By Mark Janssen
Kansas State's men's basketball team begins play tonight at 8:30 in the 2010 O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic set for the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Playing in the 6:30 p.m. opener will be No. 1 Duke against Marquette, followed by No. 3 K-State versus No. 12 Gonzaga at 8:30. Both games are set for ESPN2.
Tuesday, the losing teams will play at 6:45 on ESPNU, while the winners play at 9:00 on ESPN2.
Those accomplishments for the first-time head coach have not only grabbed the attention of the Big 12, but also the nation.
Here's Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski: "Kansas State is one of the best teams in the country and Frank is a top-notch guy and an outstanding coach. His teams play hard, they play smart and they play together in an exciting brand of basketball."
At Marquette, coach Buzz Williams says of Martin-coached teams, "They are the hardest playing, meanest, scrappiest, not-going-to-give-an-inch group that you'll find in college basketball. I love Frank. I love his past. I love his story and I have a great respect for how he goes about things."
"Nothing against K-State, but when you look at the body of work over the last 20 years, statistically what Frank has done since taking over the program is extraordinary," said Williams.
And from Gonzaga, here's Mark Few: "The thing that jumps out with Frank's team is how hard they play, which is a talent and skill in itself. I can't think of a team that plays harder than Kansas State in college basketball. That's to the credit of Frank and his staff."
"Hugs (Bob Huggins) got it going and handed it over to Frank, and he's gone out and raised it up a couple notches," said Few. "His teams play hard and are tough-minded."
K-STATE VS. NO. 1: K-State has played 16 games against teams when they were ranked No. 1 in the nation and have gone 3-13 in those games. The most recent games came last year when the Wildcats lost to Kansas, 72-64, in the Big 12 Tournament, but defeated Texas, 71-62, in regular season play.
The other two wins came in 1994 over Kansas, 68-64, and in 1990 over Missouri, 65-58.
WHEN BOTH ARE RANKED: With the chance to play two ranked teams - No. 12 Gonzaga and No. 1 Duke - it could mark the 25th and 26th times in KSU history that the Wildcats will play in a game where both teams are ranked.
In such games, K-State is 11-13. The most recent victory came last week when No. 3 K-State topped No. 22 Virginia Tech.
On the two-game set, Martin said, "We're going to play two great games in a great atmosphere. We'll be a much better basketball team from the experience."
PLAYING THE 'D': Coach Few is high on the Wildcats overall, but specifically at the defensive end where he says, "It's a crusade to score against them."
K-State's Martin is equally impressed with the defense that Duke throws at teams. It's a 'D' that he started studying as a high school coach, and developed through the years with a Bob Huggins influence.
"I've blended those looks together and then created my own philosophy and teaching points," said Martin. "They (Duke) hound the ball, get in passing lanes and don't allow you to run your offense."
MARTIN ON CATS: On KSU's 3-0 start, Martin has been concerned about his upperclassman leadership, but otherwise, he says, "We've played hard and I like our team. I think some of our young guys have played a lot better than I expected them to. I'm proud of that."
TOP 50 PLAYERS: The CBE Classic is attracting some of the best talents as on the Preseason John Wooden Award list are Jacob Pullen of K-State, Nolan Smith and Steven Gray from Duke, and Elias Harris of Gonzaga.
Of Pullen, Williams says, "He's so hard to guard because he can pass, he can dribble and he can shoot. He plays with poise and energy. He's the engine that makes them go."
But to that, Martin adds, "We don't want to be a one-pony show here. That's not who we've been. We work hard at spreading the wealth."
SCOUTS, SCOUTS EVERYWHERE: CBE tourney officials report that 43 NBA scouts will be in attendance.
THE BEST IN COACHING: Sometime in early January, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will most likely past Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith in all-time wins.
Of Coach K's accomplishments, Martin said, "I answer the question every day as to whether we're going to hold up under these expectations (No. 3 in the nation). Imagine being at Duke where they've had those expectations for 30 years. What can you say? Every single year they are right in the middle of an ACC championship or a national championship. That's hard to do once, and they do it every single year."
Gonzaga's Mark Few has the best career winning percentage (.799) among active coaches in Division I basketball. Roy Williams is next at .798.
LAST YEAR: Duke won the national title with a 35-5 record; K-State finished No. 7, reached the Elite Eight and won 29 games; Gonzaga was ranked No. 22 and won 27 games, which included a 10th straight West Coast Conference title; and, Marquette won 22 games and went to a fifth straight NCAA tournament.