It’s the time of the year when politics are all over the place, so with that said, I wanted to write about the outlook of the K-State men’s basketball team in my “State of ‘the State’” address, since we are right at the midway point of the conference schedule.
The Wildcats are currently eighth in the conference at 2-7 and 13-9 overall. There have been some high points this season for the Wildcats, but those have been overshadowed by six losses of 10 points or less. Here are the issues and topics I will address, and hopefully bring light to.
Shooting has been a problem this season for the Wildcats. They are currently ranked last in the Big 12 in 3-point percentage and seventh in field-goal percentage. This isn’t because of junior forward Wesley Iwundu, who is currently shooting 49 percent from the field, which puts him at 12th in the conference. From the arc, freshman guard Kamau Stokes is 13th in the conference shooting 34 percent.
The young players Wildcats, such as Stokes, freshman guard Barry Brown, junior guard Carlbe Ervin II and freshman forward Dean Wade, will help this team in the future. All of these players can shoot the ball and should help this team get better in that area.
K-State is very pesky defensively and has established a stout presence on that end of the court. The Wildcats rank third in the conference with nearly eight steals a game, which puts them behind the very aggressive West Virginia Mountaineers and Baylor Bears.
The Wildcats are led in steals by senior guard Justin Edwards, who is third in the conference with around two per game. K-State has held opponents under 70 points 10 times this season and are also fourth in the conference in scoring defense. Defense is not the problem for this team, but putting the ball in the bottom of the net has been.
The Wildcats had their first major injury on Saturday night when they hosted Ole Miss inside Bramlage Coliseum. Kamau Stokes hurt his knee, and it is currently questionable as to whether or not he will be back this season. This could really hurt K-State since Stokes was averaging nine points and 27 minutes per game.
On a positive note, junior forward D.J. Johnson keeps getting healthier with every game and he looks to be getting closer to 100 percent. He has been a huge spark off the bench for K-State and can really help the bigs down low with the hard work, dedication and skill he brings for this team.
I have heard over and over again, “K-State head coach Bruce Weber’s job is in jeopardy because the team ‘underperforming?'” Folks, I think he is doing pretty well with this young team. Plus, he is under contract until 2019. Yes, I understand that last season the Wildcats were under .500 and didn’t even make it out of the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, but I think people tend to forget that the two years before that this Wildcat team made the NCAA Tournament under Weber. They have been in nearly every game this season, but when a team is young, it is hard to win in a veteran-driven conference. I hope Weber is back for next season because I know he wants to help lead this team to big things in the coming years.
The future is bright and if I could buy stock in a college basketball team, it would be in this young, versatile and talented Wildcat program. If this team can stay healthy and continue to improve, it will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future. The Cats have been punched in the throat with some of these close losses this season, but I think it will benefit them in the long run. They will learn how to win in the conference and be prepared to play into late March. This is a team to keep your eyes on in the best conference in the country.