Wildcats look like Big 12 team to beat

By Steve Sell
February 06, 2019

Back-to-back dunking daggers by Cartier Diarra and Barry Brown at the end of Kansas State’s program-changing 74-67 victory over in-state rival Kansas on Tuesday sent a loud signal the Jayhawks’ days as the top dog in the Big 12 Conference have probably come to an end after a 14-year domination.

Diarra’s dunk sealed the deal and while Brown’s dunk didn’t even count as it came after the buzzer, it was retribution for 3 years ago when KU loose cannon Brannen Greene inexplicably dunked on the Wildcats when KU was supposed to be running out the clock, just one of his many bone-head experiences during his colorful, but unspectacular, career.

This outcome should have come as a surprise to nobody except for those KU fans still viewing the season through crimson and blue lenses. The Wildcats were higher in the standings, they were at home and KU has been pathetic on the road. There was no Udoka Azubuike, no Marcus Garrett and nobody to step up and take the game over.

Kansas is officially on the panic list. Heck, if it weren’t for Allen Field House it would be on the NCAA bubble, though its brutal schedule is its cushion with the committee and it is, after all, still Kansas. I can’t even imagine an NCAA Tournament with the Jayhawks as spectators.

There’s still four more road games for the Jayhawks, as well as some tough home games, and this is a team staring right down the barrel at double-digit losses. KU is a sickly 1-6 on the road and probably tired of seeing the opposing fans rush the court.

Give Kansas State all the credit. It harassed KU’s butterfingered young guards into a litany of turnovers and as a team the Jayhawks bungled it away 23 times. KSU played like the veteran team that it is, with three key seniors and a couple of juniors compared to the Jayhawks’ kiddie corps where three freshmen played a bulk of the minutes.

The Wildcats thrive on being a defensive menace. In this day and age of dunks and 3-pointers, it’s refreshing to see a team that desires to get down and guard. The Wildcats’ offense was stagnant early in the year, but remember Dean Wade was out for 6 games and they’re a team with little margin for error. 

With Wade back and Brown playing like a first-team Big 12 performer, the Wildcats should be in it to win it. They can’t afford a letdown against Baylor, which surprisingly is a half-game back but probably won’t be there in the long run. The ‘Cats already have won at Iowa State, a place few teams win at. 

This is all set up to be Kansas State’s year after being in their in-state rival’s shadow for oh so many years.

And what about KU? Where does it go from here? The rift between Bill Self and only senior Lagerald Vick is palpable and could come to a head soon. There’s no Azubuike as an enforcer and who knows when Garrett will get back. It’s a disjointed team with no direction. It has three McDonalds’ All-Americans, but one of them didn’t even get into the game and the other turned it over regularly. Only Devon Dotson lived up to the hype with some fearless play.

Maybe it’s all a big tease. Maybe KU won’t win the Big 12, but then put together an unexpected NCAA deep run.

But I don’t think so. KU fans are going to have to swallow their pride and experience life on the other side of the tracks.