The good thing about college basketball is that teams seldom have much time to dwell on a loss. The Texas Longhorns are back in action tonight against the 15-12 Kansas State Wildcats, and can wash the bad taste of the weekend away with a win after getting blown out by the Baylor Bears at home on Saturday.
Coming into the season, it was widely believed that Kansas State basketball would be a disaster. But coach Bruce Weber's team has been better than expected, managing to pick off Oklahoma in Manhattan a few weeks ago. Part of what has allowed the Wildcats to outperform very low expectations have been the contributions of three freshmen.
Kansas State's surprising freshman
Weber lost many of his key contributors from last year, returning only Wesley Iwundu and Justin Edwards from his top seven players. He has filled the gap with a trio of very good freshman. The 6'10 Dean Wade is likely the best. He is an inside-outside player who is going to be a big problem for the rest of the Big 12 over the next few years. Point guard Kamau Stokes and wing Barry Brown are also playing a lot, and although they have had their ups and downs they are contributing.
If you want to take a deeper look at the Kansas State roster, I suggest you check out Cody's preview from the last time these two teams met.
The Wildcat defense
Kansas State has struggled greatly on offense, but Weber's squad is among the best defensive groups in the nation. The Wildcats are tied with the Mountaineers for the conference lead in opponent turnover percentage, which is something that they accomplish with a disruptive half-court defense.
Texas learned about the K-State defense the hard way the last time these two teams played. Head coach Shaka Smart's team struggled to hit shots from the perimeter, and just could never get the offense going. The Longhorns prevailed, but things were rather close, squeaking out a three-point win that was aided by an even more terrible shooting performance by the Wildcats.
The Octagon of Doom is one of the more difficult road venues in the Big 12, although it is hard to know if the Wildcat fanbase will be into it for an early tip after suffering a deflating loss to Kansas at home over the weekend.
Manhattan has been the location of some brutal Texas losses, but this particular iteration of Kansas State basketball just doesn't have the same level of ability as some of those recent teams, making a total road debacle less likely for Texas.
Aesthetically pleasing basketball seems very unlikely tonight, given the particular skill set of the opponent, but the 'Horns a chance to go ugly on the road and win.
The game tips off at 6 PM CST, and airs on ESPNU.