Thursday, March 29, 2007

Beasley takes MVP, and Huskers gone off their rockers

K-State recruit Michael Beasley took MVP honors in last night's McDonald's All-America game. I tried to post some video, but I'm having trouble getting it right. Anyone who knows how to post videos from Youtube, please advise.

Anyway, Beasley scored 23 points on 10-13 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds. That's the (really) good news. The bad news? He made a couple mistakes that led to bad turnovers. I shouldn't complain, the kid's a huge talent and is going to be great in purple next year. I just want to throw a word of caution all the fans who are predicting he'll be the next Kevin Durant. If you are predicting that, you don't realize how special Durant is. He's incredible, unbelievable, every adjective in the book. If Beasley is half that good (and by half, I mean a 15 points/8 boards kind of guy) he'll be a hell of a freshman. Between him, Walker and Hoskins, we'll have plenty of scoring punch. Throw in the experienced guard play of Clent Stewart and Blake Young, and the potential for a really good year is all there. Now, will Jason Bennett or Luis Colon put in the time this offseason to really step up? Our biggeset hole is in the middle, and if one of those guys becomes a serviceable big man, there's the CHANCE we could win the Big 12 (emphasize chance).

Anyway, I'm excited. It was great to have Beasley to watch last night and read and write about today considering there isn't much football news yet.


Before I start this section, a confession. I'm not a born-and-bred K-Stater. I'm a transplant. This next section should let you know where I came from.

This has been a loony week up in Lincoln, Nebraska. Last weekend, we had the Sam Keller saga, wherein he lost a parking spot to a girl, then attempted a crossing route with her car as the receiver and a plastic cup as the football. All in the middle of some apparently foul language. As I hear it, the charges will be dropped (although I don't have an official source for that).

Of course, Husker fans would have been thrilled if that was the worst news they faced this week. Running back Kenny Wilson somehow managed to break his femur while moving a TV (that must have been one big damn TV). That's really not good news for the Huskers, as they are starting to look awfully thin at running back. Brandon Jackson left for the NFL, Marlon Lucky spent some time in critical condition in the ICU this offseason, and now Wilson breaks the biggest bone in his body and is out for the year. It appears Cody Glenn is the only Husker running back to make it through the offseason healthy thus far.

Potentially worse news also broke yesterday, as starting cornerback Zac Bowman sustained a knee injury in practice yesterday. Apparently, it's not the knee he blew out last year, but today's reports indicate he'll be out 4.5-6 months. That means the earliest he could return is the middle of August, and he could be out until the end of September. That's bad news for a defensive secondary that, to put it mildly, wasn't particularly impressive last year.

But of course these days in Husker nation, it's never enough that there's controversy and bad things happening on the field. Hell no, just when you thought the Husker civil war (old school vs. new school) had subsided for a while, it rears its ugly head again. Apparently the athletic department will be host to its annual Lettermen's Tournament (golf) at Wilderness Ridge the day before the spring game this year. But now, another group associated with Husker football is holding a "reunion" tournament THE SAME DAY.

This wouldn't seem to be the end of the world except for two major things. The other tournament is called "Fun-The Original Husker Way." Umm, if you think that refers to anything other than Husker football pre-Steve Pederson and pre-Bill Callahan, you're probably dumber than the recliner I'm currently sitting on. But even better, I want to draw your attention to a single line from the story linked above...

"[Tom] Osborne said he didn't receive an invitation to the athletic department's event."

I've officially heard it all. I had to dig my feet into the scorching Houston dirt to see if I could feel the chill from hell freezing over. I'll be checking the news reports to see when Steve Pederson's ego breaks loose and leaves Lincoln in ruins.

We're talking about Tom fucking Osborne here. This guy takes a back seat to no one in Nebraska, God included (and God is a very important guy in NE). This guy won you people 2.5 national titles (or one and two halves, as AJ puts it). I know Democrats in Nebraska who switched their party affiliation to vote for Osborne (who makes Newt Gingrich look liberal) in the primaries. And now he's persona non grata at your AD's annual golf tournament? Mere words cannot describe my thoughts on this.

Is this a rebuke for Osborne because he is now a mentor at Creighton, who some Husker fans view as their evil in-state nemesis? Is there something deeper here? Is this the explanation for why Pederson can't raise enough money to pay for the sports complex that bears Osborne's name?

The split in the Cornhusker State has now manifested itself for all to see. I never thought I'd hear anyone (other than the few Nebraska Democrats) criticize Tom Osborne. That thought ended today when I cruised by this tidbit from a moderator at HuskersIllustrated.

