Will the K-State soap opera intensify following loss to Mizzou?

In about two months, Jacob Pullen might have to prove that he's a man of his word.

"I won't play basketball in the NIT," the Kansas State senior said after a 74-66 home loss to Colorado last Wednesday. "I'm saying that now. If we lose and we have to go to the NIT, I will not play."

On Monday afternoon, the Wildcats dropped to 13-6 overall and 1-3 in the Big 12, allowing No. 13 Missouri to close them out with a 17-4 run in a 75-59 win in Columbia, Mo.

Being 1-3 a quarter of the way through the Big 12 slate is tough enough.

Unfortunately for the reeling Cats, it only gets worse. They'll play three brutal games in the next 12 days: at No. 11 Texas A&M (Jan. 22), vs. Baylor (Jan. 24) and at No. 2 Kansas (Jan. 29).

On Monday they struggled to look the part of a disciplined team in the face of the Tigers' patented pressure defense. They committed 24 turnovers compared to only eight assists. Pullen was credited with three of those giveaways, including a couple paired with some bad timing after K-State had crept back to within three at 58-55, all but dissolving a 15-point halftime deficit.

So which direction do the Cats head in now?

If the season ended today, K-State would have one of the most interesting at-large résumés around. They scheduled well and rank No. 51 in RPI but are 0-4 against the RPI Top 50 to date. It's easy to forget among all of the recent losses that K-State still has the talent to rebound in a big way.

But what is bubbling beneath the surface is hard to ignore.

To recap ...

• Jamar Samuels dropped the humorous 'leadership thingy' quote following a 63-59 loss to UNLV.

• Curtis Kelly shed some inside light on the Freddy Asprilla departure over the weekend.

• Pullen called out fans on his Twitter feed in the wake of an ugly win at Loyola.

• Sophomores Wally Judge and Nick Russell, who Martin told reporters following Monday's game are not injured, but he wouldn't comment on why they've been benched.

• Oh yeah, don't forget about the Pullen-Kelly suspensions.

A year ago, Frank Martin's over-the-top sideline schtick was all the rage, and his veteran-laden team fed off of it, riding its way to the Elite Eight. But when things stop going right, does it make a coach more likely to lose control of his group?

No matter how K-State fares the rest of the way, it should remain an entertaining soap opera to keep an eye on until mid-March.

It sure has been so far.

Ryan Greene covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun.

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