The Sunflower Showdown is upon us again, this time taking place in the "Octagon of Doom" (although who’s doom is extremely debatable). The real question is whether the game is worth watching tonight. To get some answers, I turned to Eric Rubottom (aka TheBigE) from Bring on the Cats, the SB Nation site covering the Kansas State Wildcats. He was kind (and surprisingly sober) enough to answer a few questions for us.
RCT: So are you ready for the KSU Super Bowl? Since the Wildcats have to win the Big 12 tournament to get to the NCAA tourney, winning this game tonight is pretty much the only thing left to play for, right?
BOTC: I'm ready...don't know about the team that's going to appear the floor, though. It's actually worse than just needing to win the Big 12 tourney for a NCAA appearance: the NIT has never extended an invite to a team with a losing record. At two games under .500 with four guaranteed left on the slate (KU, ISU, @UT, 1st round Big12), I don't know that we can afford to lose another game until the conference tournament and find our way into the NIT field. It's been a long, long season for some of us. So, in summary - yep. Tonight's pretty much all we have to play for, as far as records and postseason is concerned.
RCT: I know he just got an extension based off of that shared conference title, but how much longer do you realistically see Bruce Weber being at the school?
BOTC: Bruce will have one more year, I think. While the analogy to his Illinois tenure is disturbingly similar, it's really difficult to justify pulling the plug on a coach after one bad season. There are a couple of speculative paths that lead us to the outlook.
One says this season is an aberration, and while we probably won't be vying for a conference title next year, the team has a couple of decent recruits coming in, and what's left after Gipson and Nino graduate has the talent to at least be competitive in the top half of the league. No, I'm not delusional - this team's issues are entirely between the ears, or on the sideline, or some combination of both. The ability is there to win basketball games in the Big 12. Bruce will get at least one more year to try and screw it up further.
The other is that there's no way AD John Currie could make a "safe" hire for this spot, then fire him just two years removed from a piece of a conference title. We all speculate Currie is angling for a higher end AD job, and that wouldn't look good on his resume. He NEEDS Weber to at least retain some level of success for his exit strategy to work out.
RCT: At this point, would you expect Marcus Foster to be back next year?
BOTC: It's hard to tell, because the guy that recruited him, to a certain extent, is the guy he's having difficulty with right now. They made it work last year. If you put a gun to my head right now, well...in the words of Phil Robertson, "He gone." But not to another major program, if he does leave - I could see him going to a mid-major and putting up 22 points a night, and pundits lamenting why he couldn't work out at K-State after his freshman campaign.
RCT: This team is in freefall, but somehow managed to sweep Oklahoma this year. What is it about that matchup that allowed you guys to do that?
BOTC: Great question. I've delved into it, and all I can come up with is that Oklahoma can't play an ugly game...which is surprising given how Ryan Spangler and TaShawn Thomas bang around on the inside. Like KU, Oklahoma doesn't force many turnovers (which is one of our weak points) - they just play really solid straight-up D. Without all the turnovers, we didn't have many empty possessions, so it came down to making a few buckets. They also score well in transition, but not in half-court sets. They're also a decent rebounding team, but not to the level of a Baylor. What happened in both games is that we slowed it down enough to take OU out of their easy scoring opportunities, and were able to just keep it close enough to make a shot at the end of the game. Getting to the free throw line (and making them) certainly helped.
RCT: Do you give your team any chance in this game tonight? We've seen this Kansas team play pretty bad on the road, but do the Wildcats have enough firepower to make it a game?
BOTC: Bruce Weber has never lost by more than 6 in Bramlage. It would be completely in context of this K-State team to win this game. Believe me, I'm not saying they will; far from it. However, we've seen how well this team can play if they have their heads screwed on straight. It feels like a game like we just played at TCU, though - get punched in the mouth right from tip, cough up a 15-20 point lead in the first half, claw our way back to single digits before eventually falling behind by 15 at the end of the game. If not, it'll be late-minute heroics for the upset, a la Oklahoma.
RCT: BONUS - Star Trek or Star Wars?
BOTC: For me, Star Wars. No question. Star Trek was a bit too geeky for me, because of the TV show. Don't really like those sci-fi TV shows. If it had been just the movies...man, that would be a tough decision. If anything helps describe it - I'm looking forward to the new Star Wars movie. I don't know that I'd be looking forward to a new Star Trek movie.
So it looks like I’m destined to be on the losing side of this one all by myself, as we are sitting at 6-0 in favor of Star Wars.
A special thanks to Eric for spending some time with us today. Don’t forget to read my answers to his questions over on BOTC.