To think that Kansas State has overtaken Kansas as a basketball power is, frankly, unthinkable.
But the coaches who have a vote in the ESPN/USA Today poll don't see it that way. And in picking Kansas State No. 3 in their preseason poll, four spots higher than Kansas, the coaches have stirred a hornet's nest in our fine state.
KU people can't stomach the thought of taking a back seat to K-State in basketball, of all things. And since it's only a preseason poll of coaches — what do they know? —Kansas fans are not in a panic.
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But they know what we all know, that K-State is for real. Last season's run to the Elite Eight was no fluke. If anything, it was a surprise the Wildcats didn't beat Butler and get to the Final Four in Indianapolis.
Frank Martin and his staff have done a fantastic job of recruiting and coaching. K-State is loaded, even after losing emotional leader Denis Clemente and that guy who did all the dirty work, Dominique Sutton.
They will be missed. But Martin has built a program that can withstand the departures of standout players, much like what goes on at KU year after year.
Jacob Pullen, Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels return. And others will take on bigger roles, especially sophomore Wally Judge, who was starting to come into his own when last season finished.
Sophomore guard Rodney McGruder backed up Pullen and Clemente last season and will take on a larger role. Big guys Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and transfer Freddy Asprilla will be in the mix. And there's another fine group of freshmen — Shane Southwill, Will Spradling and Nino Williams — waiting in the wings.
K-State is all the way back after so many seasons of futility. The Wildcats will get the kind of national television exposure reserved for college basketball's elite. Only Duke and Michigan State are ranked higher in the coaches poll.
It's heady stuff.
But, let's not forget about KU. I know, Sherron Collins is gone. Cole Aldrich is gone. Xavier Henry is gone.
Kansas, however, lives in the Big 12's penthouse. In the 14-year history of the conference, the Jayhawks are 187-37. That's an average of 13.4 wins and 2.6 losses and that's blatantly ridiculous.
Winning is habitual at Kansas. At Kansas State, it still feels new. The Wildcats are 91-133 in Big 12 play. They haven't been in the same stratosphere as Kansas, which has won 21 of the 22 meetings in Manhattan.
The last image of KU, though, was of the heavily-favored Jayhawks losing to Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Oklahoma City last March.
The Jayhawks, loaded with talent, struggled to find chemistry last season. And even though they won another Big 12 championship (they almost always win the Big 12 championship), there were noticeable flaws.
Crazy as it sounds, I expect Kansas to be a more finely-tuned machine in 2010-11. There's still a load of talent and experience and an opportunity for players to take on larger roles.
Last season, 6-foot-8 forward Marcus Morris became one of the best players in the Big 12. I wouldn't be surprised if his twin brother, Markieff, did the same thing this season.
Mario Little and Travis Releford, both of whom sat out as redshirts last season, will make an impact. So will freshman guard Josh Selby, one of the nation's most-promising newcomers, once his eligibility is worked out.
Sophomores Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson will make contributions. Seniors Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar are great security blankets for KU coach Bill Self.
But the key to the Jayhawks might be guard Tyshawn Taylor, who has been his own worst enemy.
Self has shown a lot of patience with Taylor, whose emotional instability has caused him to say silly things and make more blunders than he should be making on the court. But you can't argue with Taylor's ability, and with the departure of Collins it's time for him to become a leader.
There's so much to like about both Kansas State and Kansas. They certainly both belong in the preseason top 10 and have the talent and coaching to stay there all season.
It's great to have this once-great basketball rivalry back. Rest assured, KU won't give up superiority in the Big 12 without a fight. And if there's a better fighter in the country than Martin, who passes down his pugnacious ways to K-State's players, I haven't seen him.
Baylor, Missouri and Texas will be heard from in the conference, too. But the two loudest voices belong to Kansas State and Kansas. Cover your ears.