K-State begins desperate postseason hunt with Big 12 Tournament matchup against TCU

Senior forward Thomas Gipson attempts to use his large stature to force his way past Texas Tech center Isaiah Manderson in the second half of the Wildcats' 58-51 win over the Red Raiders January 14, 2015, in Bramlage Coliseum. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

With only one guaranteed game left for K-State men’s basketball, it’s safe to say that the season hasn’t gone as planned for the Wildcats.

The high aspirations that were placed on the team, from competing for a Big 12 regular season championship to a deep NCAA Tournament run, have seemingly spiraled out of control to just winning four games in a row in order to make the NCAA Tournament.

“You have three seasons within the season: you have the nonconference season, you have the conference season, then this postseason opportunity,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said Monday. “For the guys, it’s a chance to show people what we could’ve been or should’ve been and what we are at times.”

The task in front of this K-State team is no easy one. The Wildcats are the eighth seed at the Big 12 Conference Tournament, meaning that if they make it past the first game, they will have a date with heated rivals Kansas in the second round.

K-State needs to win four games this week. But before Kansas, the streak has to start on Wednesday when the Wildcats (15-16, 8-10) take on a struggling TCU (17-14, 4-14) team that hasn’t won a conference game outside the state of Texas since 2012-13.

TCU’s season may be just as weird as the Wildcats’, which is a feat itself. The Horned Frogs started 13-0 in nonconference play before desperately fighting just to reach four conference wins.

“It’s still not going to be easy, TCU’s still very good,” Weber said. “You win that one and you still know it’s going to be tough to go through the weekend.”

In 14 losses, TCU has been outscored by 11.2 points per game. In their four conference victories; however, the Horned Frogs have been able to trounce their opponents by 16.5 points per game.

K-State managed to split the regular season series, taking the first game in Bramlage before being throttled by the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth, Texas.

“The first game (against TCU) we had great energy, we had life and Marcus (Foster) made some shots, which spread their defense out,” Weber said. “At their place, it was one of a couple games where I didn’t think we had the energy and life that we needed, and that was disappointing. The biggest thing on Wednesday is going to be energy, life, excitement and determination.”

“We believe that we can go out there and win the tournament. It’s a new season for us, we look at it as though it’s 0-0 and we have to go win the first game and let the rest take care of itself.” – Marcus Foster

In the second game against TCU, K-State shot just 34.5 percent from the field, including 4-11 from behind the arc. One of the most astounding facts that came out of the game was that the Wildcats almost had as many offensive rebounds (17) as they had made baskets (19).

“You thought, shooting wise, that between Justin (Edwards), Marcus (Foster), Nigel (Johnson) and Tre (Harris), we’d have enough 3-point shooters to spread defenses out,” Weber said. “That hasn’t happened consistently, so now teams have been able to sag off and help.”

In the two games against the Horned Frogs, K-State has had only one of those four players Weber mentioned reach double-digits in each game. In the first game, sophomore guard Marcus Foster came off of the bench to score 23 points, while in the second game freshman guard Tre Harris came off the bench to score 14 points.

Sensing the pressure that has been put on them to succeed in the conference tournament, the K-State seniors called a team meeting this past weekend to get on the same page about what it’s going to take in order to succeed and make the NCAA Tournament.

“We all want to go in there (to the Big 12 Championships) and be on the same page,” senior forward Thomas Gipson said. “We feel like the only way we can get to the (NCAA) Tournament is if we win the Big 12 Tournament. We just all want to be on the same page and let everyone know that we mean business when we get down there.”

Foster echoed both Gipson and Weber’s thoughts about the Big 12 Tournament being a new season, even going as far as to believing that the eighth-seeded Wildcats are still a team to be feared in the tournament.

“We believe that we’re one of the top teams still, even though we’re eighth,” Foster said. “We believe that we can go out there and win the tournament. It’s a new season for us, we look at it as though it’s 0-0 and we have to go win the first game and let the rest take care of itself.”