Kansas City Royals third baseman Maikel Franco would boost his salary to a $4 million if he has 625 plate appearances.
Franco agreed Dec. 27 to a $2.95 million, one-year contract with $1.05 million in performance bonuses. The 27-year-old hit .234 with 17 homers and 56 RBIs in 123 games for Philadelphia last season. He spent the past six seasons with the Phillies and topped 20 homers for three straight years before hitting 17 last season.
Franco's addition could allow the Royals to shift Hunter Dozier from third base to first base and the outfield.
Kansas State (7-6, 0-1 Big 12) returns home on Tuesday night, as the Wildcats play host to a surging TCU (10-3, 1-0 Big 12) squad in the Big 12 home opener at Bramlage Coliseum. The Horned Frogs are coming off a thrilling 81-79 overtime win over Iowa State on Saturday, while the Wildcats dropped their fifth game by single digits in a 66-61 loss at Oklahoma. Tuesday’s game will tip at 8 p.m., CT on ESPNU with Rich Hollenberg (play-by-play) and King McClure (analyst) on the call.
K-State has lost 3 of its last 4 Big 12 home openers dating to 2016, including back-to-back setbacks against No. 6 West Virginia (69-77) in 2018 and Texas (47-67) in 2019. The Wildcats are looking for their first win in a conference home opener since a 65-62 victory over Texas on Dec. 30, 2017, while the team is 4-3 (.571) in such matchups under head coach Bruce Weber. This will be the second meeting with TCU in a Big 12 home opener and the first since a 58-53 win over Jan. 7, 2015.
K-State is coming off a 66-61 loss at Oklahoma on Saturday in the Big 12 opener, as the Sooners rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to snap a 2-game losing streak in the series. The Wildcats led for nearly 34 minutes in the game, including 61-54 with 3:45 to play after a 3-point field goal by freshman DaJuan Gordon, but the Sooners ended the game with 12 consecutive points, highlighted by a 3-pointer by junior Austin Reaves with 1:39 remaining that gave them the lead for good. Oklahoma led for just 2:23 of the game, which was the fewest by an opponent in a win since West Virginia led for just 89 seconds in a 51-50 win in the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship on March 10, 2017. The setback spoiled an impressive day by senior Xavier Sneed, who led all scorers with his season-high 22 points.
TCU has won 4 of its last 5 games, including impressive wins over George Mason (87-53) and Iowa State (81-79) in consecutive outings. The Horned Frogs’ 3 losses (Clemson, USC and Xavier) have come by a combined 12 points, including 2-point setbacks to the Tigers and Trojans. This will be TCU’s first true road game of the season with 11 of the team’s 13 games coming at home. The Frogs are led by senior All-Big 12 candidate Desmond Bane (17.0 ppg.) as well as sophomores R.J. Nembhard (13.6 ppg.) and Kevin Samuel (11.7 ppg.). Nembhard is coming off a 31-point effort in the win over Iowa State, which included the game-tying 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left in regulation and the go-ahead free throw in overtime.
This will be the 23rd meeting between K-State and TCU on the hardwood with the Wildcats holding a 16-6 advantage, including a 13-4 edge in the Big 12 era and an 8-2 mark at home. K-State has won each of the last 4 meetings, including a 3-game sweep last season.
The 3-point line has become a focal point of the K-State offense, as the Wildcats rank fourth in the Big 12 in 3-point field goals made (7.69) and fifth in 3-point field goal percentage (33.2). The team has connected on double-digit 3-point field goals in consecutive games, including tying a season-high with 12 against Oklahoma on Saturday. Although Sneed tied a season-high with 5 3-pointers, seven Wildcats had at least one trey versus the Sooners, two by Cartier Diarra and one each by Antonio Gordon, DaJuan Gordon, Makol Mawien, Mike McGuirl and Montavious Murphy.
NOTES ON TCU
TCU (10-3, 1-0 Big 12) enters Tuesday’s game with wins in 4 of its last 5 games, including a come-from-behind 81-79 overtime victory over Iowa State at home in the Big 12 opener on Saturday. Sophomore R.J. Nembhard enjoyed the best game of his young career with a career-high 31 points, which included the game-tying 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left in regulation and the go-ahead free throw in overtime. Senior Desmond Bane and sophomore Kevin Samuel each added 16 points in the victory.
