Kansas State officially reached the nadir of its basketball season on Tuesday when it lost 64-59, at home no less, to Oklahoma State, the team that had occupied the cellar all by its lonesome before now being joined by the Wildcats.
After tying with Texas Tech for the title last year and ending rival Kansas’ stranglehold, the Wildcats are now 2-9 in the conference, the same as Oklahoma State.
Mired in a four-game losing streak, the Wildcats are now 9-15 overall and postseason play is only a mirage.
Fortunately for Kansas State coach Bruce Weber, he bought himself some working capital with last year’s title. And Wildcat fans knew losing the triumvirate of Dean Wade, Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes would be difficult to overcome as they had been the team’s heart and soul for three years.
But I’m not sure even the most faithful supporters saw this coming. They’re patient with Weber for now, but another year like this could be critical to his future.
The Wildcats have one of the Big 12’s supreme talents in Xavier Sneed, who contemplated joining the departed seniors in the NBA Draft. The consensus was by returning, he’d be the No. 1 option and perhaps find himself being picked at the bottom of the first round.
But in the games I’ve watched, Sneed yields to others and doesn’t take over games despite having the ability to do so. He is shooting only 38 percent from the field and 32 from 3-point.
Cartier Diarra has been up-and-down, but he is shooting just 40 percent, 33 from 3.
You see a theme.
Kansas State simply doesn’t shoot it well. Even big man Makol Mawien, whose shots mostly come from close range, is at 45 percent and averages only 7.4 points a game – but that’s good for third on the team.
Weber has gone with a youth movement as he has some freshmen and transfers who fill out the other spots in the lineup. There’s high hopes for the Gordons, DaJuan and Antonio, as they’re experiencing growing pains, but have the talent to play big minutes down the road.
It hasn’t helped that nine different players have started games this year as Weber looks for answers to get his team going. But the revolving door leads to a lack of continuity.
The Wildcats still have time left in the regular season to rise from the rubble. Four of the remaining games are on the road, with losses at Texas Tech and Baylor almost virtual cinches, but they could win at TCU and Oklahoma State.
There’s the home rumble with Kansas, which could be a game they get inspired for with the way the first meeting ended in Allen Field House. I’d like to think home games against Texas and Iowa State will produce victories since both of those teams are down.
What makes this year hard to stomach is that it’s as down as the Big 12 has been for a long time. There are four legitimate teams with Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia (which the Wildcats routed at home) and Texas Tech. Oklahoma is a fringe NCAA team, but the bottom five are all struggling. Had Kansas State just been able to shoot the ball at all, it could have been as a high as fifth.
This is just a season that Weber and Wildcats will flush down the drain and look to next year.