As the men’s basketball team reaches the end of its disheartening season, frustration grows with head coach Bruce Weber. Many fans call for his removal for the abysmal performance of a Kansas State team that just two years ago won the Big 12 Conference.
The Wildcats sit second to last in the Big 12 with a conference record of 3-13 and a 7-18 record overall. The team currently sits dead last in the Big 12 in multiple categories — field goal percentage, defensive field goal percentage, three-point percentage, defensive three-point percentage, defensive rebounds, block and steals.
A lot of bad with this year’s team, I know, but just hear me out for a second as to why Weber should stay. The Wildcat’s only had one returning senior — Mike McGuirl — in an injury-plagued season, with one of the youngest rosters in the country, during a global pandemic. Weber constantly adjusted the starting lineups and minutes every week while praying none of his players contracted COVID-19 or came into close contact with it.
On top of that, he’s coaching in the best division in college basketball where all but three teams are either ranked or were at some point this season. A division that has the No. 2 team in the country in it — Baylor. With everything going on with the roster, we expect this team to beat them?
Now I’m not saying we would have zero shot with to keep it competitive at the moment because, as of late, the Wildcats are a completely different team than the one that lost to Fort Hays State back in December. Pulling off an unprecedented upset over No. 7 Oklahoma is the highlight of the season, and the team showed real growth since losing 13-straight games and having the worst scoring margin loss in school history.
Playing every opponent closely rather than being blown out, K-State showed fight and the will to win regardless of the opponent, including keeping up with No.14 Texas (80-77) and No.18 Texas Tech (73-62) when both teams previously dismantled the Wildcats.
I think Weber deserves some of the credit for the team’s late resurgence in play. The Wildcats are a “grind out, beat you in defense and turnovers,” type of team. It is the model for how they win games and has been for quite some time.
Why should we ask the team to win when its strays from that model? Are the Wildcats really going to outshoot the likes of No. 2 Baylor or any other Big 12 opponent? No — the Wildcats make teams play the game and take advantage of the opponent’s mistakes.
K-State didn’t even outshoot No. 7 Oklahoma when the Wildcats won. It shot just 39 percent from the floor but held the Sooners to 39 percent as well. The Wildcats shot better than Oklahoma from beyond the arc and from the charity stripe.
The numbers from both of those categories were not better than usual but the defense was the star of the show, anyway — holding the Sooners to 20 percent from three and just 64 percent from the line.
Before the game against the Sooners, the Wildcats gave up the most points of any other team in the Big 12 in both of those categories.
Some of that is because of the players and some of that is buying into the culture of K-State: play for each other, play defense and limit mistakes. When the Wildcats do this, they can play with anyone in the conference.
Weber should return to coach K-State next fall and the following year to man the helm of this young team. I believe he has earned the right to see this group of players grow and graduate.
We will either see another strong senior class like that of the 2018-2019 Wildcats, or we will see Bruce Weber gone. Either outcome should satisfy K-State fans.
Connor Cottenmyre is a senior in journalism and mass communications and a Collegian staff writer. The views and opinions expressed in this review are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.