Big XII Media Days for the upcoming basketball season left the Wildcats picked to finish sixth in the conference this year. The AP and Coaches basketball polls have now been released, and it should be no surprise that Kansas State doesn’t find itself in the top 25 of either survey. While the AP has the Wildcats at 37, the Coaches puts them at number 30. Yet while this team is respected enough to garner votes, it’s dangerous to put it on the outside looking in.
K-State only has two knocks on them this year – they’re featuring a new head coach (Illinois’s Bruce Weber takes over the program that Frank Martin inexplicably bolted from in favor of South Carolina) and lose Jamar Samuels. But that’s really it. I’ll grant that Martin exceeded my expectations, and Samuels’ rebounding will be sorely missed. Additionally, there’s no addition to the current bunch that looks to make an immediate impact. However, K-State returns nine players that averaged at least ten minutes/game last year. Nine. That’s a lot of experience.
Here’s where that experience will help the Wildcats most: Angel Rodriguez was pretty inconsistent as a freshman point guard last year, but demonstrated a remarkably high ceiling. With an entire year under his belt and he should feel more comfortable with his teammates. Additionally, this is a tall, rangy team that went 22-11 last year while winning their first round game and pushing number one seed Syracuse the entire game during the second round. It may not put Final Four talent on the floor, but its defensive acumen will allow it to play everyone close. Remember: being picked to finish sixth in the conference doesn’t doom your season to a rebuilding project – just ask the school’s football team how it feels about its sixth place projection in the Big XII media poll.