K-State basketball: Disgruntled fan’s pipe dream

This quote from Twitter, which came in a conversation thread regarding Bruce Weber, caught my eye on Monday because it is the quintessential disgruntled Kansas State Wildcats basketball fan’s coaching pipe dream in a nutshell.

“whoever we get, i want it to be someone who will stay forever & be successful, and fill up the octagon, make it a tough place to win.”

Undeterred by the latest examples of extreme rise-and-falls (Tom Crean) and loyal-until-tomorrows (Brad Underwood), and fueled by watching their former coach make another Sweet 16 (Frank Martin), the fans who want so badly for K-State to make a coaching move (as the poll following the Cincinnati loss suggests) are frothing even more today. They’re just sure they’re missing out on …

whoever we get.

And when that “whoever” shows up, it’ll be a “no more Bruceketball!” party and long honeymoon as the wins start to flow with Weber’s former players, which proves he wasn’t the guy to break through with this roster despite an upward trend. Or maybe the losses come instead, but that’s okay because the new staff obviously needs time to dismantle Weber’s obviously crappy work.

In either case, that guy will get all the time needed to “fix” things because those fans will have given their heart to him in hopes that their new rebound “whoever” …

“will stay forever and be successful …”

And that coach should be successful because those fans who were so steadfast in withholding their support from Bruce Weber will now flock to games – regardless of results (because that’s how this “not Bruce” thing will work, right?) …

and fill up the octagon, make it a tough place to win.”

Early on at least, this new “whoever” will need and deserve fans’ help in building a home court advantage that possibly leads to a few more key home wins – wins those same fans felt the last coach needed to get without their help because he should have to prove something to them first.

All of this totally seems fair, doesn’t it?

I guess you just hope “whoever” actually gets the kind of one-direction support needed to succeed – something that has embarrassingly been lacking for a couple of years now at KSU. It’s one thing to question, but to outright boycott a team that hasn’t really given reason to do so? That does nobody – players, coaches, administration, or even the fans themselves – any favors.

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After Cincy loss, 30-year K-State season ticket holder is done

So, here we are … the end of the season.

We knew we’d get here eventually, even if it was a game or two longer than a solid minority of Kansas State fans wanted. And, the end came in the exact fashion they had been salivating over: overmatched and out-toughed by Cincinnati like a big brother holding his little bro’s head under his armpit for an NCAA-sized noogie.

Losing in the NCAA Tournament never leaves a good feeling – the finality of it all and other things – but this one is obviously different. In 99 of 100 other similar situations – 20 games for the first time in three years, first NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time in that same span, picked ninth in the Big 12 before finishing sixth, and returns its starting backcourt and a promising young big man next year (no, not Dean Wade – K-State radio color analyst Stan Weber said as much on Friday during a segment on Sports Radio 810 WHB in Kansas City when he said the other players basically decided to stop waiting on him to figure things out) – this season would be reason for at least cautious optimism going forward.

But those other 99 situations don’t have the inexplicable caveat that a sizable portion of a fan base has simply washed its hands of a coach and wants its administration to do the same. They’re tired of drinking 3.2% Weber beer and barely getting a winning buzz. They want to get winning hammered, even if they don’t know where to buy it.

Regardless, an increasing number of fans want to go shopping, including some who gave it a legitimate go and have legitimate power in their actions.

For example, a season ticket of 30+ consecutive years keenly watched the past year and decided after Friday’s conclusion that they are finished until a change is made. Here’s the note they sent me on Twitter:

“If they keep this man after that effort, I believe I may have to save what amounts to $1000, once I make the full donation, pay for the tickets and parking, the gas and eating out.

“Hard to end over 30 years of loyalty, but the way we play has no semblance of heart, or recruited and developed skill. That got Altman, Asbury and Wooldridge out of here by the 5-year mark. I would think it would do so for a 60-year-old man. It’s probably going to take him resigning, because I don’t think an athletic department in flux, without a permanent choice for AD in place, to would probably pull the trigger.