TCU is averaging 74.2 points on 45.4 percent shooting, including 37.1 percent from 3-point range, to go with 37.4 rebounds, 17.7 assists, 8.9 steals and 5.2 blocks per game, while allowing 62 points on 40.3 percent shooting, including 36.3 percent from 3-point range. The team is connecting on 61.9 percent from the free throw line. The Horned Frogs lead the Big 12 in 3-point field goals made per game (9.92) and 3-point field goal percentage (37.1) as well as assists (17.7 apg.).
Three players are averaging in double digits for the Horned Frogs led by Bane’s 17.0 points per game on 47.7 percent shooting, including 43 percent from 3-point range, and 80.8 percent from the free throw line. He also adds averages of 7.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals in 35.5 minutes per game, which ranks second in the Big 12. Nembhard is averaging 13.6 points on 39 percent shooting, including 31.7 percent from 3-point range, while Samuel is averaging 11.7 points on 70 percent shooting and a team-best 8.5 rebounds per game. Two others (Edric Dennis and Jaire Grayer) each averaging better than 8 points per game, as Dennis leads all players with 50 assists.
TCU returns 4 lettermen, including 2 starters, from a team that posted a 23-14 overall record and advanced to the NIT Final Four in 2018-19.
TCU is led by fourth-year head coach Jamie Dixon, who has posted a 78-44 (.639) record, which an NCAA Tournament trip in 2018 and bids to the NIT in both 2017 and 2019. He is 406-167 (.709) in his 17th season as a head coach, which includes a stint at Pittsburgh (2003-16).
HISTORY AT BRAMLAGE COLISEUM
K-State has posted a 384-119 (.763) all-time record at Bramlage Coliseum since its opening in the 1988-89 season. The 384 wins are the most at a home venue for the Wildcats, surpassing the 378 at Ahearn Field House (1950-88).
K-State has registered a 184-39 (.825) record at home over the past 14 seasons, including a 79-33 (.705) mark in Big 12 play. The 183 wins rank fourth among all Big 12 schools in that span, while the 79 league victories at home are only surpassed by Kansas and Texas.
Head coach Bruce Weber has tallied a 99-23 (.811) record at Bramlage Coliseum since taking over at K-State in 2012-13 with non-conference home losses to Northern Colorado (2013), Texas Southern (2014), Georgia (2014) and Marquette (2019). The 23 losses (19 of which have come in Big 12 play) have come by a grand total of 182 points or just 7.9 points per game.
LAST TIME OUT: OKLAHOMA 66, K-STATE 61
Oklahoma ended the game on a 12-0 run, highlighted by a 3-pointer from junior Austin Reaves with 1:38 to play, as the Sooners rallied late to hand K-State a 66-61 defeat in the Big 12 opener for both teams on Saturday afternoon before 8,012 fans at the Lloyd Noble Center.
K-State, which lost its fifth game by single digits this season, led for nearly 34 minutes before Reaves’ 3-pointer at the 1:39 mark gave Oklahoma a 63-61 lead. The Wildcats could never re-establish their momentum, missing 3 field goals and turning the ball over twice down the stretch, as the Sooners salted the game away at the free throw line, knocking down 3 of 6 attempts to finish off the 66-61 victory.
Senior Xavier Sneed led all scorers with 22 points on 7-of-17 field goals, including 5-of-13 from 3-point range, but was hampered by foul trouble, playing just under 12 minutes in the second half. Junior Cartier Diarra also registered double figures points (10), while dishing out a game-high 7 assists and 6 rebounds. Freshman DaJuan Gordon enjoyed a solid outing in his first Big 12 game, scoring 8 points and grabbing 3 rebounds.
Reaves scored 18 of his team-high 21 points in the second half on 5-of-9 field goals, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range, and went 5 of 6 from the free throw line. Reaves and senior Kristin Doolittle (19) combined for 40 of Oklahoma’s 66 points on 11-of-23 field goals and a 14-of-17 effort from the free throw line.
