We’re in uncharted territory — at least for anyone under 50 years old. For example, the last time the Kansas State Wildcats won nine games (or more) in a row in conference play, Bruce Weber was still in high school in Milwaukee, WI. And he’s 62.
During that nine-game stretch, the Wildcats have faced, and beaten, every single team in the Big 12. The second game of that streak was in Ames, IA, at one of the toughest venues in the Big 12. And yet the Wildcats, who had just welcomed back Dean Wade from injury, pulled out an improbable 58-57 victory over the then-No. 20 Iowa State Cyclones.
Now at 9-2 in the Big 12, and holding a firm lead on first place in the conference, the Wildcats are the hunted team. And today, the third-place Cyclones are in town looking to both avenge their loss as well as close the gap with the Wildcats and put themselves back into second place with KU and Texas Tech.
It won’t be easy for the Cyclones. Just like we said on Tuesday about the game against Texas, these Wildcats are a different team than the one that traveled to Ames a month ago.
Obviously, Dean Wade is fully healthy and playing like it, same with Kamau Stokes, and Xavier Sneed seems to have broken out of whatever funk he was in during the early part of the season. Plus, back in early January these Wildcats were still an enigma. The game before the trip to Ames they needed a historic 21-point second-half comeback to be West Virginia at home, and even the win at Hilton seemed like it could be a high point of the season.
Now, these Wildcats are healthy (except for losing Cartier Diarra, who may be back sooner than expected), and are riding a big wave of confidence and momentum in the back-half of Big 12 play. They aren’t in first place because of a fluke. They are in first place because they have been playing high-level team basketball.
But no game in this conference is a gimme, especially not against a ranked opponent out for blood. But if these Wildcats can continue to play with high energy, play stifling defense, and continue to do their thing on offense, this should be a game the Wildcats should win.
We’ve got a mid-afternoon tip-off from Bramlage Coliseum today, with the game scheduled for a 3:05pm CST tip. The game will be available on ESPN2 with Rich Hollenberg (play-by-play) and Robbie Hummel (analyst) on the call. You should also be able to access the game on WatchESPN.com/ESPN3.
You will also be able to listen to live audio across much of the K-State Sports Network with with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play) and Stan Weber (analyst) calling the action. The game will also be available streaming for free online via the TuneIn app/TuneIn.com and at www.kstatesports.com/watch. Satellite coverage is also available at Sirius 135 / XM 199 / Internet 953. Live stats are available at k-statesports.com, and Twitter updates (@KStateMBB) will also be a part of the coverage from K-State Athletics.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
Kansas State Wildcats (19-5, 9-2 Big 12)
G: #3 Kamau Stokes
G: #5 Barry Brown Jr.
G/F: #20 Xavier Sneed
F: #32 Dean Wade
F: #14 Makol Mawien
Iowa State Cyclones (18-6, 7-4 Big 12)
G: #1 Nick Weiler-Babb
G: #3 Marial Shayok
G: #11 Talen Horton-Tucker
G: #22 Tyrese Haliburton
F: #12 Michael Jacobson