February 1, 2008

Cats can't lose focus on task at hand

If you're rooting for the Kansas State Wildcats, it's easy to get ahead of yourself. Now 5-0 in Big 12 play following their 84-75 victory over No. 2 Kansas on Wednesday night, the 22nd-ranked Wildcats suddenly are seeing a path ahead leading to a remarkable season.

"I think this proves that we can play with any body. We can beat anybody. I think a lot of guys showed a lot of growth tonight and showed they can make plays," freshman forward Bill Walker said after the win over KU. "… It just gives us some confidence and it proves we can play with teams such as Kansas."

And that's the quandary. Michael Beasley, Walker and the Wildcats can only play one game at a time, so doing the long-term math is a good way to find short-term failure.

Still, it's fun for the fans to look through the upcoming schedule. The Wildcats will play at Missouri on Saturday, facing a team that will at the very least be missing star guard Stephon Hannah, who is out with a broken jaw following a fight outside a Columbia nightclub. Then the Wildcats will come home and play Nebraska and Oklahoma State in a pair of games the Wildcats, armed with a growing homecourt advantage, should easily handle.

And then …

Well, you get the point. This K-State team is suddenly good enough to start racking up the type of Big 12 Conference win total that is only reserved for the finest big-conference teams. But that will not happen if the Wildcats dare to do what their fans can: Look down the road.

Missouri is a wounded team with the loss of Hannah and the recent suspension of four other players -- one would expect the other suspended players to return for Saturday's 12:30 p.m. game at Mizzou Arena -- but just look at what Missouri did to Texas in Columbia to understand the feeding frenzy the Tigers can get into at home.

Beating previously unbeaten Kansas is heady stuff, though.

"We just beat the best team in this conference, not this year but for four years running," K-State coach Frank Martin said. "It's my job to make sure the guys don't lose focus on the job at hand. The job at hand is we go to Missouri on Saturday."

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