This season has been a lot different than expected for most K-State fans. It began with a few less than stellar victories that hinted at the coming storm. The truth was out for the nation to see in the Duke game. Throw in a bunch of players in the doghouse, the two seniors getting suspensions from the NCAA for improper benefits, and the exit of Asprilla from the team for family reasons and you have the current unranked 13-6 Kansas State men’s basketball team. The first part of the basketball K-State of the Union ran through the Oklahoma State game and ended with a 0-1 start in conference. Since then the Cats have only won once more and now sit firmly in the cellar at 1-3 in conference. Continue reading to see if this season can get better and if so, how it can happen.
Sadly, things are not going to get better before they get worse… maybe much worse. Kansas State plays at #10 Texas A&M Saturday, vs. Baylor on Monday, and then at Kansas in a week. The way things have been going I would be happy with 1-2 in that stretch, amazed at 2-1, and probably die from heart attack if we saw a three game winning streak. My fear, and a very realistic one at that, is to see K-State completely tank going 0-3 against those opponents and starting a horrendous 1-6 in conference.
That would mean the nearest chance at victory may not be until February 2 with Nebraska coming to Manhattan. But that’s not a lock either. Nebraska has played good basketball so far this season and come oh so close to knocking off Kansas as well as beat Colorado who has already handed it to us. If K-State goes into that game fresh off 4 straight loses there’s no telling what could happen. Rather than trod through the rest of the schedule game by game (which could possibly cause mass suicides around parts of the great state of Kansas) I’ll just give a quick prediction by schedule:
@ Texas A&M L
Vs. Baylor W
@ Kansas* L
Vs. Nebraska W
@ Iowa State W
@ Colorado W
Vs. Kansas L
Vs. Oklahoma W
@ Nebraska W
Vs. Missouri L
@ Texas L
Vs. Iowa State W
*This could be a complete massacre on national television that sets K-State back 30-40 years… hide yo kids, hide yo wife!
There might be a few games where K-State surprises, but with those will be a few where they underachieve. If it plays out that way… again a very big “if”… Kansas State would end up 20-11 overall and 8-8 in conference. That puts them squarely on the NCAA tourney bubble and leaves the postseason destiny up to other teams. That’s when we have to hope for no upsets in conference tournaments if K-State is going to get in. Going from the #3 ranked team in college basketball to hoping for a few breaks at the end of the season is no fun but that seems to be exactly where we’re headed. So now the question is how do we get there?
The truth is I don’t think it should be a problem to get there. 20-11 is not a high and lofty goal for this team and K-State has enough athletes to win some games on talent alone. If play continues the way it has been, the end result will be the same as two seasons ago. We may be in the NCAAs, or we may be in the NIT at which point the biggest story will be whether or not our senior leader makes good on his promise to sit out because he’s just too good for that. Yippee! That might be best case possible.
Now for the doomsday scenario: K-State loses the next three, has no more confidence and blows a big lead at home vs. Nebraska for the loss, limps to victory against Iowa State, gets beaten by Colorado again, crushed by KU, and only wins 2 of the final 5. The NIT regretfully accepts the Wildcats into the field as an 8 seed and Pullen, after staging a nationally covered protest, leaves basketball forever to work as head of loss prevention at the local Dillards. Hey, it could happen!
Here are the steps that have to take place between now and the end of the season to prevent anything worse than 20-11, 8-8:
Leadership: Someone, anyone has to become the guy that gets this team in gear. Pullen and Kelly have shown their weakness in this area and nobody else has wanted to fill the void. Frank Martin is a beast of a coach and controls the team in practice and locker rooms but there has to be a floor general. At this point it doesn’t matter who it is… freshman, sophomore, transfer… it just has to happen. If just one guy can become the heart and soul of the Wildcats, 8-8 could easily become 9-7, 10-6, or even better. If not, 8-8 becomes 7-9, 6-10, etc.
Free Throws: I think one of the announcers during a game mentioned that if Kansas State had made every free throw this season, they would have won all but 1 game. No team goes 100% from the charity stripe but the current 59.4% the Wildcats are putting up is good for 339th of 345 teams playing NCAA Division 1 basketball. It’s been a big story for the team all season and it has to change. Frank Martin has said that it’s a game time thing only and that the shots are dropping in practice but that just can’t be the excuse anymore.
Distractions: The constant drama surrounding the basketball team has to have taken a toll. Suspensions, stupid quotes, or players leaving; it’s all got to stop. The feel of last season was business. This season, it’s something entirely different. Constant praise usually has a result of less effort or desiring to be the focus of that praise and Kansas State has fallen victim to both. All you can hope for is that the last weeks have shown this team that they won’t get anywhere without effort and work.
It’s going to be an interesting final few weeks of basketball season so put your seatbelts on and get ready for the ride!