The Sunflower Showdown has arrived. To get some last minute insight into the battle for our great state, I turned to Eric Rubottom (aka TheBigE ) from Bring on the Cats, the SBNation site covering the Kansas State Wildcats. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
RCT: Kansas State has really been what seems like two completely different teams this year. First they stumbled to a 7-6 nonconference record (with ugly losses to Texas Southern and Long Beach State) and looked like they were clearly the worst team in the Big 12, but once conference play started, they took off, winning 4 straight after dropping the opener. Is the turnaround real, or has it just come as a result of playing the bottom half of the league (and getting an extremely good game against Oklahoma)?
They really have been two different teams this year; kind of a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde scenario. The expectations and capabilities of this K-State squad were evident in the win over Purdue and narrow loss to Arizona out in Maui, and it popped up again in the win against Texas A&M in the Sprint Center. However, as you note, the Cats have looked bad, completely lost and disinterested at times against lesser competition, especially in the losses to Texas Southern and Georgia. The team we've seen that's picked up some nice wins in Big 12 play is more of a reality of who we are - a middle-of-the-road team in the Big 12. So, to answer your question directly, the turnaround is real, but we've also probably seen the realistic ceiling (can ugly up a win on the road against good competition) and floor (scoring 12 points in the first half against Georgia) for this team.
RCT: What's up with Marcus Foster? He was a star-in-the-making coming into the season, got benched during a horrible slump (pouting like a petulant little child), and then magically turned it all around and busted out his CPOY-like self again. Is he all fixed for the season, or is there a concern that he could slip back into his selfish ways?
That's the $64,000 question now, isn't it? I don't think we'll see him slip into the mental spiral he was in again (at least not this season), which, speculatively, was a byproduct of his participating and getting some bad advice in those summer camps last offseason. Frankly, he's in a bit of a shooting slump right now, but it's not affecting his effectiveness on the floor. He's still a focal point of the defense, and he's become much more comfortable with finding a way to be involved in the offense aside from purely scoring the basketball. His APG has gone up in conference play, and his defense has been much, much better since Big 12 play started.
RCT: Before we get any further, I just have to ask, why couldn't the athletic department have coughed up the cash for a full mascot? Or did they think that a guy who decapitated a Wildcat and stuck his head up the neck is anything but deeply disturbing (not in a fear my sports team kind of way)? And what happened to EcoKat (not that she was any better)?
RCT: It appears that the lack of a point guard on this team has led to all kinds of offensive problems, with Kansas State stuck in 8th in offensive efficiency in conference play. We already saw West Virginia wreak havoc on this offense. What can Kansas State do differently Saturday to stop KU from doing the same?
RCT: What's your prediction for the game? If the Wildcats were to somehow pull off the upset, what would have to happen in the game?
Prediction is that KU wins one way or another, but I think we'll be able to make it a slow, ugly game. 75-62 Jayhawks. For K-State to win, we've got to get a great performance out of both Thomas Gipson and Marcus Foster, we need to stay under 14 turnovers for the game, and we've got to get at least two role players in double-figures, whether it's Wes Iwundu, or Justin Edwards, or whomever. Word is that Nino Williams - who suffered a knee injury (minor) in the first half of the WVU game - is gametime but doubtful. He's been on a tear lately, so missing his contribution significantly narrows that margin for error.
RCT: BONUS - Sonic the Hedgehog or Link from The Legend of Zelda? Explain using any reasoning you want.
Link - not even a debate. Grew up with Nintendo, and The Legend of Zelda was one of the first Nintendo games I ever played. A Link To The Past for the SNES is still one of the best video games ever made.
A special thanks to Eric for helping us out with these questions today. Don't forget to check out the questions I answered for him over at BOTC.