How good are the Wildcats?

By Steve Sell
December 01, 2016

Thursday’s thoughts...

• HOW GOOD IS KANSAS STATE? — We may have to wait until Dec. 30 to find out just how good Kansas State’s men’s basketball team is.

The Wildcats are off to a 6-1 start after Wednesday night’s 80-61 victory over Wisconsin-Green Bay, one in the long line of red-meat opponents for them to fatten up their record.

I can understand with coach Bruce Weber on the hot seat that K-State might want to keep its fan base happy with blowout non-conference victories. But outside of Maryland— the Wildcats’ only loss and a game they probably should have won — this schedule looks like Bill Snyder’s slates when he was trying to get the Wildcat football program turned around.

It’s quite a litany — Western Illinois, Omaha, Hampton, Robert (Bob) Morris so far and there’s still games with Prairie View A & M, Colorado State and Gardner Webb among others.

Realistically, K-State should be 11-1 when it hosts Texas on Dec. 30 in the Big 12 opener. Only Washington State should be a mild hurdle until then.

It’s a bit of shame the Wildcats have scheduled so soft. I really believe they have a team that could contend for the Big 12’s upper division, which at this point appears to be led by Kansas, West Virginia, Baylor and Iowa State. I don’t think Texas is as strong as past years, nor is Oklahoma, while new coaches are featured at Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech.

Now I’m not saying the Wildcats will be a threat to topple Kansas from its 12-year perch at the top. But they have a hard-working post in DJ Johnson, a super-smooth operative in Wesley Iwundu, and good guard play, led by Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes.

The X-factor, though, is Dean Wade, who prepped at St. John under coach Clint Kinnamon. Wade is especially skilled for a 6-10 player, as he handles the ball well and shoots the 3. For whatever reason though, he’s not incorporated into the offense as much as he needs to be. He should be a 12-point, 8-rebound player as he’s a matchup nightmare. Hopefully Weber will hammer the point that his team needs to get Wade more involved.

Kansas State’s Charmin-like scheduling won’t gain it many favors with the NCAA Tournament committee when it comes time for picking the field, so K-State needs to go at least 12-6 in the conference to score points with the decision-makers. I would think 23 wins would get it in, especially if it could win a game or two against the expected Top 4 of the conference.

• MHS SWIMMERS IMPRESSIVE — Matt Morrow’s McPherson High boys swimming team raised a few eyebrows on Tuesday with its impressive performance at Newton.

Generally a meet where the Bullpups finish in the middle of the pack or lower, they came up with a second-place finish and held a decisive edge over the host Railers, who were well back in third.

Morrow doesn’t have the numbers that he would like, but he’s got a lot of quality. While Eric Gaeddert has been a staple throughout his career and is one of the best swimmers in the state, newcomer Will Powers made an immediate impact as MHS’ top scorer at Newton. Powers has torn up the youth circuit in recent summers and appears to be the real deal.

MHS already has achieved or challenged state times in several events. It will be fun to watch this team develop.

• BIG GAME FOR CHIEFS — It was thought that if Kansas City could go 1-1 in its two straight road games, it could close in on a playoff berth.

The Chiefs now have to be thinking 2-0.

I don’t think many people believed they could go into Denver and win for a second straight year. The Broncos are one of the toughest home teams in the NFL and very seldom lose before their home faithful.

I just hope the Chiefs approach the Atlanta game on Sunday with the same mentality. The Falcons are another tough home team and play very well on their fast track as they have an explosive offense. The Chiefs’ secondary has been toasted in recent games and I’m sure Julio Jones’ eyes are lighting up.

If the Chiefs win to move to 9-3, you have to like their chances. After Sunday, they play three straight games at home (Oakland, Tennessee and Denver) before closing at dangerous San Diego.