Trailing 61-54 with 3:45 to play after a 3-pointer by DaJuan Gordon, the Sooners started their run of 12 consecutive points with a layup from freshman De’Vion Harmon on the next possession. Reaves and junior Brady Manek followed with buckets before Reaves’ game-deciding triple. During this final stretch, the Wildcats missed 5 field goals and had 3 turnovers.
For the game, K-State connected on 34.9 percent (19-of-51) from the field, including 32.4 percent (12-of-37) from 3-point range, while tying a season-high with 12 3-point field goals on 37 attempts – the most by a Wildcat team under head coach Bruce Weber. Oklahoma made just 37.3 percent (19-of-51) of its field goals, including 21.7 percent (5-of-23) from long range, but went a stellar 23-of-29 from the free throw line.
LEADING WITH DEFENSE
K-State has continued its reputation as one of the top defensive teams in the country under head coach Bruce Weber, holding its first 13 opponents to 60.7 points on 40.4 percent shooting (276-of-683), including 30.8 percent (78-of-253) from 3-point range, while posting a Big 12-best 9.0 steals and the second-most turnovers forced per game (16.9).
K-State ranks among Top 50 in 5 different defensive categories, including 25th in scoring defense, 31st in steals per game, 36th in turnovers forced (16.9) and 50th in turnover margin (+2.8).
K-State has held 24 of its last 47 opponents to 60 points or less with just four eclipsing 70 (with 3 occuring in the last 14 games). The squad has held 93 opponents to 60 points or less in Bruce Weber’s tenure, boasting an 85-8 mark in those contests. Alabama State was held to a season-low 41 points.
K-State had one of the top defensive teams in the country in 2018-19, holding opponents to 59.6 points on 41.5 percent shooting, including 31.4 percent from 3-point range, while forcing 14.8 turnovers per game and averaging 7.5 steals per game. The Wildcats ranked among the nation’s best in a number of defensive categories, including fourth in scoring defense, 16th in turnover margin (+3.5), 36th in 3-point field goal percentage defense, 43rd in total steals (256) and 48th in steals per game.
The 59.6 points per game average was the lowest opponent scoring average since the introduction of the shot clock in 1985-86, surpassing the 60.4 points per game average in 2012-13, while it was the sixth-lowest all-time and the lowest since the 1982-83 team allowed 58.4 points per game. Only eight other teams (1948-49, 1949-50, 1950-51, 1961-62, 1980-81, 1981-82, 1982-83) allowed less than 60 points per game in school history.
K-State held foes to an average of 14.5 points under their average in 2018-19, including a 14.6 average in Big 12 play. Eleven opponents (6 Big 12 foes) were held to 20 or more points under their average, most notably Texas Tech (26.6), TCU (25.4 and 23.5), Iowa State (24.3) and OSU (21.8).
In Big 12 play, K-State allowed 59.6 points per game on 42.6 percent shooting, including 33.8 percent from 3-point range. It is the school’s lowest defensive scoring average in a Big 12 season and a tie for the ninth-best in a conference season and the lowest since 1961-62. The Wildcats held Big 12 opponents (Iowa State, TCU [twice], Texas Tech, Oklahoma State [twice], West Virginia, Baylor and Oklahoma) to 60 points or less on 9 occasions.
POINTS OFF TURNOVERS
K-State is once again using its defense to generate offense, as the Wildcats are forcing 16.9 turnovers per game, including a Big 12-best (9.0 spg.), while averaging 17.4 points per game off those opponent turnovers.
K-State has scored 20 or more points in 6 of the last 11 games off opponent turnovers, including a season-high 26 against Alabama State on Dec. 11. The team has also scored 20 or more points off turnovers against Monmouth (21), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (20), Pittsburgh (24) Bradley (22) and Florida A&M (20).
K-State has forced 4 opponents into 20 or more turnovers, including a season-best 25 turnovers by UNLV and Monmonth.
K-State has scored nearly 4,000 points (3,901) off turnovers during head coach Bruce Weber’s tenure, an average of 15.5 points per game. In 2018-19, the Wildcats averaged 17.4 points off turnovers, outscoring opponents, 590-362. The team posted 12 games of 20 or more points off turnovers.
