Wednesday night's game against the 'beakers of fair Harvard on the Kaw is a big one. The winner will be undefeated in conference play and in first place in the Big 12 one-third of the way through the conference season. Both teams are in good shape for the NCAA tournament, and a win would be a boost for either resume. It's an intrastate rivalry game, played between schools separated by 70 miles of I-70. And I hear there's something about a streak.
But let's maintain some perspective here, people. This is one game in the middle of a long season. It happens to be one game that gives K-State the potential to make a huge statement regarding its intentions this year. With a win, the Cats would vault to the top of the conference race and would assert themselves as one of the best teams in the country right now.
But if we lose...well, according to some it will undoubtedly usher in Armageddon. The KC Star's Jason Whitlock, whom yesterday predicted Michael Beasley could score 50 against KU, now says all the pressure is on K-State. As a matter of fact...
The whole campus will be on trial Wednesday night.
Don't try to keep your feet on the ground or anything, Jason. As much as I love K-State, and K-State sports, and K-State basketball, it doesn't define who I am. I will wear my K-State shirt to school on Thursday, win or lose (and that's a guarantee). These are 18-to-22-year-old young men out playing a game that I find hugely entertaining, but it's not life and death. You want life and death? Go to Afghanistan or Iraq. To use Jason's metaphor, go to a criminal courthouse where someone is on trial, with their freedom or even their life at stake.
To continue with Whitlock's ravings...
Failure to perform will devastate K-State faithful and embarrass the men who hatched the plan to rent Huggins, Beasley and Walker.
Yeah, Jon Wefald and Tim Weiser will have tight cheeks on Wednesday. So will Frank Martin and Dalonte Hill, the primary benefactor$ of Huggins’ escape. Wefald and Weiser took a major risk resurrecting Huggins. That blew up. Wefald and Weiser doubled their risk promoting Martin and Hill just to satisfy two NBA exchange students for a few semesters. Rather than build a program, K-State bought a couple of scratch-off tickets. We’re about to see what’s in the first box.
I don't seem to recall Frank Martin signing a one-year contract with the following terms: "If you beat KU next year, you will continue as coach. If you do not, you will be fired." This thing ain't over after this year, folks. I know it's easy for some to look at it that way, because Beasley in all likelihood is a one-and-done player. The perception from the outside is "well, have fun with your one year with him, and then it's back to oblivion because you'll never get another player like him." Guess what? Whoever you cheer for, you almost certainly will never get another player like him, either. You can have good teams even without a player like Beasley.
What's more, Whitlock calling out University President Jon Wefald for his alleged shortsightedness is like criticizing Miranda Kerr for not being hot enough. He's right, Wefald really hasn't ever had K-State's long-term success in mind. Since he got to Manhattan in 1986, he's only increased enrollment by 10,000 students, increased yearly private donations by $95 million, added 2 million square feet of building space and presided over a campus that has spawned 119 Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Udall and Goldwater scholarship winners.
But Wefald and Weiser aren't the only ones in Whitlock's cockeyed crosshairs...
Frank Martin has quite a temper. Surely he’s tired of hearing about how he can’t coach and doesn’t deserve this job. He could melt. He could over-coach.
Somehow I knew that was coming. At the risk of sounding like George W. Bush circa the 2004 presidential debates ("Do not demean Iceland's contribution to the war effort!"), let me warn anyone against demeaning what Frank Martin has meant to this team. Did we expect some growing pains from a first-year coach? Uhh, yeah. Did we see them? Uhh, yeah. Has anyone noticed that Martin has the Cats playing fantastic basketball and blowing teams out left and right the last three weeks? Apparently Whitlock didn't get the memo.
To add on to that, it's not like any other coach has a temper. Certainly Bill Self has never yelled at a referee, or got outcoached in a big game.
(Also, since I just linked to a video about the Bradley/'beaker NCAA tournament game from a few years ago, I thought I'd also link this for you legal buffs. It's a 2003 Kansas Court of Appeals case, "Bradley v. Kansas." Unfortunately, the court didn't follow the NCAA tournament precedent, because Kansas won.)
Finally, in keeping with talking about Self...
Meanwhile, this game is nothing to Bill Self and his players.
Yep, I'm sure all those 'beakers are like "ahh, yeah, whatever. If we blow this streak, no biggie. Not to mention, lose the chance for an undefeated season to that ag school."
Anyway, that's enough with Whitlock. Yesterday, my SBN colleague over at Rock Chalk Talk (who does an excellent job despite the fact that he blogs about a bird that doesn't exist) had this to say about our little rivalry game...
We all know that this is your Super Bowl, that this is the most important game of the year. Just last year, 'Blackout at Bramlage' proved just how badly you guys want to win.
Before the basketball season, I went through and found the logos of all the teams we played this year to make a basketball schedule on the left sidebar of this page. Scroll down and check it out, it mostly looks pretty nice (I think). You may notice something about it.
There are 19 games before the KU game. There are 11 regular season games after that. Then a logo for the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. Then a logo for the first round of the NCAA tournament. Then a logo for the NCAA Regionals. Then a logo for the Final Four.
I'm not saying we'll reach any of those goals beyond the first and (maybe) second rounds of the NCAA tournament. But despite what Whitlock and most KU fans think, we have much larger goals than beating that school down the river this year. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "would you trade (name some amount of wins/success) to beat KU in Manhattan?"
First of all, it's a waste of an argument from a stupid premise. The way the world operates, you don't get to trade on your wins. You put your best team out there every night and play as hard as you can and try to score more points. You can't go to the First National Bank of the NCAA and say "I want to cash in my guaranteed wins over these 12 teams so that I can win this one game."
Second, as irritating as this streak is and as irritating as it is to hear those snobs (not you, CB) from that other school lord it over us, it's really nothing more than a statistical anomaly. I'm not saying the 'beaks haven't had more talented teams than K-State pretty much every year since 1983; what I'm saying is, even with a more-talented team, the odds are that once in a 24 year span the other team will sneak up and pull an upset. That fact is borne out by our handful of wins over in KU's old barn since the streak in Manhattan began. We've obviously had teams that played well enough on certain nights to beat them, they just haven't actually brought it on the right night.
That pretty much concludes my analysis, but before I go, I would be remiss not to note an article I read in the Topeka Capital-Journal today. It really seemed like just another article in the Kansas media trying to fill column inches until the real action starts at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday. But that was before I got to the last line and found this quote from Sherron Collins...
"This is what you come to Kansas for is to play in games like this," Collins said. "I think these games, you get ready for."
Apparently it's the Super Bowl (or at least the playoffs) for both teams.