Kansas CITY, Mo. – Frank Martin will tell you, “We’re good enough that we can go out and beat anybody in the country. If we play our best we’re that good.”
But, he will quickly add, “We can also lose to anybody. We can’t get passive. We know we can go line up and play with anybody, but we’re also humble enough to understand if we don’t do things right, anyone can get us.”
A perfect example of Martin’s words are Kansas State’s games with the 12-6 25-6 Baylor Bears, which is the team the 10-8, 21-9 Wildcats play this morning at 11:30, at the Big 12 Championships in Kansas City’s Sprint Center.
In Manhattan on Jan. 10, K-State lost a 75-73 game to the No. 4 ranked Bears in a game where the guys in Purple were plagued by 20 turnovers.
In Waco on Feb. 18, the Wildcats got a bit of revenge by easing past the No. 9 ranked Bears, 57-56, when K-State held Baylor to 38 percent shooting.
Of the Bears who have gone just 4-4 in the last month of the season, Martin said, “They don’t have anything to prove. They could be in the Final Four just like that. This league is real good. It’s hard to win games.”
With the likes of All-Big 12 selections Quincy Acy and Pierre Jackson, and second-teamer Perry Jones III, plus Co-Freshman of the Year Quincy Miller, Martin said, “It’s a team that’s a real pain in the you know what to prepare for.”
Martin went on to say of this stage of the season, “It’s time to sacrifice even more and be even more unselfish in our play. The next time you don’t find success, the season is over in Big 12 play. Next week is the same. From here on in if you don’t win the next game in the environment (Big 12 or NCAA) that you’re in, you’re done.
“We understand that, and embrace that,” said Martin. “We’re going to make sure this team plays to its fullest each time out. We want to be enthusiastic and competitive. We need to maintain an edge to do it the right way.”
UPS AND DOWNS:
Kansas State started the year with an 11-1 record, which was followed by a 6-7 start to Big 12 games, followed by a 4-1 conclusion to the Big 12 season.
“We probably had a lot more success early in the year than I expected, but then we hit a learning curve,” said Martin. “What I’m excited about is the way that we handled the adversity. I think that helped bring the team closer together. To me, that’s what sticks out about this team.”
This year K-State concluded Big 12 play with wins over Texas A&M and Oklahoma State in the final week of the season, and won four of its last five games. One would think that would be reason for optimism going into the Big 12 Championships … but, not so fast.
Last year K-State completed the regular-season on a six-game run, but then lost to Colorado in the opening game in Kansas City.
Two years ago, the Wildcats limped into the tournament having lost to Kansas and Iowa State in the final week of the season, but then won two straight games in KC.
Three years ago the ‘Cats won their last game, and two of their last three, but lost to Texas in Kansas City.
Of his club’s recent play, Martin said, “I have been extremely pleased with how our team has played the last four, and maybe five weeks of the season.”
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS:
K-State freshman Angel Rodriguez is No. 1 on the team in assists with 93, but also No. 1 in turnovers with 74. Rodriguez also is tops in steals with 38.
“That’s what I liked about him when I recruited him,” said Martin of Rodriguez. “He is very confident. He did not always make the right play, but that didn’t hinder him from trying to take a chance and make it the next time. I am all about guys that inspire to be real good, and guys that are not scared to take a chance.”
In the freshman record book, Rodriguez ranks fourth in KSU history in assists and fourth in steals. He’s only behind Clent Stewart, Steve Henson and Jacob Pullen assists, and in back of Henson, Michael Beasley and Pullen in steals.
WITH A WIN:
A victory over the Baylor Bears would likely put K-State against the University of Kansas for the third time this year. The game would take place at 6:30 Friday at Kansas City’s Sprint Center.
The championship game will be on Saturday at 5 p.m.