Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Last week ESPN finalized its Big Monday television schedule, which will feature K-State twice this season (KU at home and at Oklahoma State). With those games decided, the athletic department has announced its complete conference schedule. The league should bounce back in a big way after a down year in 2012-2013, and we should know whether the Wildcats are legitimate contenders almost immediately.
The Wildcats begin Big 12 play at home against Oklahoma State and probable top-five pick Marcus Smart. Most prognosticators pick the Cowboys to finish second in the league this year, and opening with a home victory like last year against the same team would be a phenomenal start to league play. K-State then travels to Fort Worth for a very winnable game against TCU. The second week of conference play is a trip to Lawrence for a match up against KU and a home game against Oklahoma.
While K-State and KU shared the regular season title last season, Oklahoma State finished third and Oklahoma fourth. Assuming the Wildcats beat TCU, I’m looking for a 3-1 start to establish the team as a threat to contend this year. The next two games are very winnable – at home against lowly West Virginia then a trip to Texas to play a Longhorn team K-State beat up on last year.
The season ends with a flourish, with home games against Iowa State and Baylor sandwiching the Big Monday game at Stillwater. K-State should be jockeying for seeding position in the Big 12 tournament and these teams look to be capable of defeating anyone this season. Unlike when the conference was split into two divisions, everyone plays everyone in a home-and-away format so there are no lucky draws as far as who you play is concerned. Aside from a visit from KU, the middle of the schedule looks pretty navigable. If Bruce Weber’s squad can show up when play initially starts, wins should come more easily the middle third of Big 12 play. The team will just need to hold on to secure a first round bye and set itself up for success in the tournament. Here’s the full schedule for conference play:
4-Jan-14vs. Oklahoma State7-Jan-14at TCU11-Jan-14at Kansas14-Jan-14vs. Oklahoma18-Jan-14vs. West Virginia21-Jan-14at Texas25-Jan-14at Iowa State28-Jan-14vs. Texas Tech1-Feb-14at West Virginia8-Feb-14vs. Texas10-Feb-14vs. Kansas15-Feb-14at Baylor19-Feb-14vs. TCU22-Feb-14at Oklahoma25-Feb-14at Texas Tech1-Mar-14vs. Iowa State3-Mar-14at Oklahoma State8-Mar-14vs. Baylor