Kansas State begins a stretch of three games in six days beginning Tuesday — and how the Wildcats handle these next 144 hours could be the defining moment of their season.
K-State, 16-6 overall and 5-5 in the Big 12, hosts Texas Tech tomorrow at 7 p.m. before traveling to Austin to take on Texas on Saturday. Then the Wildcats must travel back to Manhattan and deal with a quick turnaround to prep for Kansas on Big Monday in Bramlage Coliseum.
“Gets real easy doesn’t it?” K-State coach Frank Martin joked after Saturday’s win over Texas A&M.
The Wildcats should handle the Red Raiders, who are 0-10 in league play, but Martin said they can’t afford to look ahead to what’s coming on the schedule.
“We can’t worry about Saturday and Monday because all of that is irrelevant,” he said. “We’ve got to worry about tomorrow and Texas Tech and keep our focus on that. Then when we get done with Texas Tech we’ll worry about the next day and the day after that.”
But Martin does have to look ahead to the schedule to make sure his guys aren’t worn down leading into this week.
“As a coach it’s my job to manage it to make sure we don’t run these guys into the ground,” he said. “Because up to this point it’s been a hard, competitive year for us, and that’s my job to manage that and still be able to get the work in that we need to get to prepare for the next game.”
The most difficult part of dealing with the schedule will come between Saturday’s road trip and then preparing to deal with rival KU, a team tied for first in the league.
“The feature game for the Big 12 every week is Big Monday,” Martin said. “You want to be in that game — that puts a stress… that’s why I respect the job (KU head coach) Bill Self does because his team is always in that game. It means you end up playing three, four times a year three games in seven, eight, nine days. That makes it extremely hard.”
A win over the Red Raiders tomorrow would get K-State back over .500 in league play, setting the Wildcats up for two games that would be marquee wins if they could pull them off. After that, K-State travels to Baylor and Missouri, meaning the Wildcats will play the top three teams in the league over the next couple of weeks.
But dealing with the stress the upcoming schedule presents is a lot easier coming off a win rather than back-to-back losses, as K-State’s victory over Texas A&M this past Saturday helped the Wildcats heal mentally.
“That’s the importance of taking care of (A&M) so we feel good about ourselves,” Martin said. “Nobody is ever tired when you win. I don’t care how hard you play, when you win you feel good, you’re ready to practice. That’s why it was important for us to get this win here today so we can feel good about ourselves. Now we can focus in on tomorrow with Texas Tech.”
TEXAS TECH (7-15, 0-10)
Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Ty Nurse Jr. 6-1 9.0 1.8
G — Terran Petteway Fr. 6-6 3.8 2.0
G — Javarez Willis So. 5-11 7.7 2.3
F — Robert Lewandowski Sr. 6-10 7.2 3.8
F — Jordan Tolbert Fr. 6-7 11.9 6.0
KANSAS STATE (16-6, 5-5)
Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Will Spradling So. 6-2 10.4 2.2
G — Angel Rodriguez Fr. 5-11 7.4 2.4
G — Rodney McGruder Jr. 6-4 15.0 5.2
F — Thomas Gipson Fr. 6-7 8.5 5.5
F — Jamar Samuels Sr. 6-7 10.4 6.4