“Does your voice resonate enough to help us small donors have any say in this? I sure wish the large donors, who effect any of these decisions anyway, knew how a bunch of us little guys feel. If a change is made, I’m sending my dollars right back in. No change, no reaching of 32 years on the streak!!”

It doesn’t sound like this fan is alone in thinking this way.

I don’t know if I have a voice that reaches the decision makers at K-State, and I don’t agree with how things have played out, but here’s hoping those KSU decision-making folks understand exactly how deep-rooted, and growing, their issue is.

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More than a few K-State fans want their team to lose

A couple of recent polls illustrate a fan base nearly split between wanting its team to win in the postseason and wanting a new coach.

The “Bruce Weber sucks no matter what he does” narrative has been a thing in and around Kansas State for some time; all the way back to the coach’s very first day for some Wildcats basketball fans. 

How large that thing actually is has been unmeasured to this point, with the popular thought being that most of the rage boiled down to a vicious but vocal minority.

K-State’s best season since 2013-14 – at least 20 wins, a sixth-place finish in the Big 12 after getting picked ninth, and a return to the NCAA postseason (technically, considering it’s the “Last 4 In”) would seem to be the perfect time to prove that assertion. After all, the program seemed to show a trend upward the past three years, if only a very slight one, moving from 15 to 17 to at least 20 wins.

But hey, progress is progress … until it isn’t, apparently, as a couple of recent Twitter polls showed a pretty serious split among fans when asked to choose between their team winning and getting a new coach.

The first poll was conducted right after K-State knocked Baylor out of the Big 12 Tournament.

Interesting, right? I mean, four out of 10 K-State fans* are still hoping their coach gets canned after a big win that was needed in order to break a postseason drought.

*This statement, and this entire post, makes the assumption that it was K-State fans who voted in the polls. Is it 100-percent guaranteed that every vote had purple in its veins? No. Is it a pretty safe bet that nearly all of those votes were K-State fans? I feel pretty confident in saying yes, mostly because nobody outside of this fanbase cares enough about KSU’s troubles to try and sway a vote like this one.

Still the bigger shocker came via the second poll conducted Sunday afternoon, right after K-State’s name was called to participate in the NCAA Tournament play-in game against Wake Forest.

Just 60 percent of 463 votes said they were happy K-State made the postseason. That left 40 percent saying they either weren’t happy or were conflicted.

That’s no small minority. And, it doesn’t really matter how things got to this point, even if it’s sometimes illogical or unfair.* That nearly half of a fan base can’t or won’t put positive results ahead of wishing for a new head coach demands legitimate attention.

*Personally, I’ve found many of the arguments against Weber to be vague and dishonest — “He’s one of the worst coaches in the league” or “This team keeps getting worse under Weber.” This all despite results showing that Weber has either had success in the past or held his own. Take this year, for example, when he beats every other Big 12 coach outside of Bill Self and Steve Prohm with a team picked to finish ninth. He isn’t the best coach in the league, but he certainly appears to be on par with most of the other ones.

Twitter conversation the past few days also has asked whether Bruce Weber might be the beneficiary of a fluid athletic director situation. In short, one would have to believe so, right? A school president wouldn’t put a coaching hire on the shoulders of an interim director, or shouldn’t. Or, if that does happen, one would believe the interim tag would be lifted soon after.

That timeline bears watching, and in the mean time, it gives Weber, whose current contract runs through the 2018-19 season, enough time to go win a couple of games in the next week and complicate things even more.

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Svi walked, but did K-State take the bigger step?

