The Kansas State Wildcats finished under .500 for the second straight year, and we take a look back in this 2020-21 basketball season in review.
Note: Updated on March 22 to reflect three K-State players who have submitted their names to the transfer portal.
Record: 9-20 (4-14 in Big 12)
Seniors/lettermen losing: G Mike McGuirl (11.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.0 spg).
Note: NCAA rules allow all players to trigger an extra year of eligibility for the 2021-22 season due to COVID-19. These seniors have the choice to return based on that rule.
Any NBA Bound?: None.
Any One-and-dones or early entries?: None.
Any transfers: F Antonio Gordon, G Rudi Williams and G DaJuan Gordon have all submitted their names to the transfer portal.
Who and what returns?
Top players expected to return: Nijel Pack (12.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.0 spg); F Davion Bradford, (7.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Selton Miguel (7.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.0 spg); Kasoi Ezeagu (5.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg).
The player(s) you don’t know about: F Carlton Linguard Jr. was a player I pegged as one that could help the Wildcats immediately this season, given his success in his one season at Temple College in Temple, Texas. There, he was selected NJCAA Region 5 Team, as well as the All-Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference. He also nearly averaged a double-double, scoring 13.9 points and grabbing 9.5 rebounds. He also averaged more than three blocked shots per game. But the playing time never really materialized. Linguard entered 17 games, but played just six minutes per game, due in part to injuries, and scored a little more than two points per game. Now, junior college players don’t always make an immediate impact in Division I. And Linguard had plenty of competition for playing time in the front court. The Wildcats need more help in terms of rim protection — Bradford and Ezeagu combined for just 25 blocked shots. Hopefully, Linguard can stay healthy next season and give the Wildcats that rim protection.
2021 recruiting class: C Logan Landers, 6-foor-10, Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
The national 200 recruit, per 247Sports.com, signed with the Wildcats in November. The development of Bradford may reduce the need for Landers to make an immediate impact.
Commitments yet to sign: The Wildcats have a hard commit from F Maximus Edwards, a 6-foot-5 forward from Our Savior Lutheran School in Stratford, Connecticut, according to 247sports.com. Rivals.com notes a similar commitment from Edwards. He would add to the Wildcats’ wing depth for next season. With the transfer portal departures, Weber now has more scholarship ammunition for this offseason.
Summarizing the season
We knew the Wildcats were rebuilding, and it was a tough road for most of the season. Early on, in part due to injury and in part due to a talent deficit, Weber slotted Pack, Bradford and Miguel into his starting lineup. Pack thrived right away and emerged as not only the Wildcats’ top offensive threat, but also its top facilitator. It took more time for Bradford and Miguel to get going, but by season’s end they were reliable options.
DaJuan Gordon, a promising freshman from 2019-20, made strides his sophomore year and ended up as the team’s leading rebounder. The revelation was McGuirl, whose development had, frankly, been slow during his previous seasons in Manhattan. But, facing his senior year, McGuirl had a tremendous season, and proved a capable and willing leader for the young players on this team. That helped the Wildcats turn the tide from an awful 13-game losing streak in January and February. The Wildcats turned a bit of a corner, winning four of their final six games, including an upset of then-Top 25 Oklahoma at home. The Wildcats won a game at the Big 12 Tournament and actually nudged Baylor a little in the Big 12 quarterfinals before bowing out. It was their second straight losing season, but it could have been worse.
Looking ahead to 2021-22
First, is McGuirl coming back? He’s the only senior on the team and with the NCAA’s rule that allows an additional year of eligibility, he’s the only player that faces that immediate decision. After the season he had in 2020-21, I’m all for him coming back for another year. After that, it’s a summer of player development for Pack, Bradford and Miguel, as they represent the core of this team with DaJuan Gordon opting to transfer. That may not strike fear in the hearts of Big 12 coaches right now. But freshman tend to make big strides going into their sophomore years. I could see Pack taking his overall game to the next level and challenging for All-Big 12 status. Bradford absolutely needs to become a better shot blocker. Miguel’s 3-point shooting needs to improve (just 22.5 percent). But there are pieces there. In fact, Weber has plenty of pieces to develop, including Ezeagu, Linguard, Seyree Lewis, Montavious Murphy and Luke Kasubke. Murphy, especially, has the potential to be dynamic, but he can’t stay healthy. With the trio in the transfer portal, Weber can now work the recruiting and transfer market a bit more, and with this core of young talent, a graduate transfer might make more sense. There’s enough talent here where Weber doesn’t have to rely on Landers and Edwards and Landers. A .500 season is a realistic possibility for this team in a ‘normal’ season in 2021-22. That could represent a potential NIT berth for a program trying to rebuild itself into a NCAA Tournament-caliber program.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard