(TUCSON, Ariz.) — Another 85 degree day in the offing, do you suppose they ever get tired of the weather here? Probably in the summer, when it never gets below three digits.
Jacob Pullen went through a full practice yesterday and should be near full speed today for his matchup with Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor. Not even 12 hours after breaking a 100 degree fever, Pullen scored 22 points in 37 minutes against Utah State. Sitting courtside, I could tell he was gassed especially on the defensive end—but he’s a warrior.
Pullen starts today just 22 points shy of Mike Evans’ all-time scoring record at KSU, could you make the argument that he is the greatest Wildcat of All-Time? Kansas State has great tradition with guys like, Steve Henson, Rolondo Blackman and Mitch Richmond. Jack Parr and Ernie Barrett make their arguments from a bygone era and Bob Boozer is probably the most widely regarded of KSU’s all-time best. But consider the case for Pullen; #2 all-time scoring, #2 assists, #1 steals, #1 three point shots made. Michael Beasley is the best player I’ve seen in my thirty years watching and covering K-State, but Pullen has had the best career. Not to finish the thought on a downer, but what if he scores 20 today in a KSU loss? How big would that three game suspension he served earlier this season look then?
Funniest exchange during Friday’s press conferences: (question to Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan) “Bo, as long as you’ve been in Wisconsin, are there any roads in that state you haven’t been down—any towns you haven’t been in?” Response: “No, because if I didn’t know what they were, then I wouldn’t be able to tell you”.
It’s always interesting to get different perspectives on the same thing. Amongst his descriptions of Wisconsin’s physicality yesterday, Frank Martin described the Badgers as a ‘Big 12 team in the Big 10’. That came right on the heels of Wisconsin big man Tim Jarmusz description of K-State as ‘just like a lot of teams in the Big 10, which is one of the most physical conferences’. Do you think some elbows will be flying today?
Wisconsin is the classic example of a team which understands its limitations. You’ve heard the phrase-‘they play within themselves’? That’s the Badgers. They don’t turn it over and in Taylor and Jon Leuer have two 18 points per game stars. As always, K-State will be physical with their pressure defense—but you can’t put Wisconsin at the line where they shoot over 82%. Interestingly, with their size, the Badgers like to shoot the three—to the point where some of their local media was questioning their dependence on that shot. Of course, they hit 12 of them against Belmont.
Is there a program in the country that flies under the radar more than Wisconsin? The Badgers are making their 13th straight trip to the NCAA’s, only Kansas(22), Duke(16) and Michigan State(14) have longer streaks. In the last 11 years, Wisconsin has been to 4 Sweet 16’s, two Elite Eights and a Final Four—not many programs can make that claim.
Not that it will have anything to do with how today plays out, but Wisconsin did end KSU’s season-in this exact same round-in 2008. Jacob Pullen was the only current Wildcat on the floor that day, I hope he has a long memory.