Several hours after knocking off Oklahoma State at home on Wednesday night, Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber found himself still awake, staring intently at game film from two losses to Kansas a season ago instead of the box score from the Wildcats' latest win.
The reason? Although the 86-82 win over Oklahoma State certainly felt good — particularly because it came without injured point guard Kamau Stokes — Weber knows his team has bigger problems on the horizon. Namely, Kansas.
KU and K-State will hook up at 11 a.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse for the first of two Sunflower Showdowns this season.
The 12th-ranked Jayhawks (13-3 overall, 3-1 Big 12), no doubt, will be favored over Weber's Wildcats (12-4, 2-2), but neither Weber nor KU coach Bill Self is expecting the game to be anything close to easy.
From Weber's perspective, Kansas, for all of its issues and deficiencies so far this season, is still the 13-time defending conference champion led by a handful of players that any team in the Big 12 would love to have.
“Well, they're still 3-1 in the league and the games they've lost, Arizona State's a very good team, Texas Tech's a very good team and Washington,” Weber said. “(They) lost Frank Mason, a veteran, the player of the year and not just the player of the year but a fabulous guy that had played four years and then Josh Jackson, the (No. 4) pick in last year's draft. I'm watching our games from last year at 4 a.m. this morning and I forgot how good he was. He just picked us apart. And then Landen Lucas was a veteran guy who knew how to play. So you lose three guys like that, it's not going to be as easy. But Coach Self has done a nice job of (with) what he has, figuring some things out. They still have very good players. Graham, obviously. The big guy inside. You've had some other guys step up. Lightfoot, against TCU, had a huge game, which helps them a lot. So they're still good and it's going to be a tough challenge — every game in the league is, and Saturday will be tough for us at Lawrence.”
From Self's perspective, the K-State clash figures to be extra challenging because not only is it the Jayhawks' next game and this team has had to grind out every game for the past month, but also because the Wildcats may still be seething from watching last year's game end on an apparent travel that led to a game-winning runner by Svi Mykhailiuk.
“I’m sure that will be something that will be talked about with K-State because, obviously, that game should have gone overtime, without question, because Svi did walk on that last play," said Self during Thursday's Big 12 teleconference, noting "that would not surprise me" if Weber and company use the no-call as added motivation.
“I know that coaches and players use every motivational tactic they can,” Self said. “That is certainly a natural one. I can understand why they were upset and disappointed last year leaving Lawrence.”
No news on De Sousa, Preston
KU coach Bill Self said Thursday morning that there was no new news in the status of withheld freshmen forwards Silvio De Sousa and Billy Preston, who continue to practice with the team while awaiting word from the NCAA that they are cleared to play.
Self said this week that the frustration level with the delay in both cases has gone up but also maintained that the folks at KU, including the two players, understand the process and respect that the NCAA has to do what it has to do.
Efforts by the Journal-World this week to reach the NCAA for some kind of clarity in the process and/or the delay in either or both cases were unsuccessful.
Graham on watch list
KU point guard Devonte' Graham on Thursday was named to the John R. Wooden Award's mid-season honors list, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced Thursday.
Graham, who leads the Jayhawks in several offensive categories, including scoring at 18.1 points per game, is the only Division I player currently averaging 18 points, seven assists, two steals and fewer than 2.5 turnovers per game.
Last year's Wooden winner, former Jayhawk and Graham teammate Frank Mason III, became the first player in Big 12 history to average 20 points and five assists per game for an entire season.
Graham is one of 25 players on the mid-season list.