Some flash talking points after last night’s KU v. K-State game and a closing point about the Big 12. We’ll even get all the way to West Virginia, which is slightly closer to my house than the distance Svi Mykhailiuk traveled on his way to a “Svi for Three! (or Four!)” #WalkChalk win …

More “Mean Dean” and less of the “Wade Fade” – You can only have so many “breakout” games before you’re just known as a spotty performer. K-State’s Dean Wade, in the middle of his sophomore season, can see that fork on the horizon. He was good against Kansas, scoring 20 points on a decent shooting night, and it’s no coincidence that his unranked team nearly stole a roadie against a Top 5 opponent. This performance came on the heels of scoring 18 against Texas, and Wade has now hit double-figures in six of his last seven games. If he keeps this up (and never, ever repeats his 0 pts, 5 reb, 2 shots in 33 minutes outing against Maryland) , K-State could find itself in a pretty sweet fight for fourth or so in the Big 12 standings, which isn’t bad considering how tough the Conference appears to be in 2017.

Poise is nice – For all the hell (some of it deserved) Bruce Weber caught from detractors for having to tear down his roster mid-cycle, he should get a ton of credit for molding this group in little over a season. The Wildcats took their lumps last year as virtually the entire roster was new, but at 12-2, 1-1, K-State has a group that walked into Allen Fieldhouse, built a lead, blew a lead, got down big, and then forced overtime almost won anyways. Weber has guards who can shoot reasonably well, a foul-prone but energetic big man inside, and an X-factor in Wade who causes matchup problems in a hurry when he’s on. Put poise on top of that, and K-State should be in position to win more often than not.

Why the League is up overall – Nine other fanbases like to look at the Jayhawks every year and dream that KU has some exhaust port entry flaw leading to its core – just like the Death Star. Usually, that’s not reality, but after TCU and K-State both took KU to the wire and Texas Tech knocked off West Virginia in overtime, there are real signs that the Big 12 Conference could be a seven or eight-strong beautiful mess heading into March. Oklahoma isn’t good, and Texas has a long way to go, but everyone else seems surprisingly stout.

Why the League isn’t up, actually – There is a lot of assumption in that last point – all stemming from a couple games’ worth of competition that saw Texas Tech and TCU turn in back-to-back noticeable performances, along with K-State’s near-miss in Lawrence. However, that assumption leans really hard on watching TCU and K-State – two preseason picks to struggle – nearly topple KU. If KU had decimated both, would I think the Big 12 was as good as I do today? Probably not. So, I’m left wondering is it the League that’s better? Or, is it KU isn’t quite what I thought it is?

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Big 12 Football power rankings: no defense for old men

I love the Big 12 Conference. It’s in my sports fan DNA having grown up in Kansas. So, lovingly, I say this to the Big 12: Y’all terrible.

The current version of this conference is a far cry from the days of the 12th Man, Lynch Mob, Blackshirts and many other fearsome defenses that once helped form the respect the nation had for Big 12 football.

Remember when this was a thing in the Big 12? There may not be 12 great defenders total in the entire conference these days.

Remember when this was a thing in the Big 12? There may not be 12 great defenders total in the entire conference these days.

Granted, Baylor and West Virginia are putting up some decent defensive statistics in 2016, and K-State is solid enough much of the time, but really, there is no strong defense in this league anymore. And, there is no respect – based on the FOX Sports and ESPN talking heads already saying an undefeated Big 12 champion won’t make the College Football Playoff over one-loss or even two-loss teams from better conferences.

That’s incredible. And, as a Big 12 loyalist, it stinks. Anyways, the rankings …

1. Baylor Bears (6-0, 3-0) — Someone has to be at the top, and the Bears will likely be here until they play West Virginia at the end of the regular season. It’s hard to be excited for anything Baylor does, though, because everyone knows the end of good football is on the horizon.

2. West Virginia Mountaineers (6-0, 3-0) — Okay, fine. West Virginia is better than I thought a few weeks ago. I still feel like this team’s record is better than the actual team, but the schedule is set up for this team to make a big run with home games against both Oklahoma and Baylor should it first survive its roadie against OSU.

