OPINION: Underwood’s return to Bramlage tough to swallow

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Brad Underwood, Oklahoma State’s head men’s basketball coach, during the game against K-State in Bramlage Coliseum on Feb. 22. OSU won 80-68. (Photo by Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

Ah, what could have been.

It’s a commonality in the sports world. What if that 3-point buzzer-beater would’ve gone in? What if they wouldn’t have missed that field goal as time expired? What if he would’ve hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth?

A big “what could have been” happened right before our eyes last night in Bramlage Coliseum.

Brad Underwood, a former Kansas State player and assistant coach, entered Bramlage Coliseum Wednesday for the first time as a head coach. However, unlike so many times before, Underwood went to the visitor’s locker room as the head coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. And it stings now like never before.

Underwood was a hot commodity at the end of last season after a wildly successful stint as the head coach of Stephen F. Austin. Underwood led the team to an 89-14 record in his three seasons at the helm. It is a tie for the most wins by a head coach in his first three seasons at an NCAA school.

It was apparent that Underwood was ready for a power five gig if the right opening came. K-State could’ve and should’ve probably made their move. Fire Bruce Weber and hire Underwood. Instead, Weber was given at least another season with the Wildcats and Underwood was swooped away by Big 12 foe Oklahoma State.

Moving on to Wednesday night’s game, Oklahoma State out-played and out-hustled K-State for much of their 80-68 win over the Cats. After such a tough defeat, it’s hard not to think about what could have been if Underwood were pacing K-State’s bench instead of the visitor’s.

It stings even more seeing the immediate success Underwood has brought to the Oklahoma State program.

The Cowboys have been on fire.

Oklahoma State currently sits at 19-9 and 8-7 in the Big 12. They are fifth in the Big 12 standings, have won nine of their last 10 games and are all but a lock for the NCAA tournament in March.

This is the same team that went 12-20 and 3-15 in the Big 12 a year ago under Travis Ford. They are already a vastly improved team after less than a year of Underwood’s guidance.

K-State’s season, on the other hand, is playing out all too similarly to the past two seasons of mediocrity.

The Wildcats have lost nine of their last 13. Nine. That’s really bad. The NCAA tournament bubble is incredibly soft this year, but a team that loses nine of their last 13 games down the biggest part of their schedule does not deserve to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

And it’s not just about that. K-State may very well win the last three games, pull out a game or two in the Big 12 tournament and participate in March Madness. But that’s not the point.

The point is that this K-State basketball program is generally trending downward.

The Wildcats won a share of the Big 12 in Weber’s first year and have consistently gotten worse since. This season started with promise. The Wildcats returned two very good seniors to go along with a talented trio of sophomores. That same team should not be losing four consecutive home games in February, no matter who the opponents are.

So, in the final seconds of Wednesday night’s contest, as the Oklahoma State Cowboys dribbled out the clock handing the Wildcats yet another loss, it was hard to watch.

It was hard not to think about how would this game have gone down if Brad Underwood were the head coach of the Kansas State Wildcats.

Scott Popp is a senior in journalism. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to [email protected]kstatecollegian.com.

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I am a senior in Journalism. I like sports and things.