Wildcats Ready for Big 12 Play
Currently noted as one of the Big 12's top teams and the Wildcats' toughest opponent to date, No. 7 Oklahoma State (12-1) will no doubt bring its intensity and toughness to Bramlage Coliseum.
"We just have to take each game 1-0," said junior forward Thomas Gipson, "just like we did last year. If we do that, we'll come out with another Big 12 title, but we've just got to take it one game at a time."
Led by preseason Big 12 Player of the Year in senior guard Marcus Smart, the Cowboys have four players averaging points in the double-digits and are averaging, as a team, nearly 85 points per game.
"We're going to have to guard the heck out of them," head coach Bruce Weber said. "We held a lot of people down. This is one of the top offensive teams in the country. We're going to have to see if we can do that to them."
While the Cowboys have showed strength on offense by putting up big numbers against nonconference opponents, K-State has showed strength and poise in its defense as in its recent wins over Gonzaga, Tulane and George Washington, it held each team to its fewest points scored all season.
"A month ago, I didn't have confidence to be honest," Weber said about his team heading into Big 12 play. "Now, the way we've progressed since Ole Miss, we've been pretty effective. Three of those wins against Ole Miss, Gonzaga and George Washington, it's like league opponents. They're good, quality opponents and we've been able to handle them and beat the other teams - Troy, Tulane - solidly."
It's going to be a challenge against a team, Weber said, he thinks is the Big 12's toughest. However, playing that 'underdog' role is something this team is used to.
"We came under the radar last year," senior point guard Will Spradling said. "I don't think we were in the top 25 going into Big 12 play, but after that first game, we really showed everybody that we were in the Big 12 to make a run for the money. We did a good job of staying consistent throughout the season."
While K-State is a different team than last year, so is every team in the Big 12. So on the conference's opening day, let's take a look at each team following nonconference play.
No. 6 Oklahoma State (12-1)
Leading scorer: Marcus Smart, 17.2 points per game
Best Win: The Cowboys defeated a hot Colorado team, 78-73, on Dec. 21.
Toughest loss: 76-68 loss to Memphis on Dec. 1, despite beating the Tigers, 101-80, earlier in the season.
Plays K-State: Jan. 4, at 3 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum/March 3, at 8 p.m., in Stillwater, Okla.
No. 9/11 Baylor (11-1)
Leading scorer: Cory Jefferson, 14.3 points per game
Best Win: The Bears defeated Kentucky, 67-62, on Dec. 6.
Toughest loss: Baylor's solo loss this season came in a 74-67 defeat at the hands of Syracuse on Nov. 27.
Plays K-State: Feb. 15, at 6 p.m., in Waco, Texas/March 8 at 12:30 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum
No. 13/12 Iowa State (12-0)
Leading scorer: Melvin Ejim, 17.9 points per game
Best win: Iowa State defeated then-No. 7 Michigan, 77-70, on Nov. 17.
Toughest loss: The Cyclones are the only undefeated team in the Big 12.
Plays K-State: Jan. 25, at 12:45 p.m., in Ames, Iowa/March 1 at 6 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum
No. 16/17 Kansas (9-3)
Leading scorer: Andrew Wiggins, 15.9 points per game
Best win: The Jayhawks defeated then-No. 4 Duke, 94-83, on Nov. 12.
Toughest loss: Coming down to a buzzer-beating three-pointer from the Buffalos, Kansas lost at Colorado, 75-72, on Dec. 7.
Plays K-State: Jan. 11, at 1 p.m., in Lawrence Kan./Feb. 10, at 8 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum
Leading scorer: Cameron Clark, 18.5 points per game
Best win: The Sooners beat Seton Hall in a close 86-85 contest on Nov. 22.
Toughest loss: The Seton Hall win was followed with an 87-76 loss to Michigan State on Nov. 23.
Plays K-State: Jan. 14, at 6 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum/Feb. 22, at 3 p.m., in Norman, Okla.
Leading scorer: Isaiah Taylor, 11.8 points per game
Best win: The Longhorns topped Vanderbilt, 70-64, in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Dec. 2
Toughest loss: DePaul cruised past Texas, 77-59, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., on Nov. 26
Plays K-State: Jan. 21, at 6 p.m., in Austin, Texas/Feb. 8, at 12:45 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum
Leading scorer: Kyan Anderson, 16.5 points per game
Best win: The Horned Frogs defeated Mississippi State, 71-61, in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Dec. 5.
Toughest loss: TCU fell, 82-79, to Longwood at home on Nov. 12
Plays K-State: Jan. 7, at 7 p.m., in Fort Worth, Texas/Feb. 19, at 8 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum
Texas Tech (8-5)
Leading scorer: Jaye Crockett, 13.6 points per game
Best win: The Red Raiders were victorious over in-state rival Houston, 76-64, on Nov. 26.
Toughest loss: Texas Tech fell to LSU, 71-69, at home on Dec. 18.
Plays K-State: Jan. 28, at 7 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum/Feb. 25, at 6 p.m., in Lubbock, Texas.
West Virginia (8-5)
Leading scorer: Eron Harris, 18.3 points per game
Best win: During a tough nonconference slate for the Mountaineers, the team beat Marshall, 74-64, on Dec. 14
Toughest loss: West Virginia faced back-to-back losses on Dec. 5, and Dec. 10, to Missouri (80-71) and Gonzaga (80-76).
Plays K-State: Jan. 18, at 1:30 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum/Feb. 1, at 1:30 p.m., in Morgantown, W.Va.
The Big 12 conference is the No. 1 conference in the latest RPI with six of the league's 10 teams ranked in the top 47.
It's a new year, a new season and the Big 12 Conference's slate ahead is blank.
"It's Oklahoma State, then TCU, then Kansas," Weber said after the team's New Years Eve win over George Washington. "We'll know more about our team as we go, but we have definitely made progress. I'm proud of them for what we did in December, and now we have to keep moving forward."