Men's Basketball Begins Big 12 Championship Play
"(The tournament) is a chance to get that last chance to show people what we could have been, should have been, and what we are at times," said Wildcat head coach Bruce Weber. "You know, it's not going to be easy. TCU is very good, and if you win that one you know it's going to be tough to go through the weekend."
Tonight's game will mark the third time the Wildcats and Horned Frogs will meet up this season as, during the Big 12 regular season, the teams split their two-game series with each team winning on its respective home court. The first time the teams met, Jan. 7, in Bramlage Coliseum, the Wildcats showed up with energy and won, 58-53. However, in the first game of a two-game Texas road trip in late February, K-State lacked that energy and fell, 69-55.
That road loss in Fort Worth, Texas, is one that left a bitter taste in K-State's mouth.
"We just played horrible at their place," said Gipson on Monday afternoon. "We're really looking forward to playing them again because we really gave up a game - that was a game that we should have won. It didn't turn out that way, and that really hurt us in the end, but now, we have a chance to redeem ourselves."
Very much unlike the first time the two teams matched up, the Wildcats showed up somewhat lethargic in Fort Worth. Though K-State senior Nino Williams and freshman Tre Harris led the way with 14 points each, it wasn't enough to overcome the high energy and intensity TCU brought to its home court that night.
"I think the first game we had great energy. We had life. We had runs, transition; we had a run in the first half and in the second half, then we gutted it out in the end," said Weber. "But at their place, it was one of a couple games where I didn't think we had the energy and life that we needed. That was disappointing.
"So, to me the biggest thing (tonight) is going to be energy, life, excitement and determination. I think those things will be important."
While this 2014-15 season may not have panned out exactly how the Wildcats had hoped, the team still has life. Despite what has happened this season, K-State is looking to put it all behind and start fresh tonight. The 2015 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship provides K-State with the opportunity to finish strong and cling to the hopes of continuing on in the postseason.
"We believe we're one of the top teams (in the Big 12)," said sophomore Marcus Foster. "We're in eighth, but we believe that we can go out and win this tournament. We believe this is a new season for us. We're 0-0 and we've got to go out, win the first game, and let the rest take care of itself."
Energy, life, excitement, determination, and a whole lot of belief might be just what it takes for the Wildcats to get back on track in their last opportunity this season.
"I told them, 'This is it. This is our last opportunity. This is our last chance to be what we thought we could be,'" said Weber. "This is their opportunity. This is our last chance to expect something special down the stretch."
Though the Wildcats finished the Big 12 schedule in a three-way tie for sixth place with Oklahoma State and Texas, the Cats are the eighth seed in the tournament due to tie-breaking procedures. This the first time in eight years K-State has played on the tournament's opening day, and the first time K-State has entered the tournament with a losing record since 2003.
The winner of tonight's first-round matchup will face No. 1-seed Kansas (24-7, 13-5 Big 12) in the second quarterfinal game Thursday at 1:30 p.m., on ESPN2.
Tonight's will be aired nationally on ESPNU.
For more information on tonight's game, please click here.