By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Can the trend continue - that's K-State's handling of the Longhorns of Texas?
• K-State has defeated Texas in football in each of the last three meetings.
• K-State has won in each of its last two trips to Austin for basketball.
And, can the Wildcats continue their "Big Monday" magic that has seen them topple Baylor and Kansas this season before the ESPN cameras?
Tune in tonight at 8 as the 8-6, 20-9 Wildcats take on the 12-2 and 24-5 Longhorns.
Texas will be trying to rebound from a stunning loss at Colorado on Saturday that dropped them back into a first-place tie with Kansas in the Big 12. K-State, all smiles after a 10-point victory over Missouri, will try to hold on to its fourth-place position in the league, with third-place Texas A&M just one game ahead in the standings.
How tough will the task be against a Texas team ranked in the Top 5 in the nation for the past month?
Just listen to K-State coach Frank Martin: "They're the most physical team that we will play against. They guard you, defend you, and they come down on offense and throw it at the rim on every single play. You better be strong with your perimeter defense to keep the ball out of the passing areas, and then you're post defense better be rock solid. It's going to be a physical game."
But listening to UT coach Rick Barnes, that's exactly what the Longhorns did not have in the 91-89 loss to Colorado on Saturday.
"We didn't play with a purpose. That was the problem. We got a lead early in the game and I've seen them evaporate quickly, but you can certainly help the cause by not making them defend and simply not executing," said Barnes. "We didn't. We simply didn't execute."
Texas, a team that averages 72 points and shoots 48 percent from the field, had one stretch in the second half were it went 1-of-17 from the field during 25-possessions. And, the Longhorns, a team that led the Big 12 giving up just 56 points per game, allowed the Buffs to score 91, or 19 above their season norm.
Prior to knowing the outcome of Saturday's loss to Colorado, Martin called going against one of the nation's elite a "great opportunity to go play the team in first place in this league. We want to compete and go take a chance to take the next step as a basketball team."
Starting the season 1-4, and then 2-5 in the league, K-State now has a run of four consecutive wins and six out of the last seven to currently have ownership of a first-round bye in the Big 12 Championships if the event started today.
"We dug ourselves a hole, but are climbing our way out of it," said senior guard Jacob Pullen, who has averaged 29 points per game in his last four outings. "It's another opportunity to build our resume for postseason and to get a better seed for the Big 12 tournament. You get a ring for that, too."
Already with a victory over No. 1 Kansas this season, Curtis Kelly said it would be an "amazing accomplishment" to beat another of the elite teams in America. "We need to get this win for the seedings and the standings."
Kelly is right. In K-State history, the school has defeated Top 10 teams twice in the same season only six times:
• 1990 - No. 1 Missouri, No. 3 Oklahoma
• 1988 - No. 1 Purdue, No. 3 Oklahoma
• 1982 - No. 5 Missouri, No. 8 Minnesota
• 1973 - No. 5 Missouri, No. 7 Louisiana-Lafayette
• 1962 - No. 9 Colorado, No. 9 St. John's
• 1958 - No. 2 Kansas, No. 2 Cincinnati
Playing the Best
Tonight will mark K-State's ninth game of the year against an Associated Press ranked team, which is only one game shy of the single-season record for competition against Top 25 teams in school history.
The 2000-01 Wildcat team went 2-8 against ranked teams and the 2009-10 club went 6-4.
This year's team is 4-4 entering play tonight.
The wins have been over No. 22 Virginia Tech, No. 18 Gonzaga, No. 1 Kansas and No. 20 Missouri. The losses were to No. 1 Duke, at No. 15 Missouri, at No. 11 Texas A&M and at No. 6 Kansas.
The record for wins against ranked teams in a single year is six, which came last year, while the 1950-51 Final Four team went 5-1 against teams all ranked in the Top 20.
Ironically, other Final Four teams only had modest success against the best in the nation. The 1964 unit went 1-3 and the 1958 team went 2-4. The 1948 Final Four team played before there were national rankings.
Overall, Frank Martin's 13 wins (13-15) over ranked opponents ranks third in K-State history only behind the 17 (17-48) for Jack Hartman, and 16 (16-20) for Tex Winter. Lon Kruger had eight wins over Top 25 teams, Jack Gardner seven, Dana Altman six and Jim Wooldridge five.
K-State concludes regular season play on Saturday when it hosts Iowa State in a 12:30 tipoff.
On the Line
Texas A&M (9-5), K-State (8-6) and Missouri (8-6) are battling for the Nos. 3-4-5 seeds at next week's Big 12 Championships.
Here are their remaining games:
• Texas A&M - at KU, Texas Tech
• K-State - at UT, ISU
• Missouri - at NU, KU
Another game back are 7-7 Colorado and 7-7 Baylor:
• Colorado - at ISU, NU
• Baylor - at OSU, Texas
Only a Few Points Make a Huge Difference
How much difference is there between a miserable season and a pretty good one? Just ask Iowa State.
The 2-12 Cyclones will finish last in the Big 12. But of those 12 defeats, two were in overtime, two one-pointers and two-five pointers.
Nebraska is just 6-8. Of their losses two have been by a single point, a three-pointer and a pair of four-pointers.
On the flip side, 9-5 Texas A&M has two overtime wins, plus victories by one, three and five points.
And, out of Colorado's 7-7 season are four wins by four points or less, and three losses by four points or less.
K-State's close games are all wins by five, four and three points.