Kansas State Wildcats - Contenders or Pretenders in the Big 12?

Mike HendersonCorrespondent IIDecember 9, 2009

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 22:  Jacob Pullen #0 of the Kansas State Wildcats brings the ball up court against the Wisconsin Badgers during the Midwest Region second round of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 22, 2008 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Frank Martin’s ability to recruit never seemed to surface. His ability to coach at the top college level did.

Now in his third season with the Wildcats, Martin has put the Wildcats in position to make sure people know there is another Kansas team in the Big 12.

Arguably the toughest conference to date, the Big 12 features four teams currently ranked and three, including K-State, that could eventually be.

Wins over Dayton, Washington State and Xavier have given the ‘Cats some confidence and now the real test for this team begins. Before getting into conference play, the Wildcats will face UNLV, Alabama and Missouri - all on the road. Winning two of these games would be good; winning all of them would make people stand and take notice.

Martin has done a good job of recruiting, including landing Wally Judge and Rodney McGruder to this year’s class. Jacob Pullen has been solid, and Denis Clemente can flat out fly. Curtis Kelly has been as advertised and will get better as the year progresses. The big question is: Can they hang with Kansas and Texas?

They are a definite NCAA team and should be ranked, if not now then shortly. More than six or seven losses could be considered a disappointment for this team. How well they jell will determine their Big 12 future, but they shouldn’t finish any lower than 3rd in the conference.