As game after game has slipped through their fingers, the Kansas State Wildcats are through fighting expectations.


There really are none, especially this week.


Not only have the Wildcats dropped seven straight — their longest losing streak since 2001 — but their next two opponents are the top two teams in the nation. It starts Tuesday with a 7 p.m. tipoff against No. 2-ranked Baylor at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, while No. 1 Kansas visits Manhattan on Saturday for a 12:30 p.m. game at Bramlage Coliseum.


"It's just a great opportunity for us to step up," is how K-State coach Bruce Weber framed it last Saturday following a 70-59 home loss to Texas that dropped the Wildcats to 9-18 overall, 2-12 in the Big 12. "You have nothing to lose.


"Nobody expects you to win. Come and play."


Kansas didn't help the Wildcats' cause Saturday by knocking Baylor out of the No. 1 spot and tying the Bears for the Big 12 lead with a 64-61 victory in Waco.


"At Baylor, obviously we're catching them at a bad time, but they're catching us at a bad time, too, so we've got to be ready to play," Weber said. "And then Kansas, you hope it's rocking in here and we can have a special game."


Senior guard Xavier Sneed has tried to fill the leadership void left by the departure of Barry Brown, Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes, the top three scorers from last year's team. That has not been an easy task as the losses pile up.


"Right now I'm just worried about the game plan for the next game," Sneed said after finishing with a team-high 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds against Texas. "Come out here and keep the team encouraged and keep them under me as well, and just keep playing my basketball game that I know I can play, as well as my teammates, and keep encouraging them, and hopefully come out with a win."


The Wildcats didn't help themselves in the Texas game by turning the ball over 17 times and going 16 of 29 from the free-throw line. As has been the case more often than not during the streak, they also found themselves trailing by double digits in the first half and facing an uphill battle the rest of the way.


Weber insisted that his players continue to practice hard, and in most games they have battled back, only to wither again down the stretch. He has tinkered with the starting lineup as well, trying to find a winning combination.


"We got back and forth," he said going with Cartier Diarra and David Sloan, a pair of point guards, against Texas. "You guys have asked about lineups at the start of the game. Do we go offense, do we go defense?


"We went offense today, and that's probably where our defense faltered early."


The Wildcats also were without starting forward Montavious Murphy, who reinjured his knee at Texas Tech last Wednesday. Fellow freshman Antonio Gordon took his placed and finished with just one point, but nine rebounds.


"Antonio played his butt off, (he's) just got to be a little sharper taking care of the ball," Weber said of Gordon, who turned the ball over four times.


The Wildcats haven't helped themselves at the free-throw line either, shooting 65% for the season but just 63% in Big 12 play. They haven't topped 70% since they went 15 for 19 in a 73-67 home loss to Baylor on Feb. 3.


"We've been in the gym shooting them," Sneed said. "Everybody's been out there before practice, during practice, doing drills during practice.


"Run for missed free throws as well. We just haven't showed up at the line."


The Wildcats need all the help on offense they can get against Baylor and KU, the top two defensive teams in the league. The Bears are No. 1, allowing just 58.2 points per game and the Jayhawks close behind at 60.7.


"It's not going to be easy because both teams, their toughness is so good," Weber said. "And defensively, neither team is flamboyant by any means, but they just are tough and they grind you, and when you make mistakes they take advantage."