Kansas State is one game into the Big 12 portion of its schedule, and already the Wildcats feel pressure to win.
That’s how small the margin for error is in the nation’s top-rated RPI conference, which boasts a .831 winning percentage, four ranked squads and the two best teams in college basketball. The Big 12 made history Monday when Kansas and Oklahoma both received No. 1 rankings. The Jayhawks are at the top of The Associated Press poll, and the Sooners, who are No. 2 in the AP poll, are first in the coaches’ poll.
There is no time for K-State to sulk about dropping a heartbreaker to No. 17 West Virginia in double overtime Saturday. Climbing the conference standings will be difficult enough after starting 0-1. It will be even harder at 0-2 if the Wildcats lose Tuesday night at Texas.
“You have got some of the top teams in the country,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said of the Big 12. “No. 1 and No. 2 are playing each other, Texas Tech’s RPI has been in the top 10, then you go to West Virginia, to Baylor, to … it just goes on and on. Our league has got great depth and great teams and great players. It is going to be difficult every game.”
Texas, which dropped its league opener to Texas Tech, feels the same pressure.
“There are just so many terrific teams that are nationally ranked and teams that played through the roof in November and December,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “It is going to be that type of schedule, where every game is hard.
“Any coach will tell you that their league is hard, but with this league certainly there are none that are harder on a night-to-night basis. If you want to win, particularly on the road, you are going to have to play a highly competitive game.”
Effort and mind-set will be important factors Tuesday. The Longhorns use a full-court press under Smart, who is in his first year as coach, and will try to rush the Wildcats into committing mistakes the same way the Mountaineers did on Saturday.
Weber thinks that could work to K-State’s advantage, as they have already practiced against that type of defense.
K-State will try to win with a balanced approach in which any of its top six players could lead the team in scoring.
Weber hopes his players execute well in their third true road game, inside an arena where Texas beat North Carolina earlier this season. But mostly he wants them focused on the task at hand, instead of the loss to West Virginia or the next game at Oklahoma.
“The key will be whether you win or lose, can you come back and get ready the next game and be prepared and give the same effort you did before?” Weber said. “Coach (Bill) Snyder’s thing about just worry about today and being 1-0 is going to be very important, for not only our team but every team in our league to have success.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett