Tough upcoming stretch will determine Wildcats’ fate

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Freshman forward Xavier Sneed dunks during the K-State game against Baylor in Bramlage Coliseum on Jan. 14, 2017. (Nathan Jones | The Collegian)

A season ago, the Kansas State men’s basketball team got off to a rough start in Big 12 play. They got close a few times. The team lost a heartbreaker in double overtime to West Virginia, had another close one against Texas after missing a shot at the buzzer and then lost another double overtime game against Baylor.

They were close many times but that didn’t matter because, like they say, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. When you get close in basketball, you can still end up starting Big 12 play 1-5. And that’s what the K-State Wildcats did. Their season spiraled out of control and they finished with a record of 17-16 and 5-13 in the Big 12.

Here is why I bring last season up: The Wildcats have been close so far this season in Big 12 play, but, like a year ago, have little to show for it. They took Kansas to the brink and held a lead in Lubbock, Texas, until squandering it late . Then they played Baylor close until the last 10 minutes. They have lost both Big 12 road games and have not been able to win those close games.

The problem for the Wildcats in recent years has been they have let those close losses affect them and in-turn they would lose the next game or two.

K-State’s upcoming stretch is a difficult one that will show if this team has matured from past losses or if they are destined for another season at the bottom of the Big 12 standings.

Tonight the Wildcats have no easy task when they take on Oklahoma State on the road. They then host No. 7 West Virginia at home Saturday, then face Iowa State and Tennessee on the road.

If the Wildcats can get through that tough stretch with at least two wins, it will set them up for a much better Big 12 finish than the last two seasons, along with a few extra things on their side.

K-State is shooting much better than a year ago. Last year they shot 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from the 3-point line. This year they are up to 48 and 38, respectively. They also have a healthy sophomore guard Kamau Stokes and a freshman that can impact games in Xavier Sneed.

The Wildcats will look to use those three things to their advantage as they head into the heart of their schedule, and in two weeks we should know a lot more about where this team stands.

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