If you would have told me back in December that the Wildcats were going to end the regular season with a 16-15 record, I wouldn’t have argued with you. The way last season ended, with transfers and player dismissals, all signs were pointing towards a rebuilding year. Just looking at the wins and losses it’s easy to think that the Cats had little to no progression this season.With that being said, I’m here to tell you that the state of the Wildcat basketball program is in a much better place now than it was a year ago.
Now in his fourth season as head coach, Weber led the Cats to the NCAA Tournament in his first two seasons. A miss this year would mark the second straight season that the Wildcats failed to reach the NCAA Tournament. There are, however, some encouraging signs that should make Wildcat nation feel optimistic for the near future. Young guys like Dean Wade and Barry Brown were selected to the Big 12 All-Newcomer team, making them the first Wildcat duo to receive the honor. If it wasn’t for the injury to Kamau Stokes, I believe he was well on his way to make the list as well. Wesley Iwundu was also selected to both the All-Big 12 Third Team and All-Defensive team. Iwundo also ranks in the top 10 of the Big 12 in both assists and minutes played. Furthermore, 11 of the Wildcats’ 15 losses this season came against teams that were Top 25 opponents. The Cats have also found themselves in many close games this season losing 11 games by 10 points or less.
Barring a highly unlikely run in the Big 12 Tournament to receive an NCAA bid, there is still reason to believe that K-State can receive a postseason opportunity. In reality the NIT is a tournament for the best of the worst, and I completely understand the criticism it generates. But for a young, developing team like the Wildcats, an opportunity to gain some postseason experience could go a long way. However, the current focus for the Cats is Oklahoma State. With a victory on Wednesday against Cowboys in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, the Cats’ NIT hopes could be greatly improved. The Cats split the season series against the Cowboys with the victory coming before the season ending injury to Stokes.
Sure, it’s always frustrating to miss out on the big dance, but a trip to the NCAA Tournament next season is well within reach for Weber and company. Though the 16-15 record doesn’t prove much, the young talent and close losses suggest there are bigger things to come in Manhattan, Kansas. With the continued leadership of Iwundu and the development of young players like Wade, Brown and Stokes, the Cats will be better positioned to win the close games next season and K-State fans will yet again have something to be excited about when Selection Sunday rolls around.
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