12 championship which is right for them
to think that."
If Kansas State is spending a lot of time thinking about conference
titles head coach Frank Martin is doing his best to "cover it up". The
Wildcats have won seven in a row since that loss to KU in January but
they their mind set on one thing – the next game on the schedule.
"Yeah I mean we've talked about that and we're happy we're playing in a
meaningful conference game at this time of the year but we're not going
to dwell on that," continued Martin. "We can't worry about what happens
Saturday and what happens a week from now, or ten days from now. We can
only worry about one thing and that's what we can control. That's the
next practice and the next game."
"Our objective as a team is to prepare to win the next game. That's the
way we've done it all year and that's not going to change."
The game was physical and intense during a late January overtime
thrilled in Manhattan that went to KU (81-79) but yet this one has the
potential to be even better.
"I'm sure they'll be as excited as they've been all year long to play
but you know what? I think we will be too," said Self.
"After the three losses they had, they have been one of the best teams
in the country. They are going to come in and they are going to give us
their best shot," assessed KU's leading conference scorer Marcus Morris. "They want part of the Big 12 and they are going to play like
that want part of it. We are going to play like we want it."
Will KU want it too bad? The biggest concern for the Jayhawks coming in
might not be the backcourt combo of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente or
the fervor with which the Wildcat big men crash the glass. The biggest
obstacle might be getting too amped up for this game.
"We're playing a really talented team and it's also Sherron's last home
game which I think definitely adds a piece to the equation. Are we
going to be able to control our emotions is he going to be able to
because this will be a big deal," Self assessed.
So Martin continues to downplay the game while Self admittedly knows
this game is huge. For Kansas the schedule ends with quite a bang
facing its two biggest rivals with one at home and one on the road in
Columbia against Missouri. No seeds are locked up just yet in the NCAA
Tournament but by the end of this week K-State could have a nice
feather in its cap while KU will likely have a nice barometer to judge
"This will be the toughest week that we have all year long - and we
know that so what better preparation for the postseason then to play a
tough schedule like this the last week so we'll be excited about it,"
Self has nothing but respect and admiration for the team that K-State
has become and the man who patrols the opposite sideline. In
a testament to the true definition of "team" Martin refused to answer
the question on Monday in the Big 12 teleconference when asked which of
his talented players would/should earn league honors. Martin refused to
single out one player and sternly said would leave that up to the
media. Martin may not want to point the finger at a player of the year
but Self knows who he believes has done the best coaching job.
"We're playing a terrific team and of course Frank's done a marvelous
job – as good a job as anybody's done in the country let alone our
league," Self concluded.
Martin is likely taking a look at the reason KU gave way to Syracuse as
the top team in the nation this week. Did Oklahoma State's
85-77 victory open up a can of worms on how to beat KU? After watching
the tape Martin had a pretty simple assessment.
"They made 67 percent of their shots in the first half. When you make
that many shots -and I think they were 14-20 from the three-point line
- it's on your home court, it's going to be hard to lose. They jumped
up and made shots. Kansas is one of the better defensive teams in the
country and yet Oklahoma state just made every shot. It's hard to beat
a team in the Big 12 at home when they shoot that well," said Martin
clearly marveled by the Okie State shooting performance.
Certainly the rebounding numbers against a smaller Oklahoma State don't
bode well for KU. In a rebounding effort Marcus Morris said was,
"horrible for us" KU was outworked by and undersized Cowboys squad.
Those numbers alone could have an excellent rebounding team like
"They go after every ball," Self said. "They are relentless. We can
talk about technique, but forget that. Go get your man and go get the
ball. That's the bottom line, and they are relentless at doing so. They
play a lot of big guys and (Dominique) Sutton is as good an athlete as
anyone in our league at the three spot. They are very, very good at
"They are real aggressive. The rebound well and you have to make sure
you box out. You can't fall asleep because they are aggressive
rebounders. They are an aggressive team," sophomore Markieff Morris
The aggression, the rebounding, and the maturity have all contributed
to the Wildcats going 11-2 away from Manhattan this season. But the
Cats haven't been in an environment quite like what they are about to
face at Phog Allen. It will be tough but Martin hopes his squad can
stick to their guns.
"I just think we've learned to stay the course," commented Martin. "In
the past we've allowed games where we didn't make shots to effect our
spirit and enthusiasm. Our experience has shown we've gotten better
there. We're able to play through those moments and just stay the
course and that's what maturity does. It allows you to be more
consistent and stay focused and not give in to the emotion of
It will be a tug of war and we'll see who gives in to the emotions that
are sure to be running high on Wednesday night.
Believe the Hype?
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