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Jayhawks, Cats keep pace in title chase

By Joel Jellison

With just three games left on the Big 12 docket, Kansas and Kansas State could be sharing a Big 12 regular-season title.

Both teams have 12-3 records in conference play, and have positioned themselves for a three-game competition over the next week and a half to see which team can hang on to the end.

The Jayhawks passed maybe their toughest remaining hurdle on Monday with a win on the road at Iowa State, with games against West Virginia and Texas Tech at home before finishing on the road at Baylor.

K-State, meanwhile, has to go to Baylor this weekend, before playing its final game at home against TCU and finishing out on the road with Oklahoma State.

Sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez said they know what’s at stake.

“I guess we can’t see the light until we actually win the whole thing, because everything can go away in just one game,” he said. “We’ve got to focus, got to have the same mentality we’ve had — just take care of the next game. If we play our game, then we’ll see the light.”

K-State hasn’t won a regular-season league title since it claimed the Big Eight season championship in the 1976-77 season. Monday marked the first time the Wildcats reached 12 conference wins since the 1972-73 season. K-State hasn’t won 13 conference games since the 1960-61 season.

This weekend’s game at Baylor features a Bears’ team that is on the ropes, sitting on the outside looking in to the NCAA tournament. With its chances of making the field dwindling, the Bears would love a win against either K-State or KU, if not both.

The Wildcats regular-season finale at Oklahoma State features the only team that’s one game out of first place in the standings.

K-State coach Bruce Weber said they talk often of what could be accomplished this season if they continue to play their brand of basketball.

“This is the special time, March is here, the next game is in March,” he said. “You want to be playing your best basketball. I hope they stay humble and stay hungry. A couple weeks from now, you lose and it’s over.”

K-State spent the last three weeks of its schedule stuck in a Saturday to Monday trend that Weber believes could actually be a positive. The Wildcats went 5-1 in that stretch, with the only loss coming at Kansas, when the Jayhawks broke their three-game losing streak.

Weber said it was a schedule reminiscent of what a team would experience during the NCAA tournament, and he hopes it helped the coaches and team learn how to prepare during the day in between games.

The Wildcats are currently listed as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament in ESPN writer Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. According to Lunardi’s projections, the Wildcats would open the tournament at Sprint Center in Kansas City.

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