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December 1, 2011

GW offers Cats serious test

Turns out, even inanimate objects aren't off limits to Frank Martin's signature stare.

On the receiving end this week? His television. During a game between Xavier and Vanderbilt, a network commentator got to speculating and apparently took it bit too far for the Kansas State head coach's liking. ESPN's Jimmy Dykes couldn't see it from hundreds of miles away, but for a moment on Monday evening, two of the most menacing pupils in college basketball were focused directly on him.

"(He) said that game would determine the difference between being a two or three seed and a nine seed for one of the teams," Martin said. "Are you kidding me? It's November. I just turned the volume off.

"If you listen to this stuff, it will make you crazy."

It's not as though he doesn't believe in important early-season stretches, though. His team is on the cusp of one of its own. The Wildcats will play back-to-back games with West Virginia and Virginia Tech, but it all gets started on Thursday night when 4-1 George Washington will show up in Manhattan thinking upset.

GEORGE WASHINGTON AT K-STATE
WHEN
Tuesday, Dec. 1, 7 p.m.
WHERE
BRAMLAGE COLISEUM (12,528)
MANHATTAN, KAN.
TELEVISION
FOX SPORTS MIDWEST
THE COACHES
K-STATE: Frank Martin (Florida International '93); Career/School Record: 98-43 (5th season)
GWU: Mike Lonergan (Catholic '88); Career Record: 381-157 (18th season); School Record: 4-1 (1st season)
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS (3-0)
G - #55 Will Spradling (12.3 ppg., 2.7 apg.)
G - #3 Martavious Irving (9.5 ppg., 3.0 rpg.)
G - #22 Rodney McGruder (15.0 ppg., 5.7 rpg.)
F - #23 Jamar Samuels (12.0 ppg., 3.0 rpg.)
F - #42 Thomas Gipson (11.3 ppg., 5.3 rpg.)
GEORGE WASHINGTON COLONIALS (4-1)
G - #3 Tony Taylor (15.8 ppg., 4.8 apg)
G - #20 Lasan Kromah (9.6 ppg., 5.8 rpg.)
F - #30 Nemanja Mikic (8.2 ppg., 3.0 rpg.)
F - #42 John Kopriva (8.2 ppg., 3.0 rpg.)
F - #13 Jabari Edwards (6.6 ppg., 4.0 rpg.)

There's no postseason seeding to be determined. Not in December. But for those curious about what this K-State team is at this point in the young season, the next week or so will answer some questions. Even Martin himself expects to learn a thing or two.

"I learn something from these guys and about these guys every, single day," he said. "That won't change."

For now, the learning process is focused solely on the Colonials, even if they do represent the start of a larger brutal stretch. On Tuesday, K-State players called George Washington their toughest test so far and Martin pointed out that Thursday's opponent is one of four teams expected to challenge for an Atlantic 10 Championship.

Maryland-Eastern Shore this is not. Not by a long shot.

"They have a great point guard, good slashers, good drivers to the hoop and solid bigs," junior Martavious Irving said. "They're long, athletic and they block shots."

And it's not just the underappreciated Colonials standing in the middle of the potentially bumpy purple-paved, road. The Hokies and Mountaineers aren't exactly laughing stocks, either. You won't find the K-State head coach complaining about the schedule, though. He created it for a reason.

"Are we going to win these games? I don't know," Martin said. "We're going to line up and play our tails off. If we win our share, it puts us in a better place for the end of year. If we don't, that's fine, too. It's going to make us a better team because it's going to prepare us for Big 12 play. That's our goal. That's our objective."

That take isn't unique to Martin. The view of the upcoming gauntlet as a Big 12 tune up is locker-room wide. This is a test, the first of its kind this season. Tell Martin that the future depends on it, and you'll be shot a piercing look, but expectations, at least, hang in the balance. There can be no dispute -- no stare -- over that.

"It's going to show us if we're ready for the Big 12," junior Rodney McGruder said. "In the Big 12, you play every Wednesday and Saturday. It just prepares us and lets Frank know what we're capable of."

Martin won't be the only one watching, though. This stretch will be used as a measuring stick in the eyes of not only the league, but also the nation at large.



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