Tonight's (whoops, last night's) 78-72 win over Colorado snapped K-State's four-game losing streak. It was a Senior Night performance that was at times memorable, at times utterly forgettable, and at times simply amazing (video of Clent Stewart proposing to his girlfriend to come soon).
Edit: Here it is. No YouTube yet, so I can't embed it. That will be in the diaries when I find it...TB
Edit: Now available on YouTube...TB
Tonight's win accomplishes several important things. First of all, it ends that unacceptable four-game losing streak that came at the time where we desperately needed wins. Second, it clinches a first-round bye in Kansas City next week at the Big 12 tournament. A bye will give the team some much-needed rest in what will be a grueling week. Personally, it will allow me to relax on Thursday and watch the other teams in the conference battle it out from my awesome seats. As a shameless personal plug, be sure to check in here late next week for daily updates, with numerous pictures and firsthand analysis, as well as a special surprise...you'll get to hear my voice as a part of a Microsoft campaign to promote mobile blogging. And yes, I realize I just set myself up for a massive disappointment when you all hear my actual voice.
What I liked...
...Clent Stewart's proposal. How can you not be happy for this guy? He gets good grades, plays good basketball, has a good job lined up, and now he's engaged to a beautiful K-Stater.
...more dominance from Michael Beasley. Just another 33-point, 14-rebound game. Ho-hum. Crown him the player of the year, or face the wrath of BOTC.
...the return of Bill Walker. Yeah, he still got in ridiculous foul trouble--three fouls in the first 13 minutes of the game--but he knocked down some shots for 25 points and grabbed six rebounds.
...the crowd. Y'all stayed generally positive in the second half and probably helped keep the spirits up even when it looked like we were facing impending disaster in the second half.
What I didn't like...
...the near collapse in the second half. Seriously, thank God we were playing the worst team in the conference. At home. On Senior Night. It was almost a perfect repeat of our other stretches of disaster-ball this season. Sloppy turnovers. Settling for threes. Miscommunication on defense. Ugh.
...nobody else really stepping up after Beasley and Walker. The top scorers combined for 58 points and 21 made field goals. The rest of the team scored 20 points on five field goals.
...another (near) disappearance by Jacob Pullen. He scored a single point in 25 minutes and missed all five of his field goal attempts, including three attempts from range. On the bright side, he had six assists against zero turnovers, although it looks like he's grown a little too fond of the behind-the-back pass (see his pass late to Walker that nearly resulted in a turnover on an easy breakaway).
What I'm indifferent about...
I had to create a different category for this because I wasn't sure where to put it. Statistically, Clent Stewart didn't have too bad of a game. He scored nine points, and had four assists. On the other hand, he turned the ball over four times and missed his only three-point attempt. I will never knock this kid, because his contributions to K-State far outnumber a few poor games. But we really, really need him to step up to have success down the stretch.
What it means and where we're going...
As mentioned, the win tonight sews up a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The win puts us 1.5 games ahead of the three teams that stand 7-7, and the Cats own the tiebreaker on all three of those teams.
With that out of the way, it's time to focus on the potential matchups in the conference tournament. With Texas' win tonight--narrow as it was--it is all but certain the Longhorns will be the top seed in KC. Their only remaining test is a home date with Oklahoma State. A win in that one assures them of the top seed, while a loss would leave the spot open to the 'beakers if they can manage a win over Texas A&M in College Station this Saturday. At this point, I'm working under the assumption that Texas takes the one seed by virtue of its tiebreaker over the chickens.
Meanwhile, we are fighting for the three-seed with Baylor. The Bears get A&M in Waco tomorrow, then travel to Texas Tech on Saturday. They will likely get at least a split from those two, which would place them at 9-7 and put the pressure on K-State to win at Iowa State in order to lock up the three-seed. If we win Saturday and Baylor still manages the three-seed, all we can really do is tip our cap to the Baptists and say "well done."
As for what our two possible seeds would mean, the three-seed will likely get the six-seed on Friday at 2:00 p.m., while the four-seed likely gets the five-seed at 6:00 p.m. Both the five- and six-seeds will almost certainly come from the group of A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Of that group, I'd prefer to meet up with Oklahoma State, although A&M has been struggling lately. Assuming a win over the Friday opponent, the three-seed likely means a matchup with KU on Saturday, while the four-seed would bring Texas on the weekend.
Only eight more days. I can't wait.