By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State thrives on being the underdog, and that's where it is for the rest of this 2010-11 Big 12 basketball year.
The first half 3-5 league record has put the Wildcats in a hole that will take some digging to see NCAA daylight as the second stage of the season begins this afternoon at Iowa State in a 12:30 p.m., start.
Simply put, going 6-2 in the second set of eight games would really be nice; going 5-3 is an absolute must, and would likely still take at least two wins in the Big 12 Championships to go "dancing."
In all honesty, if one would have penciled out "W's" and "L's" through the first eight games, K-State is only a game, or maybe two, behind what was realistic. The home loss to Colorado stings, and so does the fact that the Wildcats came up empty in road tilts at Oklahoma State, Missouri and Texas A&M, not to mention Kansas.
In looking back, and forward, Martin said of the Big 12 season, "It's an absolute grind. Every year by game 14 I don't know how I'm going to make it to game 16, and a year from now we're going to have 18 of them (league games). It makes me lose sleep."
While 3-5 is the record, Martin points out that the Wildcats were in games to win at Oklahoma State and at A&M, and at home with CU, "... but we couldn't close them out. We've lost a couple hard fought games, but do you know what, we're a young team. You've got to earn the right to win those games and our guys continue to battle to earn that right. After eight games, I think we're better prepared to win games than we were at game 1."
Martin says he's not a man of "statistics," but through the first half of the league season the numbers tell why K-State is just 3-5 and looking up in the standings at the majority of the league teams.
• In league games, K-State's having trouble scoring the ball (67.4) on .405 shooting; K-State's having trouble stopping the opponent from scoring (71.4) on .455 shooting.
• The Wildcats are making nearly seven 3-pointers per game, but on only .338 shooting; teams are making 42 percent of their treys against K-State's defense, which is the high in the league.
• The Wildcats lead the league in offensive rebounding; the Wildcats rank 10th in the league in defensive rebounding. In part, that's due to K-State shooting .405 at the offensive end, while teams shoot .455 against K-State at the other end.
• K-State's rebounding margin (plus-2.9) is in the top half, but it is near the bottom in assists (11th), steals (11th), turnover-margin and assist-to-turnover ratio (11th).
Assists-to-Field Goals Made
Martin said after the Nebraska win that one percentage that he focuses on is assists-to-field goals made. Looking at those figures for each league team, K-State is showing well:
1) Texas A&M (4-3 record), .564 (assists leading to field goals); 2) Kansas (6-1), .552; 3) Oklahoma (4-3), .533; 4) Kansas State (3-5), .524; 5) Texas (7-0), .522. But, the category is not fool proof as Iowa State (1-7) is next in sixth at .519.
"That's a direct correlation to our success this year," said Martin. "As I study our success and failure with this year's team, when we pass the ball and we run offense we have a chance, when we don't, we usually struggle."
'Cats vs. 'Clones
Kansas State (3-5, 15-8) and Iowa State (1-7, 14-9) meet in Hilton Coliseum where the Wildcats have won their last four trips, and eight of the last nine games against the Cyclones overall. The loss came last year in Manhattan, 85-82 in overtime, in the regular season finale.
Iowa State has lost its last five games by margins of 26, 6, 9, 23 and 9 points, but two of those - to Oklahoma State and to Oklahoma - came in overtime.
To the Cyclones recent skid, Martin said, "I'd much rather go play someone on the road that has just won six in a row. I like playing people when they're fat. Fred's (coach Hoiberg) has done an unbelievable job with that team when you consider all the new faces and the limited numbers he's got. I anticipate them playing their tails off against us."
The Cyclones have scored the ball at a 73.3 clip, which ranks third in the league, but they are also giving up 80.1 points to rank 12th in the league.
What to Watch
• The game could be a 3-point shoot-out as in league play Iowa State's average of 8.0 long-range makes per game leads the league, while K-State is third at 6.7 treys per game. And, keep in mind that K-State's 3-point defense is last in the league at .419. While the Cyclones make a lot of 3s, it's on only .318 shooting. Their 176 three-point attempts are high in the league by 37 in league games only.
• Keep an eye on offensive rebounding where K-State leads the league, while Iowa State ranks last.
For the total season, ISU is led by Scott Christopherson's 13.3 scoring average and 2.8 three-pointers per game, and the 1-2 rebounding punch of Jake Anderson (8.0) and Melvin Ejim (7.0).
In addition, ISU's Diante Barrett leads the league in assists (5.8) and fifth in steals (1.9).
Kansas State will not play again until one week from today at Colorado. That will be followed by a "Big Monday" home game with Kansas on Feb. 14.