Bruce Weber watches too much football to describe Kansas State’s next two basketball games as must-win dates on the schedule.
Yes, they are both at home. And, yes, it would be nice if K-State can beat Texas Tech on Tuesday and No. 17 Iowa State on Saturday following a 0-3 start in the Big 12. But he doesn’t think either game will define the season. It’s too early, he says, for that kind of talk.
For those that disagree, he points to the football turnaround currently transpiring in Kansas City.
“Where did the Chiefs start? Awful. Now they are one of the hottest teams in football. You just have to get better,” Weber said. “I think NFL football is a great example. My Green Bay Packers were 6-0 and now they are puttering along. The Patriots were unbelievable; the Chiefs were, well, people were killing them. We have just got to worry about the next game and keep getting better.”
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Weber cited the Chiefs, because they started 1-5, finished 11-5 and then walloped the Houston Texans 30-0 to advance to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. He thinks it serves as a good reminder to his players that it’s never too late to turn things around.
Of course, a 7 p.m. game against Texas Tech would be a good place to start.
K-State opened Big 12 play at home against No. 11 West Virginia and then on the road against Texas and No. 2 Oklahoma. Texas Tech, though improved previous seasons under Tubby Smith, is arguably the least-challenging league opponent the Wildcats have faced. Weber thought they played tough in narrow losses to the Mountaineers and Longhorns, now he wants more.
“We have to take advantage of it,” Weber said. “But nothing is going to be easy. I hope our guys understand that.”
One important factor for K-State will be offense. The Wildcats have struggled to consistently score since the start of December, and slow starts cost them in their past two games. Texas took an early lead, and Oklahoma raced to a 21-point advantage before halftime.
K-State has played strong defense most of the season, but its offense has to keep up.
“We struggle scoring and we have to get better with that,” Weber said. “I think a lot of it is we force things. I told them before the (Oklahoma) game I don’t want to stop running. I think it is a good thing for us, but we need to make better decisions.... Let it happen. Value the ball, move the ball. When we move the ball we are pretty good.”
Freshman guard Barry Brown, who was named Big 12 player of the week on Monday, led K-State in scoring in its past two games. He needs help from senior Justin Edwards and junior Wesley Iwundu.
“I am just adjusting to the offense well,” Brown said. “I’m listening to the coaches about what I have to do coming off the bench.”
Weber insists K-State has enough playmakers to score at an improved level. Hopefully, he said, returning home for a pair of games will help the Wildcats find confidence.
“I told them after West Virginia that every game was going to be the biggest game of the year,” Weber said. “When you have a league like we have, it gives you the chance to play against the top teams in the country, so every game is going to be big. Obviously, if you want to be competing for the top half of the league, you have to win home games. We already let one slip away. This is an important game, there’s no doubt about it.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett
Texas Tech at Kansas State
- When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
- Where: Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan
- Records: Tech 11-3, 1-2 Big 12; KSU 10-5, 0-3
- Radio: KQAM, 1480-AM; KWLS, 107.9-FM
- TV: FSKC
Texas Tech: Everyone seems to agree this is the best team Tubby Smith has coached at Texas Tech. It is probably the top Red Raiders team since Bob Knight retired. Texas Tech won 10 of its 11 nonconference games, including victories against Mississippi State and Minnesota. It has since lost two in a row against Iowa State and Kansas. Williams has been one of the top scorers in the Big 12.
Kansas State: The Wildcats are hoping to end a three-game skid and win their first conference game of the season. K-State opened league play with a difficult schedule, playing West Virginia and Oklahoma in its first three games. Hurt is coming off one of his best games, an 11-point effort against Oklahoma. Brown has been on a roll for the Wildcats. He scored 19 against the Sooners.
RPIs as of Monday: Tech 14, K-State 65.