The Kansas State Wildcat men’s basketball team has officially failed to make it into the NCAA 2015 tournament. There will be no “March Madness” for the Wildcats this year. This is the first time since 2009 that the Wildcats have failed to make an appearance in the NCAA tournament. Also, this season marks the Wildcats’ first losing record since 2003. The Wildcats’ season came to an abrupt end last Wednesday when they lost 67-65 to TCU in the first round of the Big 12 tournament, finishing 15-17 on the season. In the words of head coach Bruce Weber after the game: “Our guys fought vibrantly, like they did all year, and it’s disappointing. You want to keep playing and you want to keep coaching, but you have to help the guys and move forward and that’s all you can do.”
Many are arguing that Bruce Weber is in fact, the reason that the Wildcats are not going to make an appearance in the NCAA tournament this year. Weber chose to sit two of his key players, Marcus Foster the team’s leading scorer and Malek Harris, a top high school recruit, due to misconduct. This came when the Wildcats were on the bubble and still had a chance of making an appearance in the tournament. After benching these players, the Wildcats lost three straight games. Meanwhile, Texas, one of those three losses, is making an appearance in the NCAA tournament as an 11 seed. This could easily have been K-State had they won the three games, or at least one or two, which would have been very possible had their key players not been on the bench.
This was Weber’s third season as the head coach of the Wildcats since taking over for Frank Martin. Martin was promoted from assistant to head coach of the Wildcats in 2007 and parted ways with K-State in 2012, becoming head coach at South Carolina. During this time, Martin led the Wildcats to their first Elite Eight appearance in the tournament since 1988. I know many Wildcat fans who argue that Martin would not have made the same decisions as Weber this year and would have led the Wildcats to another appearance in the NCAA tournament.
I am not of this opinion.
I am thankful for a coach with the integrity and character of Bruce Weber. I believe he made the right decision in benching Foster and Harris. Whether or not this cost them an appearance in the tournament, it is still the right decision.
In this day and age, the extremes with which coaches and teams approach personal misconduct are ever widening. For example, the NFL just experienced one of the most tumultuous seasons it has ever experienced with scandals involving the likes of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. In one case, the Vikings immediately benched Adrian Peterson (perhaps the best running back in the NFL). In the other case, the Ravens enforced as little punishment as possible and followed league guidelines until the Ray Rice case became a PR disaster and they were forced to severe ties with him.
I will firmly stand with Weber and would much rather watch the NCAA tournament this year without seeing my Wildcats make an appearance than let personal misconduct and undisciplined behavior go unreprimanded. Not enforcing any consequences for acting out and being childish is, by its very nature, encouraging such poor behavior. Call me whatever you like, be as mad with me as you might be with Weber, but this is still only a game. The lives and character of young men are more important than a trophy. So, on behalf of all Wildcat fans with a conscious: thank you Bruce Weber. Here’s to next year!