Bruce Weber had no delusions about a repeat of last year's Big 12 championship season for his Kansas State Wildcats.
But he certainly hoped for better than what they've delivered so far, going from first to worst with a 9-20 overall record and a 2-14 conference mark. The fact that they took No. 1-ranked Kansas to the wire last Saturday in a 62-58 loss just showed that they were capable of more.
"I thought we would be in the middle of the mix," said Weber, whose Wildcats will be in Stillwater, Okla., on Wednesday for an 8 p.m. game against Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena. "I knew we weren't going to compete — we were going to be too young, too new — for a championship, but I thought we could compete for that middle of the pack."
The Wildcats still had hopes for a middle-of-the-pack finish when they began the second half of the Big 12 season against Iowa State and Oklahoma State, two teams that were at the bottom of the table with them. But instead they suffered back-to-back losses, propelling the Cyclones to respectability while K-State continued what has now become a nine-game skid.
"We had a lot of games where, if a play or two goes the other way, it could have been a different season," Weber said. "But when you keep losing them, then it can go the other way.
"I'm happy for the guys and proud that they came back (against KU) with a good mindset and battled against the No. 1 team in the country."
The Wildcats now have lost 12 games by single digits.
Senior guard Xavier Sneed, who had 13 points and five rebounds against the Jayhawks, has been the Wildcats' most vocal leader, and he continues to project a positive message.
"We knew this from the beginning of the season and I keep instilling into our guys, just have confidence," Sneed said. "Go out there and play your butts off every possession.
"I feel like we did a great job of that (in the KU game), we just didn't get the W in that column. Just keep going out there and playing your butt off, and that's what I keep preaching to my teammates and they keep doing that for me as well."
Oklahoma State, which beat K-State, 64-59, on Feb. 11 in Manhattan, has turned its season around, winning five of its last eight games and four straight at home. The Cowboys are coming off a 73-61 victory last Saturday over Iowa State at Gallagher-Iba.
Forward Cameron McGriff leads a balanced OSU attack with 11.9 points and 6.7 rebounds a game.
For K-State, Sneed averages 14 points and Cartier Diarra 13.1. After the Oklahoma State game, the Wildcats close the regular season at home on Saturday with a 3 p.m. game against Iowa State.