Much as he supports the Big 12/SEC Challenge, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber would love a change of venue right about now.
Or better yet, more opportunity to step outside the Big 12 schedule.
Not only does Saturday's trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to face a surging Alabama team mean another road trip for the struggling Wildcats, but they'll be shorthanded, as well.
Freshman forward Antonio Gordon begins his three-game suspension for his role in the brawl at the end of Tuesday's game at Kansas, and will not be available Saturday for the 5 p.m. showdown at Coleman Coliseum.
"I love the SEC Challenge. I don't like where it is, in the middle of January, in the middle of your conference," Weber said Wednesday on a Big 12 teleconference call. "I wish it was in December, but I think it's a great thing. I think it's great for both conferences.
"When you have to go on the road, it makes it even tougher. We came off the road with the game (Tuesday, and) now you've got another road game. But it adds some excitement and it's a good Saturday to get exposure for your conference, for your program."
K-State (8-10, 1-5 Big 12) is coming off an 81-60 blowout loss at KU, which quickly took the luster off a season-best performance last Saturday in an 84-68 victory at home against then-No. 12 West Virginia. And they're facing an Alabama team (11-7) that has won three straight, including an 83-64 upset of previously unbeaten Auburn on Jan. 15.
"Obviously they can score the basketball and they're playing at a high level, shooting the three-ball (with) pressing defenses," Weber said of the Crimson Tide, who are averaging 83 points a game. "I think (first-year coach Nate Oats) has created some real positive energy for the program, and when they got a rivalry win like that, it's always positive for the program and the fans.
"We're catching them when they're on a little bit of a nice hot streak and playing with some positive energy."
Weber already is familiar with one Alabama standout, sophomore guard Kira Lewis, whom he coached with the USA U19 team that won the World Cup last summer in Greece. Lewis ranks second on the Crimson Tide in scoring with 16.3 points a game, is third in rebounding at 5.7 and first in assists with a 4.7 average.
"It's not easy when you get the top players in the country together," Weber said. "You all have to figure out your roles. (Lewis) accepted his role.
"He showed that he could compete with not only the best players in the U.S., but the best players in the world. When we asked him to step up, he really did. There were several games where we needed contributions from him. He's an explosive athlete, he can get the ball up the court and he's a good shooter."
Alabama is led offensively by junior guard John Petty with 16.7 points a game.
For K-State, Xavier Sneed continues to lead the way with 14.7 points and 4.7 rebounds. Junior David Sloan has started the last two games at point guard and had a team-high 17 points with five assists against KU.
"The only thing is his defensive awareness and his breakdowns," Weber said of Sloan, who has been solid in his last two outings. "But we might have to live with that to have a little better offense."