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Wildcats Play Collective Season to Remember

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kudos to Kansas State coaches Frank Martin and Deb Patterson, who have skippered their respective Wildcat basketball teams into first-round byes in the same Big 12 Championship year for just the second time in school history.

Not only that, but K-State and Texas A&M are the only two league schools to get both their teams into the top four of the league standings and the only two Big 12 teams that are pretty much assured of a spot in next week's men's and women's NCAA Tournament.

The last time K-State had a pair of first-round byes was in 2008 when the Wildcat women won the Big 12 and the men finished third, and the only other times both K-State teams went dancing together were in 2008, 1987 and 1982.

Tracking each season to a 10-6 tie for third place Big 12 finish has been oddly interesting.

The men were picked to win the league, stumbled out of the gate with a 1-4 start, but finished with six straight wins and eight out of nine. The guys have victories over five ranked teams, including No. 1 Kansas and No. 7 Texas, but found Colorado troublesome with a pair of losses. The men went 3-5 in the month of January, but 7-1 in February.

The women were picked to finish ninth, but aided by a pair of overtime wins, went 6-2 through the first half of the season before going 2-4 down the home stretch prior to the final week. The women have wins over No. 14 St. John's and No. 5 Texas A&M, swept KU, MU, CU and NU, but got swept by ISU. The women were 6-2 in January, but 3-4 in February.

Of the finish to the season with a 2-0 record in March, Patterson said, "It is just the toughness this team has brought all year. Toughness is what put them in position to win. They had to be not just physically tough, but mentally tough."

Constantly Martin talked about how his team matured throughout the season, and the women demonstrated the same in that final two-game week when they went from outside the NCAA Women's Field of 64, to in all likelihood being in.

Sophomore Brittany Chambers said of the No. 5 Texas A&M - at KU sweep, "We didn't want to come off a win against A&M, and then lose. We proved that we can handle ourselves in a mature manner in such a harsh environment."

While Chambers and Jalana Childs were the women's 1-2 punch, and Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly the men's inside-outside go-to duo, in both cases it was Team K-State that carried the Wildcats to their present positions.

Nothing demonstrated that more than in the final week when Mariah White scored 14 points against Kansas after scoring a total of 14 points in her last six games combined, and with Rodney McGruder's 22 points last Monday at No. 7 Texas.

Now entering March Madness, Martin says of his club's current run: "Winning gives you confidence. The more you win, the more you want. Now we can coach them a little harder, now we can be a little more demanding because now it's a different set of emotions. You've spent six months grinding every single day ... challenging, coaching, teaching, listening to give yourself a chance to play this next week. That's what this team has done."

But it is March, and while feeling good about the accomplishments of the season, Martin speaks for Patterson when he says, "We go to Kansas City, and the next time we don't win, we're done, and then we sit down on Sunday and hope (for an NCAA invitation). And then we go on to the next one, and the next time it doesn't work, you're done and there's not another practice."

He added, "Are we going to win next week? I have no idea. But I feel pretty good about the way we're playing going into next week. Now, how we handle those emotions will determine who we become in the postseason."

Patterson would echo those words.
    
PULLEN, MCGRUDER WIN ALL-BIG 12 HONORS FROM COACHES: Kansas State's Jacob Pullen has been named to the first-team All-Big 12 team for the second season in a row, while Wildcat Rodney McGruder was a third-team recipient.

Also for the second straight year, Pullen was named to the All-Defensive team.

It marks just the third time in Big 12 history that K-State has had a first-team selection. The others were Pullen in 2010 and Michael Beasley in 2008.

Player of the Year: Marcus Morris, Kansas
Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas
Newcomer of the Year: Ricardo Ratlilff, Missouri
Freshman of the Year: Tristan Thompson, Texas
Defensive Player of the Year: Dogus Balbay, Texas
Sixth Man Award: Quincy Acy, Baylor; Levi Knutson, Colorado
All-Rookie Team: Perry Jones III, BU; Ricardo Ratliffe, MU; Jean-Paul Olukemi, OSU; Cory Joseph, UT; Tristan Thompson, UT
All-Defensive Team: Brady Morningstar, KU; Jacob Pullen, KSU; Laurence Bowers, MU; Dogus Balbay, Texas; Tristan Thompson, Texas
First-Team: LaceDarius Dunn, BU; Alec Burks, CU; Marcus Morris, KU; Jacob Pullen, KSU; Marcus Denmon, MU; Jordan Hamilton, UT
Second-Team: Perry Jones III, BU; Diante Garrett, ISU; Markieff Morris, KU; Tristan Thompson, UT; Khris Middleton, A&M
Third-Team: Cory Higgins, CU; Rodney McGruder, KSU; Lance Jeter, NU; Marshall Moses, OSU; Gary Johnson, UT; David Loubeau, A&M
Honorable Mention: Quincy Acy, BU; Scott Christopherson, ISU; Brady Morningstar, KU; Tyrel Reed, KU; Laurence Bowers, MU; Ricardo Ratliffe, MU; Cade Davis, OU; Andrew Fitzgerald, OU; Cory Joseph, UT; B.J. Holmes, A&M; John Roberson, A&M

CONGRATS TO CHAMBERS: K-State's Brittany Chambers has been named the Big 12 Women's Player of the Week. The Wildcat sophomore tossed in seven 3-pointers and scored 35 points against No. 5 Texas A&M. Chambers added another nine points against Kansas.

The women's All-Big 12 team will be announced today.

K-STATE AT THE BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIPS:
WOMEN: K-State's women play at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday against Tuesday's winner of the Iowa State vs. Nebraska game. A victory would put K-State in the semi-finals on Friday at noon. The title game will be on Saturday at 11 a.m.  All the games will be played at the Municipal Auditorium. All of the K-State women's games will be televised by Fox Sports Net.

MEN: K-State's men play at 2 p.m. on Thursday against Wednesday's winner of the Colorado vs. Iowa State game. A victory would put the Wildcats in the semi-finals on Friday at 6 p.m. The championship game will be on Saturday at 5 p.m. all games will be played at the Sprint Center. Games on Thursday and Friday will be telecast by the Big 12 Network, and the title game by ESPN.

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at mjanssen7@cox.net, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at klannou@kstatesports.com. For those who would like to share Sports Extra with a friend or family member, or change your current email address, click here.