Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: Makol Mawien, three transformational seniors and the Big 12 title

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

Lots of great questions on tap this week, so let’s get right to them. Thanks, as always, for your participation.

I don’t think K-State will have any trouble with Oklahoma on Saturday. Let me start by saying that. The Sooners looked good beating Kansas at home earlier this week, but everyone looks good at home against KU. I wouldn’t read too much into that.

K-State beat Oklahoma on the road by double digits in January and Lon Kruger has never defeated Bruce Weber in Manhattan. The Sooners have come to K-State with teams ranked No. 1 and No. 4 over the past six years, and it hasn’t mattered.

This should be a lay-up game for the Wildcats.

But you asked a good, hypothetical question. So I will provide a hypothetical answer. Given everything I wrote above, it will go down as a historic choke if K-State misses out on a Big 12 championship because it loses this game.

Texas Tech will probably beat suddenly hapless Iowa State at 1 p.m. on Saturday, so K-State will know what’s at stake when its game starts at 5 p.m.

A defeat would go down as one of the most painful basketball losses in recent memory. K-State shared a conference title in 2013, but you have to go back to 1977 to find the next one. Opportunities like this don’t come along often.

A loss wouldn’t fall in the same ballpark as Texas A&M in 1998 or Baylor in 2012, because there was significantly more on the line in those football games. K-State could theoretically lose to Oklahoma by 40 and then turn around and win the national championship.

But a loss would be sad. It will be better for everyone involved to win.

Bruce Weber won’t try and hide the results from players. I asked. That’s called good reporting! The Wildcats will know the situation when they take the floor at Bramlage Coliseum.

In a weird way, it might actually create more pressure. Trying to dethrone KU and trying to win the Big 12 are two different things, and eliminating the Jayhawks from the mix has always seemed like the bigger motivating factor.

Now that they’re out of the way, the Big 12 race comes down to two games on one day. If Iowa State beats Texas Tech, the pressure is off. Win or lose, K-State is getting a trophy. An outright championship would be preferable, of course, but I doubt anyone will complain about sharing it with Tech.

If Texas Tech beats Iowa State, the pressure is on. Lose, and the Cats get nothing. After a season like this, that would be ... Not good.

Playing with championship pressure isn’t easy. The Wildcats will enter this game like a golfer sleeping on a 54-hole lead. Sometimes, it’s easier to be a shot or two behind.

I think this K-State team is mature enough to handle things, but there will be immense pressure on this game if Texas Tech starts off Saturday with a win.

There aren’t many.

Martavious Irving, Jordan Henriquez and Rodney McGruder (for now) accomplished a little more. They went to the Elite Eight as freshmen and won a Big 12 championship as seniors.

Jacob Pullen made K-State basketball relevant again with some help from Michael Beasley, Dominique Sutton and Victor Ojeleye, but that group didn’t stay together for four years.

You have to go back to the Steve Henson and Mitch Richmond days to find any other candidates. So this group is in elite company.

What I appreciate most about Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade is the way worked their way up the ladder. Nobody thought much of them when they signed with K-State, but they became friends and developed into a transformational class that helped the Wildcats go from 15 wins the year before they arrived to where they are now.

You rarely see groups stay together and mature and win like that anymore.

They are probably about the same.

All joking aside, Makol Mawien is having a decent season. He might lead the Big 12 in oops plays that would make Homer Simpson say “Doh!” But he does a lot more good than bad.

He’s only averaging 6.6 points and 4.6 rebounds, but he plays solid defense and does a lot of little things that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet. He’s coming off a nice game (10 points, six rebounds) against TCU that featured a clutch jumper when TCU was threatening to make it a game.

You just kind of have to accept Mawien for who he is right now. He’s going to have two or three plays a game that make you cringe, but the rest of the time he’s going to help K-State win. There is no alternative at the five. There’s a big drop off from him to Levi Stockard and Austin Trice. Maybe try laughing with him instead of at him the next time he misses an open dunk.

Dean Wade is good to go. He scored nine points in the first half against TCU and decided to distribute in the second half. Nothing to worry about.

He would have been out there posterizing dudes if he still had Flo Thamba and Mark Vital playing matador defense against him.

None at the moment.

That’s a pretty good sign the K-State coaching staff is expecting a player or two to transfer, or turn pro, after the season ends.

K-State’s gray uniforms had their moment in the sun when Jacob Pullen wore them and torched KU for 38 points eight years ago.

They were good to the Wildcats, but it’s time for something new.

Gray is a boring color you wear to the office for your day job. It shouldn’t be the backdrop for a basketball uniform anywhere other than Georgetown.

I would much rather see K-State go all lavender as an alternative to white.

What kind of question is this?

Not only are they better, they are considerably faster. The last time I ate at Steak and Shake I almost ran out of gas in the drive thru waiting for them to cook my burger.

I promised to answer this question eventually. And today is the day. Thank you for your patience, Scott.

Big 12 basketball teams as Netflix shows. Here we go:

Kansas State = Stranger Things.

The Wildcats compare well to a show about kids saving the world from evil as they grow up. But I was tempted to go with Big Mouth, as that’s the show Kamau Stokes says everyone on the team watches.

Texas Tech = Narcos.

Chris Beard kind of reminds me of a DEA agent, and the Red Raiders are building an empire on defense.

Kansas = House of Cards.

Much like the original Netflix show that made us all binge-watch, the Jayhawks were unbeatable during their prime and then hard to watch at the end.

Baylor = The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Some of the episodes are entertaining, and, like the main character, the Bears have fought through adversity this season.

Iowa State = Glow.

The Cyclones are starting to fight amongst themselves like a group of pro wrestlers.

Texas = Bloodline.

The Longhorns matched the amazing first season of this show by beating North Carolina and Purdue before the start of Big 12 games. But they haven’t been all that impressive since, kind of like seasons two and three of Bloodline.

Oklahoma = Fuller House.

Kristian Doolittle, Brady Manek, Jamuni McNeace and Hannes Polla seem like names from a sitcom.

TCU = The Ranch.

Show looked pretty good on paper, like TCU in nonconference games, but I never could get into it.

West Virginia = Bojack Horseman.

Bob Huggins is the coaching equivalent of Bojack Horseman.

Oklahoma State = Girl Boss.

Take my advice and don’t watch this show.

Uh ... can we add long drive, high bowling score and a 5K?

My slow-twitch muscles are much better suited for those competitions than anything you will find at a Pro Day.

I’m guessing I would finish last in the bench press. You would have to lower the weight down to 150 for me to even try. No way I’m lifting more than Matt.

Riley looks like a good broad jumper. John is agile enough to take the shuttle drill. I’m probably tall enough to win the high jump. We’re all winners! That leaves the 40 as the tie-breaker.

Media Olympics would be fun. We should do that some time.

The Pac 12 is a floundering conference with a joke of a TV network. It is falling behind the rest of the power five and struggling to remain relevant in football and men’s basketball. And their schools struggle with attendance.

I don’t see why the Big 12 would want to throw a life line West. The Big 12 would be better off rubbing shoulders with the ACC, Big Ten and SEC if it wants to buddy up with another conference.

They should feel comfortable about their NCAA Tournament chances.

ESPN has Jeff Mittie’s team as a 10 seed in its latest projection. That sounds about right. K-State has won six of its past seven games to finish 11-7 in the Big 12. West Virginia is up next in the Big 12 Tournament. A win over the Mountaineers would make them feel even more secure, but it looks like they are in no matter what.

Related stories from Kansas City Star

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.
  Comments