I think there’s consensus to this game, it’s make or break time for Bruce Weber and this year’s Wildcats.
There are still opportunities ahead, still a path to the NCAA tournament even with a loss tonight. But with the Cats still searching for a signature win this season, and with all the furor generated this last off-season regarding the Cowboys newest head coach, this may be the last best chance for this team to start gaining momentum and keep the fans invested.
Yes, lets talk about the elephant in the room first. A win tonight and Bruce Weber’s seat becomes noticeably cooler (like in the way 100 is noticeably cooler than 110). A win gives Weber some footing in the argument against releasing him for Brad Underwood this off-season. It’s small footing, as the Cowboys are 0-5 right now in league play, but it’s a stable foothold nonetheless. But a loss tonight, even at a place that K-State has won only once in over 20 years, would send the Bruce-haters into overload and give even his supporters serious doubts.
But the coaches don’t play the games, the teams do. Last season K-State took two of three against Oklahoma State, and the loss was an ugly 58-55 overtime affair in Stillwater. Dean Wade was the star performer for the Wildcats in the series last year, averaging 13 points on 54.5 percent shooting, including his first career 20-point game.
This season the Cowboys are led by sophomore guard Jawun Evans, who is averaging 18.2 ppg. to rank second in the Big 12, and is joined in double figures by junior forward Jeffrey Carroll (16.8 ppg.) and senior guard Phil Forte (13.8 ppg.). Forte leads the league in made 3-pointers, 2.6 pg, and FT percentage, shooting a blazing 96.2 percent from the charity stripe.
The Cats are led again by Barry Brown, at 12.1 ppg., after he retook the crown after Wesley Iwundu’s poor shooting day against Baylor. But three Cats are hovering right around 12 ppg, as D.J. Johnson (12.0 ppg.) and Iwundu (11.9 ppg.) join Brown at that mark. Kamau Stokes has taken the lead in scoring in conference games, at 13.6 ppg., from Dean Wade, 13.4 pgg., as Wade also had a poor shooting effort against Baylor. All five Wildcat starters are still averaging double figures, and the Wildcats are still the only team in the Big 12 with five players, let alone all five starters, averaging double-digits.
Greg Woods again has your full game preview of tonight’s action.
The game, slated for an 8:05pm CT tip, will be broadcast on ESPNU, with Anish Shroff (play-by-play) and Tim Welsh (analyst) on the call, and streaming may be available to you (depending on your location and provider/package) at WatchESPN.com. Audio, as always, is available on the K-State Sports Network (Sirius 134/XM 199 (Oklahoma State broadcast)) and streaming online at K-StateSports.com.
The Wildcat women (14-4, 4-2) are also in action tonight, facing TCU in Bramlage at 7:00pm. If you are in Manhattan, you can go and watch pretty good Wildcat team, as the ladies are moving up in the rankings. The Wildcat women are coming off a huge win in Stillwater, as the Cats knocked off the Cowgirls of Oklahoma State 63-43. The 20-point margin of victory was the largest in Stillwater by K-State since a 32-point win over the Cowgirls on Jan. 13, 2004,. and ended a four-game losing streak in Stillwater. The game in Bramlage tonight will also be broadcast on FCS Pacific and K-StateHD.TV, as Brian Smoller (play-by-play) and Missy Heidrick (analyst) call the purple-on-purple action. Audio may be available on select parts of the the K-State Sports Network, but will be streaming, free, online at K-StateSports.com.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
G: #3 Kamau Stokes
G: #5 Barry Brown
G: #25 Wesley Iwundu
F: #32 Dean Wade
F: #4 D.J. Johnson
G: #1 Jawun Evans
G: #13 Phil Forte
F: #23 Leyton Hammonds
F: #30 Jeffrey Carroll
F: #41 Mitchell Soloman