Wildcats still figuring out roles as season opens tonight against Bears

Parker Robb | Collegian Freshman guard/forward Wesley Iwundu soars above the court for a layup during the Wildcats' exhibition win over Pittsburg State Friday evening. Both the men's and women's basketball teams open their seasons with a doubleheader tonight at Bramlage, the women playing Tennessee State, followed by the men playing Northern Colorado.Photo credit: Parker Robb.

And just like that, basketball season is here. Tonight in Bramlage Coliseum, the K-State Wildcats will officially begin their season against the Northern Colorado Bears. As far as the feelings towards the game, head coach Bruce Weber said he hopes his team is feeling a variety of emotions.

“A little bit of all of it,” Weber said. “I hope they’re nervous, they should be a little anxious, they want to play. It seems like forever ago that we played the exhibition game and with the new rules, I kind of like it, but you know we have to keep giving them days off.”

K-State enters the game on a 10-game season opening winning streak. The last time the Wildcats fell in the season opener was to BYU in 2002. Last week, the Wildcats were able to get their feet wet as they took on Pitt State in their only exhibition game. The Wildcats defeated the Gorillas 75-54, but found that the new rule changes were going to force K-State to make adjustments.

Last Friday, the Wildcats and Gorillas tallied a total of 61 fouls in the game. This accounted for 69 free throws on the night. Both teams will need to find ways to adjust on the defensive side to avoid foul trouble.

Northern Colorado enters the season opener with plenty of experience from last season’s team. In 2012-13, the Bears struggled as they finished with a 13-18 record. However, many of those struggles came early in the season as they ended their season winning seven of their last 10 games.

“They have got an experienced team and if you look, I think they won a bunch of games at the end of last year before they lost in the tournament,” Weber said. “They are a great shooting team and they have got somebody inside that will be able to challenge us a little bit. It will be a good experience for us. I wish it was a little later, but we have to deal with it. We are playing at home and they are not, so we just have to take advantage of that. We got the bacon that we are passing out, so we will hopefully have a great crowd.”

With a young roster, the Wildcats will need to find a way for their younger players to get experience before starting Big 12 play. Last week, a trio of freshmen showed that they are capable of stepping right in and contributing. Marcus Foster, Wesley Iwundu and Nigel Johnson all proved that despite their youth, they are ready to play big roles for K-State this season.

“You are trying to build your resume right now, but at the same time you have to get experience which will lead to consistency,” Weber said. “If you add consistency and experience together, you are going to have success. That is what we will hopefully develop as we go on. I hope we have a little bit of a foundation. We have not even started building the house yet and we have a long ways to go.”

Of all the freshman, Foster received the most attention at last week’s exhibition. The Texas native scored 13 points, including an electrifying dunk, and grabbed five rebounds against Pitt State. Even though Foster is getting ready to play in his first college game, he said he recognizes that everyone on the team is still trying to figure out their roles.

“I think we are all still messing around with things, and we are still trying to find out what our roles are,” Foster said. “We have some defensive stoppers, some X-factors for us, and we still need some rebounders. We are just coming together as a team right now.”