3. Oklahoma Sooners (5-2, 4-0) — The Sooners once were the class of the league for all the right reasons. They set the standard both in conference and nationally. Now, they’re as much of the league’s defensive problem as anyone. Winning a high-scoring game against Texas Tech isn’t unacceptable, but having to score 66 points in order to do so is.

4. Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-2, 3-1) — The Cowboys toyed with KU until the second half when the offense kicked into gear and scored on six of seven drives (not including running out the clock at the end). This team is a great dark horse pick, especially if it can knock off West Virginia this weekend in Stillwater.

5. TCU Horned Frogs (4-3, 2-2) — There really isn’t that much exciting about the Horned Frogs at this point. Both the offensive and defensive units rank in the middle of the majority of Big 12 statistical categories, and those numbers don’t lie. There’s no thrill factor with a team that’s kinda good at most things and not really good at any of them.

6. Kansas State Wildcats (4-3, 2-2) — K-State beat Texas in Manhattan. Again. The defense looked as if it has regained its footing after getting gashed by Texas Tech and Oklahoma, but the passing offense is still the worst in the conference any way you want to examine the body. If you’re a quarterback who can throw first and also run pretty well, send your tape to Manhattan. There is a group of wide receivers who would love to recruit you.

7. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-4, 1-3) — Points. Offense. Records. Who cares? The head coach is 22-23 in the middle of his fourth year and showing no real momentum. As for standards: the coach in Austin has the same record in 2016 as the coach in Lubbock. One is for sure about to get canned. The other is just Dude Bro’ing along.

8. Texas Longhorns (3-4, 1-3) — Charlie Strong won’t be remembered for long after he’s gone… well, maybe he will, actually. He was the one who came in and decided the country club mentality set by Mack Brown and company needed adjustment. The result as Strong Year 3 winds down: the Longhorns are probably going to finish under .500 for the third straight year. That’s something the Longhorns program hasn’t done since four straight losing years from 1935-38 (9-26 over that stretch).

9. Iowa State Cyclones (1-6, 0-4) — This is the part of the year where teams with little success really start to wear down. It’ll be something to pay attention to: How does this Cyclones bunch finish up the back half of 2016? It’s especially interesting to watch since ISU gets four of its final five games in Ames. That may be enough to keep the players motivated and maybe even snag a win or two.

10. Kansas Jayhawks (1-6, 0-4) — David Beaty flipped the quarterback coin again last week as he played Montell Cozart instead of Ryan Willis, who had become a turnover machine the past few games. Cozart wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t great either, throwing two picks in the game and being mostly ineffective in the second half against OSU, even as Ke’aun Kinner turned in 145 rushing yards. Frankly, Beaty just doesn’t have a great option at QB, but such is the life of the worst teams in FBS football.

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Big 12 Football power rankings: Bottoms up!

llbrewspage

If we have to celebrate bad football and the worst teams getting better, let’s go bottoms up with a great beer out of Weston Brewing Co. I love this beer!

This season is one long, painful reminder that with no teams in the Top 10 and only three ranked overall, there really isn’t anything great about Big 12 football in 2016. But, the bottom teams have shown signs of life the past few weeks, so there’s that.

Seriously, that’s what we are down to celebrating … in October.

1. Baylor Bears (5-0, 2-0) — Full disclosure, I hate putting Baylor here, but it feels dirty keeping the No. 11-ranked team anywhere besides on top when nobody else is playing that well. I also thought the off-the-field stuff would affect the Bears before now and result in a couple of losses. It hasn’t, however, so good for them.

2. Oklahoma Sooners (3-2, 2-0) — OU threw another log on the Charlie Strong fire, and Dede Westbrook set a school record with 232 receiving yards. After shattering their national aspirations, it looks like the Sooners are finally settling in … four weeks too late.

