While Bruce Weber was on the road recruiting earlier this week, he spent a great deal of time thinking about what to emphasize to his Kansas State players when they began practicing for a rematch with Oklahoma State.
Eventually, he decided to stress the importance of winning at home.
“That is the biggest thing right now,” Weber said. “We had a chance the other night to sneak what would have been a major upset (against No. 9 Iowa State). You know we didn’t get it done, but now we have to make sure we don’t slip up at home.”
K-State’s motivation to protect its home court goes beyond the cliche at 11 a.m. Saturday. Sure, a victory against the Cowboys would give the Wildcats a quality RPI victory that will help their postseason chances and keep them in the upper tier of the Big 12 standings, but it would also cap an anticipated day for the program.
Never miss a local story.
The day will start with K-State naming the road next to its basketball training facility “Tex Winter Drive,” after its former coach, who is famous for teaching the triangle offense. Then as many 50 former players will be honored during a halftime ceremony. And with spring-semester classes underway, a more vocal student crowd is expected.
On top of all that, K-State is asking fans to stripe Bramlage Coliseum by wearing purple and white in alternating sections.
Nobody wants to send that type of crowd home unhappy.
“You get a little hype there,” Weber said. “I know it is early in the morning, but you get a little energy going and I hope it leads to a great environment.”
One the Wildcats need to use to their advantage.
“Home-court advantage is very important,” K-State guard Marcus Foster said. “You look back to last year, even though we weren’t winning on the road, we were winning all our home games. That is why we were able to stay in the (race for) the Big 12. We definitely need to win all our home games.”
That will certainly be important as K-State attempts to fight its way back into the conversation for the NCAA Tournament. Its final six home games are against teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the Associated Press Top 25. Winning all, or most, of those games would boost its profile. Home-court losses make road wins more necessary.
K-State is 8-2 at home. It has also won six straight home games against ranked opponents. So its players presumably understand the importance of winning home games. Weber simply wants to reiterate that point given what is at stake.
“It all starts with Saturday, Weber said. “We can’t look too far ahead. That was part of our problem early, before the season even started. We were worried about the end and not worried about the journey. Right now, we have to worry about Saturday against Oklahoma State.”
Oklahoma State at Kansas State
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan
Records: OSU 13-5, 3-3 Big 12; KSU 11-8, 4-2
Radio: KQAM, 1480-AM; KWLS, 107.9-FM
Oklahoma State at Kansas State
Oklahoma State (13-5, 3-3): The Cowboys fell out of the top 25 following losses to Kansas and Oklahoma last week, but they bounced back from those defeats with a 20-point victory against Texas Tech this week. They will come to Bramlage Coliseum hoping to go above .500 in the Big 12 standings. Nash and Forte are the players that make Oklahoma State go. Together, they are the Big 12’s top scoring duo. Forte hurt K-State the most when Oklahoma State beat the Wildcats at Gallagher-Iba Arena earlier this season, scoring a game-high 20 points.
Kansas State (11-8, 4-2): The Wildcats lost their first game since Jan. 3 earlier this week at Iowa State. The OSU game could be much different from the first meeting, when Foster spent much of the game on the bench and went scoreless. He has scored in double figures since and says he is determined to lead K-State in a revenge game. Backup point guard Nigel Johnson is expected to play after suffering a minor knee injury against Iowa State. Weber also said Tre Harris and Brian Rohleder may see additional minutes.
RPIs as of Friday: OSU 29, K-State 81.