COLUMN: Wildcats don’t have much room for error, need leaders


    The K-State men’s basketball team currently sits in a rather precarious position within the Big 12 Conference standings just two games into the conference schedule.
    The 0-2 start can be overcome, and there’s no shame in dropping back-to-back games to two of the league’s powers, Oklahoma and KU.
    In fact, the Wildcats overcame a similar start in 2006-07, under then-coach Bob Huggins, in which they dropped the first two games in conference play but were able to still finish league play 10-6.
    But this year’s Wildcats don’t have the room for error that team had.
    The conference is viewed nationally as being in a down year, particularly the North division. K-State plays each North team twice, giving them an added advantage over South teams, but also putting them at a disadvantage at the same time.
    The South is where the real power lies this year in the conference. K-State only gets one shot to grab one of those quality wins from a South opponent. One opportunity has already come and gone, with the Wildcats dropping a home game against No. 5 Oklahoma.
    Another opportunity for a quality win escaped Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse as K-State was handled 87-71 by KU.
    The nonconference schedule has left K-State in a pickle. The Wildcats have one quality win, which was on the road against a Cleveland State team that is much better than most give them credit for.
    But outside of that, the Wildcats have failed. K-State lost all three games against its brand-name opponents in Oregon, Kentucky and Iowa.
    What makes matters worse is that Oregon currently sits with a 6-10 record overall.
    The shame of it is the Wildcats have been so close but have failed to seize opportunities. They lost their three nonconference games by just nine points, but the selection committee does not look at the competiveness of a game. It’s all about wins and losses.
    K-State has also let its guard down in two five-minute stretches in Big 12 play and it has cost them significantly.
    What K-State needs is a leader to step forward and emerge from the shadows for this team to be successful. The team needs someone to stop the bleeding and step up and hit a shot before the score becomes 18-0 like it did in Lawrence on Tuesday.
    It needs someone to calm down and prevent the team from commiting seven straight turnovers to end a half and send the opponent on a 10-0 run into the locker room.
    But who does this team turn to when things are going bad? It only has one senior, Darren Kent, and he only played nine minutes against KU after garnering the wrath and displeasure of K-State coach Frank Martin.
    Jacob Pullen could be that guy but he has struggled lately and is also frequently in Martin’s doghouse.
    Jamar Samuels is one player that could eventually become a leader, but he might be too young right now.
    It all makes this Saturday’s game at Nebraska all the more important. It’s hard to say a game is a must-win this early in the season, but if the Wildcats come up short again, the critics and doubters will be out in full force, and a postseason bid to even the NIT will come into question.

Cole Manbeck is a senior in print journalism. Please send comments to