MANHATTAN — Barring an unlikely Big 12 Tournament championship, the Kansas State Wildcats aren't going anywhere in the postseason.
As a result, they're looking for inspiration anywhere they can find it, and what better place to start than with a nationally televised Sunflower Showdown home game against No. 1-ranked Kansas?
"Of course it means a lot. A rivalry game," K-State senior guard Xavier Sneed said of second meeting with KU, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum. "A rivalry game. Especially for me, being my last year here, winning against KU again on our home court would be great. It means a lot for our season, as well."
It will be the second straight major challenge for K-State, which comes in at 9-19 overall, 2-13 in the Big 12 and riding an eight-game losing streak. The Wildcats were not impressive in an 85-66 road loss last Tuesday at No. 2 Baylor.
But the KU matchup is a different animal, especially with the Jayhawks (25-3, 14-1) atop the national rankings.
"Being a big K-State, KU rivalry, dating back to how long it goes, it's just an honor to play in this game and just a tremendous feeling that we have at their court and especially coming back home," Sneed said. "I know it's going to be rocking here this Saturday, so just being part of that atmosphere, a part of those games, is always just big-time as a college player."
The first meeting between the teams on Jan. 21 in Lawrence was a mismatch, with KU rolling, 80-61. And that was overshadowed by a brawl at the end that neither side is eager to repeat.
"No, everything's in the past now," Sneed said of the incident, which resulted in several suspensions.
Forward Makol Mawien, K-State's other senior starter, most likely will be matched up with KU star 7-footer Udoka Azubuike. He can't wait.
"Especially because they're No. 1 and I want (to play) the best and they're our rival, too," Mawien said. "That's just like double. We'll do our best to get the W and that's all I want to do is win this game."
The Wildcats did beat KU at home last year, 74-67, on their way to unseating the Jayhawks as Big 12 champions. Sneed is hoping for a repeat.
"We got a win here last year just due to our tremendous crowd," he said. "Those guys feed off what we do, so we've got to go out there and have no (slow) starts, get out there and play our best ballgame so the crowd can get involved, as well.
"And when (the crowd) get rocking and we get rocking, we're pretty hard to stop."
K-State coach Bruce Weber has presented it to his team as a chance to finish a difficult season on a high note.
"It's not going to totally change the season, but it would be sure nice if you could find a way to play at a high level and beat them," he said. "It's not going to be easy. They're very, very good."
Mostly, he said, he would like for his seniors — Sneed, Mawien and Pierson McAtee — to make another memory.
"I hope they take it as a special moment," he said. "We'll see. It should be fun. I hope we play well. That's what I want. Play hard, play well, compete and give ourselves a chance."
That's what Mawien is looking for, as well.
"I'm excited," he said. "I can't wait to play against these guys and just prove that we're a good team and go out there and play well, play hard and make a statement."