Kansas State sailed through the nonconference portion of its basketball schedule with only a couple of bumps in the road, but now the true journey begins.
K-State transitions from a weak nonconference schedule that produced a 10-2 record to the brutal Big 12 Conference beginning at Iowa State on Friday. In the first 10 conference games, the Wildcats play both Kansas and West Virginia twice.
“I would think every team thinks their schedule is the toughest one,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said Tuesday on a conference call. “I don’t know how any one can’t be a tough one. If you’re looking at the top teams in the league, we’re going to play them all right away. It’s part of it. You have to play them sometime but like Bill Snyder talks about, just one at a time and all we can worry about is Iowa State and then worry about the next opponent.”
The Big 12 teams have combined for a 102-16 nonconference record and six of the 10 are ranked in the Associated Press poll: No. 7 West Virginia, No. 10 TCU, No. 11 Kansas, No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 18 Baylor and No. 22 Texas Tech.
“Chris Beard (Texas Tech coach) and I were texting back and forth the other day and he said it’s a scary league,” Weber said. “I said I think it’s the best I’ve ever been part of. You keep thinking the league can’t get better but the depth is great. You have to play every game, you throw in Georgia coming in here (Big 12/SEC Challenge) and then you play a Big 12 Tournament game so you have 20 high level games you have to deal with.”
The depth of the league could result in the eventual champion having more losses than normal.
“I would anticipate that,” Weber said, “but you never know if one team has it in them to go on a run and wins a bunch of close games — and stays healthy. Looking at it right now, I would say definitely it would be a little lower record than it has been in the past.”
K-State lost to Arizona State — which went from preseason unranked to No. 3 with a 12-0 record, including a win over KU at Allen Fieldhouse — and Tulsa. The Wildcats have played five games away from Bramlage Coliseum, winning a true road game at Vanderbilt and in their last game a 68-65 win over Washington State in Spokane, Wash.
“You played what some people might say is the best team in the country in Arizona State,” Weber said. “We played them down to the wire. We had that experience, then you had some road games against (Washington State and Vanderbilt) and you’ve had games with Tulsa and George Washington, which are two solid teams. We played against a lot of different styles and all that adds up to learning about your team and hopefully preparing you for the conference.”
The question is whether the nonconference slate — No. 298 in the ESPN RPI strength of schedule — has prepared the Wildcats, who nonetheless are No. 43 in the Ken Pomeroy power ratings.
“We’ll just have to see,” Weber said. “When we get to the league and how we deal with the league will be the telling tale.”
McGUIRL TO REDSHIRT
Freshman guard Mike McGuirl, who hasn’t played at all due to a foot injury, will redshirt.
“I think Mike will probably redshirt unless something crazy happens,” Weber said of the 6-foot-2 true freshman from Ellington, Conn. “We talked before the (Southeast Missouri State) game and he said, ‘Coach, for the long haul for me it would be better to redshirt.’ I would agree.”
James Love, who also has yet to play due to a foot injury, is close to stepping on the court. The 6-10 freshman redshirted last year with a broken foot.
“James, slowly but surely is getting back,” Weber said. “Each week we’ve done a little more with him and we hope to get him in some live stuff this week and that will be the telling tale as to how his foot reacts. Once that happens, it will be a couple of weeks before we can get him in action but he has made progress.”