For about the past month or two, I've been posting sparsely and giving vague reasons for my absence. Mostly, it was due to a project at work I had been working on. That project ended on Tuesday, with a very good result. As a result, I now will have more time to devote to the blog, and even more time after I take the Kansas bar exam in about 10 days.
Anyway, last week was a solid stretch of basketball for the Wildcats. On Tuesday, they pulled off what's been a difficult feat lately by going in to Lincoln, Neb., and beating Doc Sadler's Huskers. On Saturday, the venue was Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, and while the result wasn't as emphatic, it resulted in a win.
Last Tuesday was an interesting crossroads for this team. They were fresh off a bitterly disappointing home loss to KU, a game in which they played very well, but just could not pick off a win. It wouldn't have been surprising had they arrived in Lincoln with a hangover from Saturday and played flat. Instead, the team played like it had something to prove, and smashed the out-manned Huskers, 76-57.
Saturday brought a game of uneven efficiency, but in the end Denis Clemente's big game carried K-State to a victory. Early on, it looked like Craig Brackins might single-handedly carry Iowa State to a victory, but after suffering an apparently minor injury, Brackins couldn't sustain the pace, and none of the other Cyclones could step up to pick up the slack. The result wasn't pretty, but it was a much needed 79-75 victory.
Hit the jump for some general thoughts on the week that was in K-State basketball.
What I liked:
Denis Clemente getting hot. I think I've finally come to terms with my feelings regarding Clemente. You just have to learn to take the good with the bad with him. Yes, sometimes he's going to keep jacking up shots with no good evidence that they're likely to go in. But because he has the ability to get so insanely hot, you can't take away the green light, even when it doesn't look like the stroke is there. In other words, what makes him great is what can make him terrible, or his blessing is also his curse, or however you want to say it. All I know is, I'll take 16-32 FG, 11-19 3FG, and 53 points in two games any day from him.
Picking up two more road wins. Amazingly, we're 4-1 on the road in conference this year, and just 2-2 at home. While I'd like to see a better record in the Octagon, I'll always take four road wins. That number should continue to increase if the team keeps playing as it has, because road trips to Norman and Lubbock are winnable. The home record should improve, too, with visits from Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa State on the horizon.
What I didn't like:
Getting outrebounded by Iowa State. Given our style of play, we're pretty lucky to get out of Ames with a win considering the Cyclones beat us on the boards.
Not much else. You can nit-pick things here or there, but the big picture shows that we won two road games last week, and you'll take that no matter who the opponents are. Let's just hope we don't see Chris Merriewether and Luis Colon both take long jumpers in the same game again anytime soon. That was...disturbing.
What it means and where we're going:
As of Monday, KU has a death grip on the regular season Big 12 title. Unless each KU player breaks his legs in the next week, nobody is going to catch them. At this point, we're playing for second place in the conference, and it's looking more attainable by the day. We're currently tied with Missouri and suddenly-surging Texas A&M at 6-3. In actuality, we're a half game ahead of A&M given the tiebreaker, and we still have a chance to even the series with Mizzou on February 22 in the Octagon. Further, Mizzou has a much more difficult closing stretch, as the Tigers still face tests against Baylor, Texas (yeah, I know, I know), KU and on the road against K-State. In contrast, K-State's only remaining games against the league's top four(ish) teams are at home to Mizzou and on the road against KU.
This weekend, K-State welcomes Colorado to Manhattan for the final matchup of the season with the Buffaloes. In the first go-round, K-State outlasted CU in Boulder. This time, we'll see if the week off the Wildcats have had since last Saturday's matchup with Iowa State means the team is fresh or flat. If we come out and are focused, we'll have no trouble with Colorado. But as we saw in Boulder, the Buffaloes are talented and disciplined enough to give any team fits if it doesn't bring its full attention to the contest.