This was supposed to be a season of amazing things. Kansas State was picked to unseat KU and take over the conference championship. They were a preseason top 5 in every poll. They were in most analysts’ final four. They were supposed to be lead by a preseason all American. Instead, Kansas State sits with a record of 14-8, 2-5 in conference, the NCAA tournament is almost completely out of reach, players have been suspended, two have left the team in season, and there is no such thing as player leadership. The question that has to be asked is “why?” The reasons are after the jump.
Is it coaching?
The first place most people look during a stretch of crap like this is the coaching. It’s not him. Unlike a lot of those coaches who deserve it, Frank Martin has done everything he can to shift the blame to himself in the past few weeks. He has said repeatedly that he expected this team to not be as good as projected and that no one asked him where to rank the Cats preseason. He has also mentioned that the problems start at the top. I think it’s all been an effort to take attention off of the players to try and salvage what’s left. By giving some quotes like “when a fish stinks it starts at the head”, Martin is putting the focus on him. That’s the sign of a good coach. Don’t blame Frank. If this stuff flows into next season, then it’s time to wonder what’s going on in that department.
Is it the Expectation?
Last season, Kansas State lived and breathed on the underdog tag. They were the hunters and thrived on that role. This season, before a ball had even been dribbled, Kansas State became the “it” team. Expectations for K-State were as high as any other team in college basketball. Naturally, as those aren’t met, some people are assuming the pressure was just too much to handle. I don’t buy that at all. Every one of the players at a major college program has felt pressure his entire career. I would assume that every player on the Kansas State team was either the top or second best guy on any team they have been a part of whether that’s high school or AAU. It’s not like all of a sudden they have to deal with expectations they haven’t ever felt. Yes, it might be the highest level of pressure, but I don’t buy that it is the reason for what’s taken place.
Is it Leadership?
Leadership can come in many different ways. Some leaders are in the face and loud. Some are quiet, constantly working behind the scenes to keep things moving. Some need another strong leader to lean on and together they take control. Last year the loud leader was Frank. The silent leaders were Colon and Mayweather. The team was Clemente and Pullen. This year the only leadership left is Frank. Pullen obviously hasn’t been able to do it alone and Curtis Kelly has decided that he doesn’t want any part of that role. And that is where I think the real problems lie.
A team as young as Kansas State (with huge expectations) has to have upperclassmen take over. Pullen tried and failed. Kellly didn’t care.
Pullen didn’t have a “Clemente” step up to the plate this year. Without that teammate to feed off of, Pullen just isn’t the same. I didn’t see it coming and I doubt any other K-State fans did either. The talk after last season was all about the return of Pullen and nothing about the departure of Clemente because it just wasn’t seen as a huge hole. That’s proven to be about as wrong as possible. I honestly believe Pullen tried. He came out ready to play this season. His failure came off the court and destroyed the perception of his ability to lead and rightfully so. I hope those extra shirts were worth it.
Curtis Kelly on the other hand turned out to be the anti-leader. A team with only two seniors can’t have half of them be defunct. CK started the season in the doghouse, threw in a suspension for added flavor, and finished the KU game on the bench. Add on all his stupid whining, throwing up his hands, and begs for sympathy from anyone who will listen and all that’s left is a guy that I assume every KSU fan will be happy to see go. When news came out that Judge was leaving the team, Kelly said he was surprised and had no idea it was coming. I think that statement shows who this guy is. I don’t understand how a guy on a team of 12 players who do everything together doesn’t know how everything that’s being thought, said, and taking place. Martin said he saw it coming, Kelly said it was new to him. Which do you want to stick around?
It’s clear that I place the blame for what’s taking place on two guys: Pullen and Kelly. The good news for them is that it’s not too late to make things right. Both guys have to be perfect form here on out. No more stupid comments, no more doghouse, no more Dillards CK and Pullen. If they do it, this season is salvageable and they might leave a favorable taste in the mouths of fans. If they continue on the path they’ve been on all season, the 2011-2012 season won’t come soon enough.