Basketball, among other things, oftentimes coins the phrase, "It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish."
For the K-State men’s basketball team, that could not be more true than this year. If it weren’t, then the season would have been over long ago.
But this team is a far cry from the one that lost its season-opener to Northern Colorado 60-58 in front of its home crowd on Nov. 8. This squad has upset the likes of Kansas, Gonzaga and Oklahoma State. The season has seen rushed courts, surprising blowouts, and the despair from buzzer beaters.
K-State has certainly seen it all this year. But the season isn’t over, and how far the Wildcats will go is a narrative that’s yet to be told.
Yes, there’s a time and place to discuss next year. But the Wildcats need to focus now on finishing strong so that there’s momentum heading into recruiting and preseason workouts. K-State already has two commitments for 2014-15 and are eyeing at least four others, two of which are ESPN three-star recruits.
Then you have the prospect of returning the likes of freshmen guards Marcus Foster, Wesley Iwundu, Jevon Thomas and Nigel Johnson. Also included in prospective returns are junior forwards Thomas Gipson and Nino Williams and sophomore forward D.J. Johnson.
However, now is not the time or place to dig into these discussions. Rather, let’s talk about this year’s squad. K-State has six conference games remaining, three of which are on the road in tough-to-play venues. Though a regular-season Big 12 title is likely out of reach, coming away with these road wins should give the Wildcats confidence heading into postseason play.
This cannot be emphasized enough. K-State has fared poorly on the road this year, unable to produce the same energy Bramlage Coliseum brings at home. Depending on who the Wildcats play in Kansas City, Mo. at the Big 12 Tournament, the Sprint Center won’t be a neutral-site atmosphere in the way Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. was against Gonzaga earlier this season.
The same goes for March Madness. As of Monday, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has K-State slotted for a seventh seed in the South Region. That would put the Wildcats in Raleigh, N.C. for the round of 64. While the K-State faithful always tend to travel well, it will still look much more like a road game for head coach Bruce Weber’s squad than anything else.
So while this season has been somewhat of a roller coaster of emotions, this K-State team has much to play for in the weeks to come. Finishing the season strong can cap off a fantastic year for the Wildcats, and help jumpstart next year’s anticipated campaign.