Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 3/15/13
KANSAS CITY, Mo. Word association time. Ready? Kansas State. Shoot. Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte: "Obviously, when you think of K-State, you think of an aggressive, physical basketball team." Oklahoma State forward Michael Cobbins: "You've got to be careful with the ball around them. And you've just got to be mentally focused for both halves." Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown: "They (weren't) picked high in this league. They tied for first. Man, that's a great ballclub over there." Aggressive. Physical. Mentally focused. Great ballclub. And yet ... Despite coming off the heels of its first Big 12 regular-season title since the Carter administration (1977) one it shared with rival Kansas the Wildcats (26-6) are almost no pundit's pick to be the last ones standing once the league tournament wraps up on Saturday night. The Jayhawks? Hell, yes. The big dogs. Sprint Center is Phog East. It's their party. Always is. Always will be. The Cowboys? The sexy sleeper. The only team left in the field that can (almost) match Kansas, athlete for athlete, scrap for scrap, star for star. Plus, they're carrying around the scalp to end all scalps: They won in Lawrence, desecrating the conference's most sacred grounds. The Wildcats? Nothing on this bandwagon but elbow room. Elbow room and crickets. Oh, yeah. And Rick Barnes, riding shotgun. "I think they're the best team in the Big 12," The Texas coach said of K-State, which stomped his Longhorns 66-49 Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament. "I do. I think they're the best team in the Big 12. "They're set up to win a tournament like this because they're tough, they're hard-nosed. They get their hands on a lot of balls. And you can't help them. You can't help them. And we helped them a lot (Thursday)." Texas turned it over 15 times in the loss, which doesn't sound like much, except that The Fighting Bevos they got burned on nearly every one. The Wildcats piled up 24 points off Longhorn giveaways 12 points in the first half, 12 points in the second. "You can't (do that against) a team that's not going to beat themselves," Barnes said. "You can't fuel that fire." Not when you toss around the kind of defense that K-State brings to the table, almost routinely. The Wildcats had surrendered up 24 points to Longhorns guard Myck Kabongo down in Austin on February 23. Weber made him a point of shut-down emphasis in the rematch, and it showed: The sophomore went 0-for-5 from the floor, scored just two points, and turned it over five times. "So the whole key with them, if you stop Myck Kabongo and you let other players make plays," offered point guard Angel Rodriguez, who spearheaded the clamp job, "you're going to have a higher chance of winning the game." Punch in, punch out. All business. It's what they do. Style points? Style points are for suckers. "The one thing that makes their team so good is they just have that will to win, and that passion," noted Forte, whose Cowboys (24-7) survived Baylor, 74-72, in the last and best quarterfinal of the tourney, setting up a date with the Wildcats late Friday night in the semis. "And they just play so hard. I mean, when you play hard like that, it makes up for everything." What K-State lacks in star power, it makes up just about everyplace else. The Wildcats led the Big 12 in scoring defense (60.2 points per game), offensive rebounds (13.41), offensive rebound percentage (.390), rebounding defense (31.6 allowed), assists (16.34), turnover margin (plus-2.72) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.41). They take care of the rock; swarm like angry hornets; rotate a variety of power-forwardcenter types in the paint depending on the matchup and foul situation; tote the loop's most improved point guard in Rodriguez (13 points, five assists); and feature a front-line leading man in scoring wing Rodney McGruder, who dropped 24 on Texas. And did we mention that the Wildcats ended the regular season last Saturday at Oklahoma State, with a 76-70 defeat that cost them a chance to own the Big 12 title outright? "It's always nice to play somebody that got ya," K-State guard Martavious Irving said of the Cowboys. "Especially last time. Especially with what was at stake. And especially with what we could've had." For the past two years, the Wildcats were one and done at the Big 12 tourney, lost in the margins, a March afterthought. Coach Bruce Weber challenged his men this week to prove to the world that they weren't just tough they were survivors, too. Don't worry about Kansas. Don't worry about Saturday. Worry about today. Just go 1-0. Let the rest take care of itself. "They're a great defensive team and they play well together," Forte observed. "I mean, you obviously have Rodney McGruder, who everyone knows about. Other than that, you have Angel Rodriguez, you have (Will) Spradling I think anyone can go off at any moment. And that's what makes them scary." Hungry, too. You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

U.S. Senator “appalled” by Bettman’s stance on concussions

Team USA’s Opening Ceremony uniforms look a little treasonous

Lawyer who reps concussion lawsuit wants to speak with Bettman

Former NFL LB Armstrong, wife reportedly killed by 16-year-old son

Tyler Eifert says he will never play in the Pro Bowl again


Australian athletes evacuate the Olympic village after fire

Russian weightlifting team banned from Rio

Wade says Riley did not push him out of Miami

Nationals among multiple teams inquiring on Mark Melancon

McClain does not show up for Cowboys’ training camp

Andre Johnson agrees to two-year deal with Titans

Is it time to start taking West Ham seriously?

Storyline from 'Ballers' plays out in Cowboys preseason camp

Texas A&M creates a very sexist version of their fight song for women

Brown, Marshall are apparently serious about their car bet

Lacy, Starks could split carries to start season

Cyborg Santos post-surgery skull photos are eerie

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Hockey team unveils Clinton, Trump bobbleheads

Bennett compares chemistry with Pats QBs to his love life

Crowell still making amends for controversial Instagram post

Report: LeBron urged Justin Bieber not to perform at RNC

Luck refutes Matt Hasselbeck’s assertion he never showers

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker