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Curtis Kitchen's Blog

Curtis Kitchen has followed the Big 12, Kansas State and national college basketball beat including K-State's run to the NCAA Tournament Elite 8 in 2010. You can currently follow his work at his blog: In the past, he also covered the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting KC) for Major League Soccer's site as well as the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals for the other sports station in town. His freelance portfolio ranges media outlets and publications, including (part of the Rivals network), and the Miami Herald.

Curtis Kitchen: Is K-State NCAA material?

The question came up a couple of times this week: Is Kansas State an NCAA Tournament team?

The answer, with seven games remaining in the regular season, is no. K-State has seen some success this year, led by Rodney McGruder's emergence as a go-to scoring threat and team's collective ability to rebound (something that concerned head coach Frank Martin at the start of the season). But, those successes don't stack up against the ills of this squad, such as the lack of a true post presence, guards other than McGruder struggling to score for much of the season, and defensive lapses letting big leads evaporate.

The overall feeling is that no matter when a small step forward is taken, K-State in one way or another seems to do so clumsily tripping itself and thwarting any real momentum (see losing to Oklahoma twice). And now, the biggest calling card of them all - attitude - seems to be facing its own mini-derailment as Martin's vow to ease up on his in-game behavior flies in the face of, really, the entire program he's built in four-plus years.

I used the word "disjointed" several times this week on the air. I think it applies better than anything else. That is unfortunate considering K-State fans looked at this team in the preseason knowing that it needed to be one of those "sum-is-greater-than-parts" teams. Nobody really stood out, and statistics (McGruder's scoring in league play aside) have backed up that assertion. The pieces have never added up wholly aside from the Hawaii trip in December.  Frustrated onlookers see an occasional, individual, solid performance but not the type of inspired team play that NCAA qualifiers usually have. Those teams have that "look" about them, and I don't think anyone would confuse KSU for having that look since beating Missouri in early January.

As for the schedule itself, it does K-State no favors. Beginning with the road game at Texas, three of KSU's next four games are on the road - at Texas, vs. KU, at Baylor, at Missouri - before another home game with Iowa State follows. Four games against the top four teams in the league, along with Texas, which sits just a game behind the Wildcats currently. Then, a road game in College Station and a home contest against Oklahoma State wraps up the regular season.

At 17-6, 6-5, Kansas State can ill afford to do worse than 5-2 in that stretch, and probably needs to win its first Big 12 Tournament game in Kansas City (which would be against Iowa State if the current standings hold).

Say it drops the second Big 12 tourney game (against either KU or Missouri as the No. 1); it would put the Wildcats' record at 23-9, 11-7. That's a qualifying record, in my opinion. What absolutely can't happen is K-State plays only .500 from here on out. Counting a Big 12 tourney win and loss, going 5-4 or 4-5 has NIT written all over it. Unfortunately, that scenario isn't far-fetched.

All of that said, K-State is talented enough overall to pull itself together and make a run. Will it, though? This season's up-and-down history makes an extended, consistent, winning run an extremely hard sell.

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Locations : HawaiiKansas CityMissouriOklahomaTexas
People : Curtis KitchenFrank MartinRodney McGruder

02/10/2012 4:45PM
Curtis Kitchen: Is K-State NCAA material?
Please Enter Your Comments Below
02/10/2012 9:26PM
NCAA tourney field is weak this year. 9-9 is good enough.
02/14/2012 8:20AM
just wondering
I'll admit I'm not a huge basketball fan, so this may be the reason I question this. But, why is K-State such a big topic? Seems like for the last few years we've been told in the preseason how great K-State is going to be and how GREAT Frank Martin is. Then they both go out and lay eggs.If Frank Martin is so great, why can't he recruit a team that does better than .500 or below in the conference? Yea, the tourney field may be weak this year, but I don't know if the weakness of K-State needs to be a part of the postseason.
02/15/2012 9:52AM
I sorta follow...
Good question. I think most of why KSU is a big topic is that its local. If you move outside of this area, I don't think a ton of people are really talking about K-State this season. That said, this past preseason, I don't think folks were talking about how good KSU was going to be; they were picked sixth in the preseason poll. Now, *that* said, if the field really is watered down as much as some people think it is (and I still have my doubts as to whether that's really the case), then I do think K-State belongs over some .500-in-conference mid-major. The 'Cats still have the ability to jump up and knock off a better team because they do control the boards effectively. If a team isn't hitting shots, and they don't get easy second or third opportunities, K-State's good enough to win. As of today, if they made the field, they easily could be a one-and-done.
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