Kansas State basketball is back...we think?
The Wildcats were once down and out but there's a ray of sunshine in Manhattan these days. K-State has won its last three games and five of its last six (with the one loss coming on a missed buzzer beater). I'm not sure if we've seen the K-State team we grew to know last year -- because, let's face it, this year's team is consistently inconsistent -- but I'm liking what I see from K-State right now.
In the last three games, we've come to know two things: 1.) Jacob Pullen is very good and 2.) K-State can win big games.
First, Jacob Pullen. 38 points. 27 points. 27 points. Those are his three-game totals starting with the KU game. In terms of points, that's his best three-game stretch of the season. What I like about him is that he takes advantage of the free ones. He was 15 of 19 at the free throw line against Kansas, 8 of 8 against Oklahoma and 10 of 11 against Nebraska.
I go back to Pullen's comments about the NIT. If I were writing some sappy story line, it'd be about Pullen turning it on late in the season to help push the Wildcats into the NCAA tournament.
Second, K-State has shown us they can win big games. Against Kansas, they came out on fire and walked away with a 16-point victory. Then they went into Nebraska, where Texas had just lost last weekend, and came out with a four-point victory.
That said, K-State has been inconsistent with games like this. It was just Jan. 29 when KU stream-rolled them, 90-66. But we know that they're capable of stringing together a few good wins in a row. That's not something we've seen since conference play started.
So the question now is whether K-State can keep it up. I think they're building a strong NCAA tournament resume but the next two games on the schedule -- Missouri and at Texas -- won't be easy. Then again, Kansas and at Nebraska weren't easy but they won those.
Though it's not measurable, I think momentum is an important factor, especially for a team like K-State. I'd like to see them play both Mizzou and Texas tough, possibly upsetting one (which is a lot to ask), and roll into the conference tournament with some confidence.
From a selfish standpoint, my job becomes a lot more fun when Kansas State is doing well so I'm rooting for Frank Martin's team to finish the year strong.