As usual, we got in touch with a compatriot Big 12 blogger to help us preview the matchup. Today we'll be investigating the strange season that has been Kansas State Basketball. To help, we talked to Eric Rubottom of Bring On The Cats. I'll update with a link to the companion post when it's available. (Update: Here is the link).
PC: So let’s get this out of the way up early. What’s the latest on the Marcus Foster front?
EB: The latest on the Marcus Foster front is that its blatantly obvious that he and Weber don't see eye to eye. Does anyone really know what's going on? No. But if one were to speculate, one could probably (and reasonably) infer that Foster's just immature, and frankly, that can probably cover it. It looks like his attitude and, shall we say, commitment, is starting to directly affect others. That's problematic. As for status on the team? As of right now, he's off his recent suspension, and coming off the bench to play.
PC: The Wildcats seem to have the Sooners number. How does Kansas State keep beating Oklahoma?
EB: The way OU plays basketball and the way K-State plays basketball are two radically different animals, and we've been successful at just getting the Sooners out of their game. Oklahoma really wants to guard hard, rebound well and get out in transition. In both wins, K-State made it ugly - slow, methodical possessions, forcing them to work for rebounds, and keeping transition game to a minimum. Oklahoma wants to get more possessions, get quick buckets, and kind of overwhelm you on both ends of the floor. We were able to force them into jump shots and make them guard for 30 seconds every trip down the floor, and ultimately, make a key bucket or two to pull out the win.
PC: After starting out the conference season strong, things have gone downhill pretty quickly for K-State, losing 6 of their last 7. What went wrong? Is there more amiss than Foster?
EB: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. To answer the first question, what went wrong was we started to play the better teams in the conference, and when you don't have consistency, and you don't have execution, you end up with losses. Especially in the Big 12 this year. The Foster suspension was three of the six losses right there.
What is more concerning is the home loss to Texas Tech, and the most recent trouncing at TCU. This is a team that handled Texas A&M, and was within a possession of a win against Arizona. It's a team that's taken down the nationally-ranked Sooners - twice. There's nothing that is singular - that you can pinpoint - as the cause of the problems this year. There is absolutely no one involved with the program - player or coach alike - that escapes culpability. The players' motivation, focus and attitudes have sucked, the diagrammatic coaching has sucked, the mental coaching has sucked, the strength & conditioning has sucked. It has been extremely frustrating to watch, and we're all very curious (and have our own opinions) about what happens next.
PC: What would it take to redeem this season, even if just a little, or are you already looking on to next season?
EB: Honestly? Me personally, I'm just looking to not be embarrassed for the rest of the season. History tells us that the NIT has never invited a team with a sub-.500 record, so being a couple games under water doesn't bode well for the Cats in even that regard. I think most are looking toward football at this point, because there isn't a soul wearing purple that's happy with how this season's ended up. What could have been a certainly above average outlook has turned into a soap opera of schizophrenia; it would only be fitting to actually take KU down in Bramlage on Big Monday on 2/23. K-State basketball will probably look a lot different come October next year.
PC: Got a game prediction? Kansas State made a big comeback against Baylor in Manhattan. They have another one in them?
EB: Regardless of the mental state, we have the tools in the belt to hang with the Bears for 40 minutes. We've got a couple of guys in Nino Williams and Wesley Iwundu that can make those mid-range zone-busting jumpers, we've got a couple of legitimate outside threats in Foster, Tre Harris and Justin Edwards (as of late), and as long as we execute plays to isolate defenders, we've got Stephen Hurt to stretch the Baylor bigs out, and Thomas Gipson in the middle that can be successful in one-on-one situations in the paint.
That being said, I think we're going to get smacked. That TCU loss - how thorough of a beating it was - was a back-breaker. A 72-55 Baylor victory wouldn't surprise me.
Thanks again to Eric for his insights. I hope Foster figures things out. He's a fun player to watch when he's on.