This year’s men’s basketball campaign is not off to a particularly great start, and several growing pains have haunted the season. Head coach Bruce Weber has managed to find success in the face of adversity during his tenure at Kansas State.
Similar to the 2015-16 season, the-then young Wildcats finished with a 17-16 eighth place finish in the Big 12, missing the NCAA tournament. Three years later, those young Wildcats finished at the top of the Big 12 conference, led by seniors Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade. This has been a trend during the Weber era.
With former head coach Frank Martin’s recruits, Weber opened his tenure with a Big 12 championship in the 2012-2013 season, and things were looking up for the K-State men’s basketball program. The Wildcats even reached the tournament — which ended in the second round — in back-to-back seasons.
However, the Wildcats missed consecutive NCAA tournaments with two under-20 win seasons, and it looked like the Weber era was falling apart. Following the 2015 season, the Wildcats lost six underclassmen to dismissal and the transfer portal — including Marcus Foster, who led the Wildcats in points per game in the 2014-15 season. This granted an opportunity for young players like then-freshmen Wade, Stokes and Brown.
With this young talent alongside other Weber recruits — senior forward Xavier Sneed and redshirt junior guard Cartier Diarra — the Wildcats improved tremendously with three seasons with over 20 wins, three tournament appearances — including an elite eight in 2017-18 — and a conference championship in the 2018-19 season.
The end of what seemed to be the best trio at K-State did not end the way that anyone would have hoped. K-State took a first-round loss to UC Irvine, who entered with a 16-game win streak in San Jose. The Wildcats were missing Dean Wade, who battled injuries throughout the season.
Though this season started off poorly — seven of 11 losses coming under 10 points — there have been moments where the new wave of players have stepped up.
Weber has brought in new talent to the program: a freshmen trio including guard DaJuan Gordon, forward Antonio Gordon and forward Montavious Murphy. More is to come in the next season with three four-star recruits: point guard Nigel Pack, center Davion Bradford and shooting guard Selton Miguel.
Shooting guard Luke Kasbuke is a three-star recruit from St. Louis, an area in which Weber has found success in, partly because of his coaching stint at Southern Illinois University.
Although this season may feel like a waste, there is potential for the Wildcats to truly compete in only a few short years.