So far this season the Kansas State Wildcats (17-6, 6-5) have been much better than many thought. The Wildcats picked up key wins against Virginia Tech, Alabama and Missouri. The Wildcats have also been competitive in a conference that has three top ten teams and six possible NCAA tournament squads.
Many K-State fans have been accustomed to successful basketball years in the past but for some reason, the Wildcats feel lost in the shuffle of a three team race for No. 1 in the Big 12.
However, that may not be the case. This season, particularily the Diamond Head Classic, the Wildcats showed just how good they were when the offense is clicking. However, games like the one played against Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma has many saying, what offense?
It’s no surprise that offense is the main struggle for this young K-State team. K-State’s offense ranks No. 6 overall in the Big 12 averaging 68 points per game. K-State is also ranked No. 8 in the Big 12 in free-throw percentage shooting 67 percent along with being No. 6 in shooting percentage at 42 percent.
Facing another tough stretch with Texas, Kansas, Baylor and Missouri next up on the schedule, the Wildcats will need all the offensive help it can get. This tough stretch late in the season should prove whether or not the Wildcats are worthy enough for a NCAA tournament bid. First, the Wildcats must maintain their focus.
“It is called immaturity and not respecting the fact that your teammates are down to eight opportunities,” head coach Frank Martin said of his teams lack of focus following their 65-46 win against Texas Tech. “We should be past that this time of year.”
The Texas Longhorns (15-9, 5-6), a team the Wildcats beat previously, will be ready to protect their home floor this Saturday when Kansas State visits. The Longhorns have surrendered two contest at home this season to two top 10 teams in conference play. Picking up a win in a hostile environment such as Texas will be crucial for the Wildcats to stay amongst the top teams in the conference.
Last time around, the Wildcats rode the hot hand of junior wingman Rodney McGruder, who posted his career-high on the Longhorns. Coming off some rugged performances, Kansas State will certainly need more than McGruder to overcome a solid Texas team at home.
Texas is currently riding a two-game win streak besting both Texas Tech and Texas A&M. The Big 12 leading scorer J’Covan Brown, has had a hot hand scoring 20 plus in three of the last four games for Texas. In an earlier matchup, Brown managed to finish with 22 points but had to take 28 shots to get there. Kansas State, who is statistically one of the best defenses in the Big 12 only allowing 63 points per game during conference play, will need another smothering defensive performance on the top scorer in the conference.
The Wildcats will also need to make free-throws. Last time around, the Wildcats shot 21-39 (53%) from the line and failed to put the game out of reach. As of late, free-throws have not been a problem for the Wildcats. The last five games combined, the Wildcats have made 85-94 (90%) from the free-throw line.
The Wildcats desperately need this victory to stay within the top teams in the conference in hopes for a NCAA tournament bid. Not only do they have to worry about Texas but Kansas State also has to protect their home floor against Kansas and go on the road to play both Missouri and Baylor.
It is indeed a tough road for the Wildcats to stay one of the top teams in conference but not an impossible one. The Texas game will tip off at 1 PM on Saturday at Frank Erwin Special Events Center in Austin, Texas. The game will be covered by the ESPN networks.