Written on January 21st, The Leavenworth Times' Mac Stevenson, penned it best: "Kansas State’s basketball team hasn’t fallen off the oblivion cliff yet, but they’re teetering on the edge." Apologies for piggy-backing off his lede, but it couldn't be more aptly put - and that was before Saturday's loss to Texas A&M.
A funny thing happened on the way back to the Elite Eight and beyond. Devoid of leadership, and full of turmoil and utter confusion among players and coaches, the Wildcats are 1-4 to start Big 12 play, and many are befuddled as to why this talent-laden club featuring the explosive Jacob Pullen, agile Jamar Samuels and (sometimes agile) Curtis Kelly can't get it together.
I am not one of those people. Kansas State just might not be that good, and we should have seen this coming.
With a seemingly endless line of talented players who could disrupt opponent's offenses and cause nightmare-inducing match-up problems, Frank Martin's rotation in 2009-2010 went 10-, sometimes 11-deep. Four players averaged double figures, and all players grabbed offensive rebounds to help snag extra possessions and second chance points.
This season, yeah, they're still one of the country's top offensive rebounding teams (15.8/game) and they're scoring is actually up, but it's a wildly deceptive statistic. Against those quality win-type teams, the Wildcats tighten up and then unravel. In their seven losses, the team averages only 59 points a game, a whole 14 points less than their season average of 73. They're 0-7 against the RPI top 50, and their tournament resume currently hinges on victories over the equally as underachieving Virginia Tech and Gonzaga.
In short, these guys can't beat good basketball teams. And with Baylor and Kansas on the peripheral, they're likely to be lucky just to sniff the onslaught of Bubble Watches about to be published as we enter the month of February.
Somewhat similar to the 2000-2001 Iowa State Cyclones, and last season's Oklahoma Sooners, the Wildcats might be this season's biggest disappointment, making some national publications look downright silly for picking them to reach this year's Final Four. Albeit in a very passive-aggressive way, Martin has not shied away from publicly criticizing his current squad by gushing about last year's trio of seniors. Those guys carried themselves like grown men, not little boys.
Off-court, Kelly was slapped with a six-game suspension in December for accepting clothing discounts at a local department store, and Pullen, who also missed a few games for also accepting free garb, has been quoted as saying he wouldn't play in the NIT if that was as good as this team could do. Call me crazy, but it wasn't an attempt to motivate the troops. Instead, a blatant display of immaturity and poutyness.
Oh Denis Clemente, how we yearn for thee.