SCORING FROM 3
K-State has started to find some offensive identity from the 3-point line, where the the Wildcats rank fourth in the Big 12 in 3-point field goals made (7.69) and fifth in 3-point field goal percentage (33.2). The Wildcats have hit on double-digit 3-point field goals in back-to-back games, including tying a season-high with 12 against Oklahoma on Saturday.
Since connecting on just 22.2 percent (14-of-63) from 3-point range in the first 3 games, the Wildcats are hitting on 36.1 percent (86-of-238) from long range in the last 10 games, an average of 8.6 makes per game. During the last 10 games, the team has posted 10 or more 3-point field goals in 4 games and at least 7 3-pointers in 4 other games.
Senior Xavier Sneed leads all Wildcats with 28 3-point field goals, which includes 2 games of at least 5 treys, while junior Cartier Diarra (20), junior Mike McGuirl (19) and freshman DaJuan Gordon (11) all have double-digit makes. In all, 10 players have at least one triple this season.
2-POINTERS HAVE BEEN KEY
With its 3-point percentage nearly identical in wins (32.5; 54-of-166) as in losses (34.1; 46-of-135), K-State’s 2-point field goal percentage has been a key factor in its wins this season. On the year, the Wildcats are connecting on 47.8 percent (202-of-423) from inside the 3-point line.
K-State is connecting on 45.5 percent (181-of-398) of its field goals in the 7 wins, including 54.7 percent (127-of-232) from inside the arc, while the team is hitting just 37.1 percent (121-of-326) of their field goals in the 6 losses, including 39.3 percent (75-of-191) from inside the arc.
This has been illustrated in the losses to Marquette and Mississippi State, as K-State connected on 32.3 percent (20-of-62) of its field goals, including 33.3 percent (13-of-39) from inside the arc, in the 73-65 loss to the Golden Eagles and 32.6 percent (14-of-43) of its field goals, including 32 percent (8-of-25) from inside the arc, in the 67-61 loss to the Bulldogs.
No 2 players have been as impactful in this statistic, as senior Xavier Sneed and junior Cartier Diarra.
Sneed is averaging a team-best 17.1 points on 48.8 percent (42-of-86) shooting, including 61 percent (25-of-41) from inside the arc, in the 7 wins, while he is averaging 12.5 points on just 31.9 percent (22-of-69) shooting in the 6 losses, including 32.4 percent (11-of-34) from inside the arc.
Diarra is averaging 13.4 points on 41.5 percent (34-of-82) shooting, including 52.2 percent 24-of-46) from inside the arc, in the 7 wins, while he is averaging 11.5 points on 37.9 percent (22-of-58) shooting, including 42.9 percent (12-of-28) from inside the arc, in the 6 losses.
RECAPPING NON-CONFERENCE HISTORY
K-State wrapped up non-conference play with a 69-67 win over Tulsa on Sunday. The win snapped a 2-game skid and helped the Wildcats finish with a winning record in non-conference play with 14th consecutive season. The team has one more non-conference game at Alabama on Jan. 25.
K-State has a 111-8 (.932) record at home venues (includes home games played at Bramlage Coliseum, INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita and the Sprint Center in Kansas City) in non-conference play dating back to the 2006-07 season, including a 102-6 (.944) mark at Bramlage Coliseum.
Despite seeing their 33-game winning streak end at Bramlage Coliseum with a loss to Marquette on Dec. 7, the Wildcats have still won 98 of their last 104 non-conference home games. The last home non-conference loss before Marquette came against Georgia, 50-46, on Dec. 31, 2014.
K-State has posted a 147-41 (.781) record in non-conference play since the 2006-07 season, which includes a 10-3 (.769) mark in 2018-19. The team has posted double-digit non-conference wins in 12 of the last 13 years.
Since going 7-6 in non-conference in 2014-15, which included back-to-back losses to Texas Southern and Georgia, the Wildcats has won double-digit non-conference games each of the past four seasons and is 50-14 (.781) in non-conference play since the start of 2015-16 season.
SNEED GETTING HOT
Senior Xavier Sneed has led the Wildcats in scoring in 7 of the last 12 games, averaging 15.5 points on 42 percent shooting (60-of-144), including 36 percent (27-of-75) from 3-point range, which includes wins against UNLV, Monmouth, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Florida A&M and Alabama State.
