No one in the locker room wanted to harp on Oklahoma State too much. The K-State players wanted to talk about either Baylor or the Cowboys, it really didn't matter they said. Just another game, another time on the schedule, another chance to prove that the Wildcats are the best team in the Big 12.
But when the prospect of playing Oklahoma State came up against playing Baylor in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament, Oklahoma State was on their minds. It's the game they wanted.
Unlike KU and Iowa State, which goes off Friday before K-State tangles with Oklahoma State, these two teams split during the regular season and cost K-State an outright win of the Big 12 regular season title. They haven't forgot about it.
Asked about if the team was focused on the next game and not looking ahead to a possible title game appearance, Angel Rodriguez said that everyone was focused on the next game and that they were focusing on Oklahoma State. He said that during the first half of the Cowboys quarterfinal game.
Originally the thought was that K-State could run the table and lock up with KU again for a third possible Sunflower Showdown, this time around it would settle the regular season title that lies in both Manhattan and Lawrence. But it appears that Oklahoma State has come back on the radar and that's the new challenge. My, how things change.
Now that Missouri left the Big 12, there was a chance that KU and K-State would replace the Border War and Kansans would have a Civil War game on the court, worth being proud of.
The way K-State is playing right now, they could go 50/50 with the Jayhawks for the rest of the series. Rodney McGruder is shining, Angel Rodriguez is the best sot blocker/fast break creator under six feet tall in the country. And Thomas Gipson bangs around with the tallest of the big men like they are high schoolers. Whateve head coach Bruce Weber told them in the middle of the season, it worked and continues to do so. And it isn't just my observation from a standpoint of pressrow: Rick Barnes said it following his team's loss to the Wildcats.
"They're a good team. I think they're the best team in the Big 12. 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 are tough and they are hard nosed."
He is right. The blue collar, defend like crazy mentality of the Frank Martin era is still there. The mastermind behind it just has a little more grey hair and his voice is more hoarse.
Bruce Weber was not a sexy pick up for K-State when Frank Martin left the Wildcats but he had a good track record and he was safe, in the eyes of administration. Now, how far the Wildcats have come and where they might go, I wonder how many K-State fans would go back and yell at themselves for the negative reactions when the hire was made?
Is K-State going to win the NCAA National Title? No. Could they win the Big 12 Title? Yes. But it starts Friday vs. Oklahoma State. Sounds like they have been focusing on them all along.