I needn’t rehash the minutia of the trajectory of Kansas State’s football season; you already know it. Kicking off with a loss that devastated the team’s morale, the Wildcats played two more lowly nonconference opponents while failing to cover the spread, then began Big 12 play 0-3. Now, fresh off three straight blow outs and a squeaking victory over a TCU squad many picked to win the league, K-State has secured a bowl game invitation. If it took too much heartache to get to this point for your body to bear, I suggest you not check in with the basketball team until February – because you’re about to witness the same pattern.
The offseason stories for the teams were the same this summer: how will a squad facing turnover of its most talented players and best leaders fare? The inexperienced football squad began its season against FCS opponent North Dakota State and lost. The basketball team fell in its season opener to Northern-Friggin’-Colorado. The Bears finished 2012-13 with a 13-18 record. As ESPN’s Eammon Brennan points out, Northern Colorado was 305th in the nation last year in points allowed per possession at 1.09. K-State put up 0.89 and was defeated 60-58.
The Wildcats bounced back with a 71-63 victory over Oral Roberts on Wednesday, but that does little to soothe the sting. The stat lines were interesting. Against Northern Colorado, Wesley Iwundu came off the bench to lead the Wildcats with 14 points. Against Oral Roberts, Iwundu won the start but only managed three points while Marcus Foster poured in 25 to lead K-State. Both players are freshmen.
Complete games won’t be forthcoming for awhile – these players are going to need some time to figure things out and gel on the court. What’s promising is that the Wildcats had 15 assists against Northern Colorado and then 18 against Oral Roberts. They’re getting good ball movement (a cornerstones of Bruce Weber’s offense). And youth abounds on the team – starting forward D.J. Johnson is just a sophomore.
This also isn’t the same team you’ll see come February. Rebounding authority Thomas Gipson (a junior) missed both the exhibition game against Pitt State and the first two regular season games due to injury. He should be playing again by December, and will add much-needed size (although he also significantly trimmed down during the offseason). Additionally, freshman Jevon Thomas will be eligible to practice and compete at the conclusion of the 2013 Fall semester. A natural point guard, his presence will allow Will Spradling to slide back over to the shooting guard position and focus more on scoring. Those two additions, but the benefit of having so many new faces play a semester of basketball together, should have the Wildcats primed for wins in the NCAA tournament. Just don’t get discouraged if there are some bumps in the road getting there first.