Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: Cartier Diarra’s windmill dunk and Big 12 basketball projections

K-State G Cartier Diarra seals win over KU with windmill dunk

Kansas State Wildcats guard Cartier Diarra put the exclamation mark on a 74-67 win over the Kansas Jayhawks on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 with a windmill dunk in the final minute.
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Kansas State Wildcats guard Cartier Diarra put the exclamation mark on a 74-67 win over the Kansas Jayhawks on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 with a windmill dunk in the final minute.

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

There are tons of great topics to cover this week, so let’s get right to your questions. Thanks, as always, for providing them.

Here’s guessing any team that can finish 12-6 will have a shot at sharing a Big 12 championship and any team that can finish 13-5 will have legitimate hopes of winning the trophy outright.

There’s just too much parity (and no dominant teams) in the conference for anyone to run away with things.

One night, Oklahoma State and West Virginia can look like the worst teams in league history. The next, they can pull an upset on Kansas.

You didn’t ask me to do this, but let’s handicap the league race now that we are its midway point.

As many as six teams are still clinging to championship aspirations, but I’m thinking the race probably only comes down to two teams. Sorry Kansas (down four key players), Texas Tech (no offense) Baylor (brutal remaining schedule) and Texas (can’t win on the road), your chances aren’t as good as Iowa State (good offense, easy remaining schedule) and K-State (scoreboard). But let’s go ahead and include all six.

1. Iowa State (7-3): The Cyclones have taken care of business against the bottom half of the league and have already beaten Texas Tech on the road. Their remaining schedule is the tastiest of any of the contenders, with only road games at K-State and Texas looking dangerous. For what it’s worth, Ken Pomeroy projects them as the favorites in all of their remaining games. All they have to do is win the games they are supposed to win and they will finish no worse than 13-5. The Wildcats really need to sweep them and win at home on Feb. 16.

2. Kansas State (7-2): They’re in first place and own a road victory over Iowa State, so you could make a case for the Wildcats being the mid-season favorites. But they also have a harder schedule than most coming down the stretch. They have to play Baylor twice, host Iowa State and travel to Texas, Kansas, West Virginia and TCU. Winning six more games against that slate is certainly possible given how well Bruce Weber’s team is currently playing, but it won’t be easy.

3. Kansas (6-4): The Jayhawks don’t look like title contenders at the moment, especially now that Lagerald Vick is taking a “leave of absence,” but a championship path still exists. Their remaining schedule is almost as easy as Iowa State’s. Texas Tech is the only daunting road game. If KU can win there and hold serve at home, it could win another trophy. Losing at West Virginia may ultimately doom their title hopes, though.

4. Texas Tech (6-4): If the Red Raiders can find some consistency on offense they could get to 12 wins. I know, that’s a big if, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Their schedule is also about to soften up. Texas Tech at Iowa State on the final day of the regular season could be mighty interesting.

5. Baylor (6-3): The Bears have a deceiving record. Yes, Scott Drew has the Bears playing well, but they haven’t beaten a single contender on the road, and they still have to play road games against K-State, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas. Baylor won’t finish any better than 11-7 against a brutal closing schedule.

6. Texas (5-5): The Longhorns are beating everyone at home right now and got the benefit of playing at K-State when the Wildcats were without two starters. Seven more victories is probably too much of a reach for Shaka Smart’s team, but the Longhorns might be favored in their next four games. They seem more like spoilers than contenders, but they could create some real carnage down the stretch.

Kansas State seniors Dean Wade, Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes talk about the highly charged atmosphere during the Wildcats 74-67 win over the Kansas Jayhawks at Bramlage Coliseum on Feb. 5, 2019.

It was pretty loud at my house when Landon Donovan scored a miracle goal in stoppage time against Algeria to send the #USMNT through to the knockout round of the 2010 World Cup.

Other than that, yeah, Cartier Diarra’s windmill dunk was as loud as I’ve ever heard a crowd at a sporting event. It was the perfect exclamation point on a big win. Everything set up perfectly for a thunderous reaction. I was in a zone trying to write a game story on deadline, looking at my computer screen more than the game before then. But the dunk was so good and the crowd was so loud I quit writing for a bit to soak in the atmosphere.

Bramlage Coliseum is always at eardrum-piercing levels when KU comes to town, and I can remember it exploding when Jacob Pullen dropped 38 points on the Jayhawks. It got awfully loud when K-State beat No. 1 Texas in 2010, too.

There have also been moments at football games, but it’s hard for outdoor settings to compare to indoor environments. Especially when I’m in an enclosed press box. I wasn’t around for wins over Nebraska or anything like that. I imagine it was incredibly loud when Michael Beasley beat KU in 2008.