3. TCU Horned Frogs (4-2, 2-1) — The Frogs were lucky to beat Kansas. It took three missed field goals in the fourth quarter to do it, but Gary Patterson’s guys got the win. That’s the nicest thing I can say about that performance.

4. Oklahoma State Cowboys (4-2, 2-1) — The Cowboys are off this week, so they  can sit back and watch whatever dumpster fire is sure to happen around the Big 12. They can also bask in the fact that they have scored at least 20 points in 22 consecutive games — third in the nation behind Oregon and TCU.

5. West Virginia Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0) — There are only 11 FBS schools undefeated at this point, and the Mountaineers might be the most unimpressive among them. Oh, and their starting kicker, Josh Lambert, left the team this week, so there’s that.

6. Kansas State Wildcats (3-2, 1-1) — K-State’s offense looked pretty darn good last time out and did its part along with the defense and special teams units. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the performance came against Texas Tech, who outlawed defense somewhere about 15 years ago. Way more impressive, the ‘Cats defense held Tech to just 10 points in the second half — including a junk touchdown at the end following a bogus penalty. With the win, KSU became the third Big 12 team to reach 100 league wins since it began in 1996.

7. Texas Longhorns (2-3, 0-2) — Is Charlie gone yet? No? Okay. We’ll check in again next week for a new edition of “How long ’til he gone?”

8. Iowa State Cyclones (1-5, 0-3) — The Cyclones have scored more than 30 points per game in their last three games. All things considered, this team may be bad still, but at least it’s becoming the exciting kind of bad — which seems to work just fine in, say, Lubbock.

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-2, 1-1) — Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Offense scores a bunch — Kliff is happy. Defense gives up more and team loses — Kliff daydreams of his next touchdown. Awful.

10. Kansas Jayhawks (1-4, 0-2) — At some point, this team is going to win a conference game, and I’ll even go as far as saying it could win two this year. KU has a couple of speedy playmakers on offense and special teams that could make a key play, swing momentum and outlast an opponent. TCU lucked out. Someone else won’t be as lucky.

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Kansas City Chiefs: Tyreek Hill now praiseworthy?

Man, does it feel like K-State let one get away last Saturday. The reasons for the team standing 2-2 instead of 3-1 are obvious.

– The old offensive coordinator in Bill Snyder has to be dying with the product his Wildcats are putting on the field.

– Penalties are up, indecision is common, and time of possession is the worst it has been since Ron Prince’s final season. And none of that speaks to Jesse Ertz’s 48.2% completion percentage after going 10-of-30 against West Virginia.

– Some extra perspective salt in the wound: Miami (OH) is 0-5, and its offense ranks nine spots higher than K-State’s. The Kansas Jayhawks are eight spots better.

– It’s a shame, too, because the Wildcats’ superb defense (No. 4 in FBS) and top-level special teams units collectively belong on a team ranked in the Top 10.

– Is it a shame many seemed to have moved on and decided Kansas City Chiefs rookie Tyreek Hill is worthy of praise?

– Even on television, you can hear an excited buzz every time Hill touches the ball, and I don’t think the buzz is remnant mock outrage over his getting drafted following his domestic violence charge.

– Not surprised, but I also am not sure how these things are supposed to work in today’s age. So, someone help me understand.

– I’ve given up trying to understand what the Big 12 wants regarding expansion.

– I once believed Dan Beebe was the biggest factor in the Big 12’s inability to think progressively.

– Watching the Conference during this latest round of expansion discussions made it crystal clear to me, however, that no commissioner could fix the unpredictable dysfunction regularly injected into things by the school presidents.

– The Sooner someone reminds the group that this is a “sum greater than the parts” deal, the better.

– Trying to keep all the parts together in 2017 worries me when it comes to the Kansas City Royals.

– Maybe everybody comes back healthy and on fire.

– Or, maybe they all come back another year older and even less capable of repeating 2014 and 2015.

– Or, maybe they all come back, are capable, and have to watch Joakim Soria pitch.

 

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