No college basketball coach enjoys watching his team lose three of its first four conference games, but Kansas State’s Frank Martin knows how to handle it better than most.
“It seems like a yearly occurrence, doesn’t it?” said Martin following the Wildcats’ 82-73 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday. “We sit here and we’re 1-3 in league play.”
Since starting the conference season with five straight wins in 2008, K-State must battle back from a sub-.500 record in Big 12 play for the fourth straight year. First came an 0-4 start in 2009, then came a loss at Missouri to start 2010 and then there was a 2-5 opening last year.
The Wildcats have always found a way to bounce back and finish with a winning Big 12 record.
“You have to have a solid foundation to overcome your record. That is No. 1,” Martin said. “You can’t sit around and focus on your record, because if you’re worried about 1-3, you’re going to be 1-4.
“You’ve got to worry about one thing and thing one only: ‘Let’s go get better as a team. Let’s play like it again, let’s prepare for it again and let’s go win the next game on the schedule.’ If you do that, you’re fine.”
It might not take much for K-State to go on a winning streak. Though it was uncompetitive during a loss at Kansas, and lackluster in a defeat at Oklahoma, it played Baylor tough until the final possession and throttled Missouri at home.
Up next is a toss-up game against Texas at home. It could serve as a litmus test for K-State’s comeback hopes.
Separation at the top
The new AP Top 25 poll is a perfect of example of the drop off that exists between the top teams in the Big 12 and the middle of the pack. Baylor, Kansas and Missouri are all ranked in the top 10, while the other seven teams in the conference are hard to find. Kansas State hung on at No. 25, but no other team is receiving votes. The Bears, Jayhawks and Tigers are the class of the Big 12 right now. Everyone else is in full catch-up mode. The winner of Monday’s game in Lawrence may have the early inside track to a league title, but any one of those three could end up on top.
Memory Lane unkind
New Texas Tech basketball coach Billy Gillispie took a trip down memory lane last week by playing his former boss, Bill Self, and his former team, Texas A&M. But there was little nostalgia involved. The Red Raiders lost both in blowouts and are now the only team without a conference win. Texas Tech struggled to score in both games and didn’t even crack 50 points against KU. Making matters worse, it might be a while before things get better in Lubbock. Its best chance at victory isn’t until Jan. 31, when Oklahoma State comes to town.
It’s too early to pick a favorite for most of the individual awards the Big 12 will hand out at the end of the season. Well, most of them anyway. If Baylor’s Pierre Jackson doesn’t win the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year award, someone will have some explaining to do. The Bears junior looks like the difference between a Baylor team that is ranked in the top five and the team that missed the postseason a year ago. Unlike most guards who have played under Scott Drew, Jackson is a pass-first player. The junior transfer uses a high-energy style and is capable of creating shots for others and himself. In his past three games, he has a combined 47 points, 26 assists and 14 rebounds. All while coming off the bench.
Before Monday’s game
1. Baylor (17-0, 4-0): vs. KU on Monday
2. Kansas (14-3, 4-0): vs. Baylor on Monday
3. Missouri (16-1, 3-1): Underrated win at Iowa State
4. Iowa State (12-5, 2-2): So close to a 4-0 start
5. Texas (12-5, 2-2): J’Covan Brown leads conference in scoring
6. Kansas State (12-4, 1-3): Cats need to beat Texas
7. Oklahoma State (9-8, 2-2): What’s worse? Allowing 106 points against Baylor or scoring 65?
8. Oklahoma (11-5, 1-3): Dullest home-court environment in the Big 12?
9. Texas A&M (10-6, 1-3): Maybe beating Texas Tech will get Aggies on track
10. Texas Tech (7-9, 0-4): Only team with a losing overall record