Interesting note: I once asked former Topeka sports columnist Kevin Haskin this question and he had a very unique answer. He said the loudest crowd (by far) he ever heard was at Ahearn Fieldhouse when K-State beat the Russian national team in an exhibition game back in 1978. It still amazes me such a game was played. I would have loved to have been there.

Nicely done.

He might have also posterized Wilt Chamberlain’s spirit had he gone between the legs.

While I think the Wildcats are underrated, I’m not exactly sure what it will take for them to become the top ranked team in the Big 12. But it will probably involve winning the conference.

The league currently has three ranked teams, and K-State isn’t one of them.

K-State only ranks 36th in KenPom and 30th in the NET rankings. As much as fans like to complain about Associated Press voters denying the Wildcats a spot in the top 25, they have been higher on this team than the computers.

The computers hate K-State, because it lost to Tulsa and Texas A&M and posted some horrific offensive numbers while Dean Wade was injured. Fair or not, those factors will continue to negatively impact the Wildcats.

Is it finally time for people to take the Wildcats seriously? Yes, they are playing terrific basketball. But it might take them a while to rise up in the rankings to where they were before the season began.

Kansas State Wildcats seniors Barry Brown, Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes talk about their emotions after getting their first ever win over Kansas Jayhawks on Feb. 5, 2019.

I would expect K-State to come in at about No. 22 if it beats Kansas and Baylor in the same week. The Wildcats will be all alone on top of the Big 12 standings, and they were just outside the top 25 last week.

A win over Baylor could be what finally gets them back in the national polls.

They may remain on the outside looking in with a loss, though.

Maybe 25 percent. Texas beat the living daylights out of K-State, and the Wildcats probably needed both Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes to have any chance in that game. Texas Tech is hard to beat on the road. Wade would have helped in that game, but that might not have been enough.

K-State did lose to Tulsa and Texas A&M at full strength, after all.

It’s too bad the Wildcats didn’t have Wade and Stokes for their first two Big 12 games, though. If K-State could have just one of those games back its Big 12 championship odds would be much higher than it already is.

It’s pretty awesome.

I’ve lived in Austin, Lawrence, Manhattan, Pocatello (Idaho) and Omaha. The Little Apple is where all three of my sons were born and (sorry to go full Bill Snyder on you) the people are great. Never had a neighbor I didn’t like here.

The regional airport is also a hidden gem.

It would be nice to have a Whataburger and real beer at the grocery store. But that’s about all the town is lacking.

I’m putting my money on Xavier Sneed. He’s capable of being K-State’s leading scorer right now, but he only steps up and plays that way once every eight games or so. He will likely find some consistency as a senior and average something close to 15 points.

That’s assuming he doesn’t end the season on a heater and turn pro early, of course.

The K-State basketball team will fly home to Manhattan between its upcoming games at Baylor and Texas. The last time I can recall the Wildcats staying on the road for multiple Big 12 games was in 2015 when they played back-to-back games at TCU and Baylor.

K-State lost those games by a combined by a combined 41 points, so it’s no surprise they have avoided extended road trips since then.

But (humble brag) I’m staying in my hometown of Austin for the next five days. I am completely in favor of the Big 12 scheduling road games at Baylor and Texas back-to-back every single year.

I thought the songs at the Sunflower Showdown were pretty good. I can always do without the Mortal Kombat theme, but K-State students really seemed to like “Mo Bamba” near the end of the game. They also rocked out to “Every time we Touch.” That’s been a nice addition, as @scottwildcat predicted.

If Sandstorm is a non-starter, those are pretty good selections. Could have used some Rage Against the Machine, but no complaints otherwise.

Scottie Hazelton wants these three things from K-State football players on defense

Next year will be the defining recruiting cycle for Chris Klieman and his coaching staff. The Sunflower State has an unusual abundance of football talent coming out of high school in 2020 and the Wildcats need to take advantage.

I think they will, at least compared to previous seasons. They could push for an upper half recruiting class in the Big 12 if things go well.

The Wildcats are never going to challenge Oklahoma and Texas when it comes to recruiting, but they should be able to win battles against the rest of the conference and regularly sign recruiting classes filled with hard-workers that develop into all-conference players.

Klieman did a nice job with the time he had this recruiting cycle. I like the look of all the players he signed this week, especially Joshua Youngblood and Thomas Grayson. K-State fans should feel cautiously optimistic about the future of recruiting.

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Kellis Robinett covers Kansas State athletics for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. A winner of more than a dozen national writing awards, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and three children.