Sneed scored 19 points in the overtime win over UNLV, including the go-ahead jumper with 28 seconds left, then followed that up with a 15-point effort in the win over Monmouth on Nov. 13 before posting 21 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 19. His 18-point effort against Florida A&M on Dec. 2 lifted him to the Top 20 scoring, while he claimed his second 20-point game with 20 against Alabama State on Dec. 11. He has a combined 40 points in the last 2 games, including a season-best 22 against Oklahoma on Saturday.
With his first rebound against Marquette on Dec. 7, Sneed became the 13th player in school history with at least 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds. He currently has 1,203 points in 118 career games to go with 528 rebounds. He joins a 1,000-point/500-rebound list that includes legends Dick Knostman, Jack Parr, Bob Boozer, David Hall, Steve Mitchell, Rolando Blackman, Ed Nealy, Jamar Samuels, Rodney McGruder, Thomas Gipson, Wes Iwundu and Dean Wade.
Sneed is one of 9 players to rank in the Big 12’s Top 20 in both scoring and rebounding, as he ranks eighth in scoring (15.0 ppg.) and 18th in rebounding (5.2 rpg.). He joins Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton, Oklahoma’s Austin Reaves, Kristian Doolittle and Brady Manek, Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike and West Virginia’s Oscar Tshiebwe and Jermaine Haley. Sneed also ranks fourth in steals (1.85), seventh in 3-point field goals made (1.77), 12th in minutes (31.42) and 14th in free throw percentage (69.6).
DIARRA PROVING TO BE A SOLID PG
Junior Cartier Diarra is proving to be a solid point guard for the Wildcats, averaging 12.5 points on 40 percent (56-of-140) shooting with 5.9 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 31.3 minutes per game. He has led the team in scoring 5 times, including 3 times in the last 6 games, while has led the way in assists in 11 of 13 games to start the season.
Diarra’s 77 assists are the most by a Wildcat in the first 13 games since assists began being kept in 1976-77, surpassing the previous 13-game high of 70 done by (current UTSA head coach) Steve Henson in 1988-89. He has at least 5 assists in 11 of 13 games, including a career-high 10 vs. Alabama State on Dec. 11. He became the first Wildcat with a 10-assist game since Marcus Foster (at Baylor) on Feb. 15, 2014.
Diarra ranks among the top 50 nationally in both assists (26th/5.9 apg.) and total assists (44th/77).
Diarra ranks second in assists and fifth in steals in the Big 12, while he is 11th in assist/turnover ratio (1.75), 12th in minutes and 15th in scoring.
Diarra was the only player to score in double figures in the first 2 games, including a career-best 23 points in the opener against North Dakota State on Nov. 5, connecting on 8-of-21 field goals, including 2-of-8 from 3-point range, and went a perfect 5-of-5 from the line to go with 6 rebounds and 6 assists in 32 minutes. He followed that with 12 points before fouling out in the overtime win at UNLV on Nov. 9.
Diarra has scored in double figures in 6 times in the last 9 games, including team-highs against Marquette (14), Mississippi State (20) and Tulsa (25). During that span, he is averaging 12.6 points on 42.7 percent shooting to go with 5.6 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 30.9 minutes per game.
DIARRA NAMED BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK DEC. 30
Junior Cartier Diarra earned his first career Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week honor on Dec. 31 after scoring a career-best 25 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer with 22.4 seconds left, to help the Wildcats defeat Tulsa, 69-67, on Dec. 30.
Diarra is the first Wildcat to earn the Big 12’s weekly honor since Barry Brown, Jr., and Dean Wade won the accolade in back-to-back weeks on January 14 and 21, 2019. Overall, it marks the school’s 29th Player of the Week honor since the inception of the Big 12 in 1997, including the 13th under head coach Bruce Weber.
Diarra collected his third 20-point game of the season in Sunday’s victory over the Golden Hurricane, connecting on 8-of-16 from the field, including 6-of-11 from beyond the arc, to go with a 3-of-4 effort from the line, a game-high 7 assists and 5 rebounds in 33 minutes of action. His 6 3-pointers were a career-high and the most by a Wildcat since teammate Xavier Sneed knocked down 6 triples against West Virginia on Jan. 1, 2018.