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K-State, Weber ready for the road

By Joel Jellison

After a big conference win at home, things are about to get tougher for the Kansas State men’s basketball team.

The Wildcats — ranked No. 18 in the AP and No. 23 in the Coach’s poll — opened Big 12 Conference play on Saturday with a 73-67 win over then No. 22-ranked Oklahoma State, and now they are slated to go on the road for the third and fourth true-road games of the season.

K-State will play at West Virginia on Saturday, before heading to TCU on Jan. 16.

Wildcats’ coach Bruce Weber said it helps to have some experience this season, and veteran players as they head out on to the road in the Big 12.

“In non-conference you have to give yourself a chance to go on the road and experience that,” Weber said during the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference on Monday. “We went into a pretty hostile environment at George Washington, and I called it a neutral-home when we went to Seattle and played Gonzaga when they had 16,000 people in red.

“You have to get used to that. Obviously, it helps that you have a veteran team that won some games on the road last year.”

As a whole, the non-conference schedule featured a number of disappointments for the Big 12. Five teams lost to Gonzaga — including K-State — and the conference picked up just a handful of wins to bolster its RPI.

Because of that, the conference is looking at the possibility of getting just a few bids for the NCAA tournament in March.

Kansas, K-State and Oklahoma State each have solid chances to reach the “Big dance” at this point, while Baylor’s chances look good. Schools like Oklahoma and Iowa State might also have a chance to make it.

Even though the conference is currently ranked sixth, Kansas coach Bill Self said the Big 12 isn’t far off from being ranked closer to the top.

“If you really study RPI, we’re just a fraction out of being second,” he said. “The Big Ten, without question, is the deepest league in the country, but after that you have some leagues that look better than others.

“But when you really study the RPI, we have (several) teams in the top 75. We are going to have teams in position to make the NCAA tournament.”

In reality, six of the league’s 10 teams are in the top 60 of the RPI, with Kansas leading the way at No. 2. Oklahoma is rated No. 19, K-State at No. 31, Baylor 37 and Oklahoma State at 38, while Iowa State is rated 59th.

The Wildcats play Oklahoma and Kansas at home on Jan. 19 and Jan. 22.

Self also said he had a chance to watch a few games on Saturday — with KU playing Temple on Sunday — but kept his eye on the game in Manhattan between K-State and his alma mater, Oklahoma State.

Wildcats get fourth commitment

The only thing K-State needed to finish Bruce Weber’s first recruiting class, was a little size.

The Wildcats got their guy on Monday, as 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward Neville Fincher announced his commitment to K-State over Twitter.

Fincher, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native who attends Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, visited K-State over the weekend. He chose the Wildcats over offers from Seton Hall and Marshall.

The Wildcats currently have two players signed to letters of intent, and another two committed to the school. Shooting guard Marcus Foster and small forward Wesley Iwundu have each signed, while Jevin Thomas, a point guard, and Fincher are committed.

Signing day is Feb. 6.

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