Osborne needs to get out of the way. If he doesn't want his actions perceived as shots at the current athletic department, maybe he should quit taking obvious shots at them. It's plain hypocritical crap that says more about him than it does about the current administration.

Holy shit I don't know what to say. Can't wait to see how this story unfolds in the coming days.

My only complaint is that the competing tournament is at HiMark. Couldn't you get a better course?


Have a good weekend everyone. I'm getting on a jet plane to St. Louis tomorrow, so don't expect any updates before Sunday. I hope to have another K-State "week in review" post up Sunday night.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring practice starts today

It sure is nice when the break between the end of basketball season (one week ago today) and the beginning of football season (today at 4 p.m.) is one week or less. In the future, the gap should be even smaller, if Huggins can continue to show the type of improvement we saw just this year.

Apparently Josh Freeman has put his offseason to good use in the weightroom. I like to hear that he's bigger and stronger, because he took a beating last year behind our inexperienced and injury-ravaged offensive line. I'm not sure the offensive line is going to be a whole lot better this year, meaning Freeman may need the extra bulk to withstand another tough season.

My only fear is that he concentrated too hard on the weightroom this season and neglgected the film study and on-field improvement aspects of the game. He made some great improvements in reading and reacting to opposing defenses last season, but considering where he started (...the Baylor game, *shudder*), that's not necessarily saying much. I was at the Baylor game last year, and Freeman looked totally lost out there. He made horrible decisions under pressure, basically just throwing the ball up for grabs several times (he had three INTs that day, in case you forgot).

Now before you go and think I'm a Freeman hater, I'm not. The kid has amazing potential and wonderful natural talent. His play against Iowa State, Colorado and Texas was the primary reason we got into a bowl game. I think we'll see even more improvement from him this year, but I want to see some consistency, too.

Of course, Freeman's going to need some help. He got pretty much none most of the season from the big guys up front, which has to change if we want to make any strides on offense. I'm not breaking any new ground by saying the OL is the key to the entire offense, because if they can't protect the passer or make holes for the runners, it's going to be hard to make much progress. By my count, we have eight returnees who had starting experience last year (Unruh, Handy, Hafferty, Spexarth, Bedore, Rooker, Stringer and Robinson). I really think if we can avoid injuries up front (easier said than done), the OL can be one of the stronger units on the team.

We certainly have the talent at the other positions to take advantage if the line pans out. I love the combination of James Johnson and Leon Patton in the background, and we saw how good they can be when the OL got it together late last year (the weaker defenses of ISU and CU probably helped, too). We need Jordy Nelson to lead a young WR corp.

More comments to come as we get more news about the newcomers and how they are progressing.


For all you Cat fans who still live in the Manhattan area, here's an opportunity I wouldn't pass up. On April 11th, coaching legend John Wooden is coming to K-State. Hit the link for details of his visit and speech. I wouldn't miss a chance to see this man speak for all the weirdos in Lawrence, he's the greatest basketball coach who ever lived, and one heck of a good human being.

I'm watching the McDonald's All-America dunk contest right now. No video yet, but future Wildcat Michael Beasley had a couple sick dunks, including one for a perfect 50. He went for the kill shot on his final attempt, nearly pulling off a between-the-legs throwdown off the glass. The kid's going to be a stud, let's just hope he loses his Sharpie on the way to Manhattan.


It looks like Billy Gillispie is going to stay at Texas A&M now. Ok, so all the assumptions I made earlier based on what Arkansas officials were saying were wrong. But it also sounds like A&M threw themselves prostrate at Gillispie's feet to entice him to stay (new contract, new facilities, etc.). Props to A&M for doing what it takes to keep a top-flight basketball coach, this will do nothing but help the Big 12 down the road.

On a personal level, I think this is a good call by Gillispie. His name was tossed around at Kentucky when Tubby Smith left, but I can't figure out why anybody would want to coach at Kentucky. For the same reasons, I can't figure out why anyone would want to coach at Alabama in football. The expectations are practically unattainable, and the fans are too demanding. Further, with a tip of the hat to the Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice, there's almost no way you can top your predecessors there. Even at Arkansas, even if he did pull off a national title (certainly no sure thing) he'd only be as good as Nolan Richardson. If he won a national title at A&M, they'd probably rename the town after him, creating the "metro" area of Billy Clyde/Bryan, Texas.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Gillispie to Arkansas?

A bit of a surprise out of Fayeteville today, as the University of Arkansas announced it was firing head basketball coach Stan Heath. I had heard before the SEC conference tournament that Heath would be out if the Razorbacks failed to make the NCAA tournament. After a run through the weaker teams of the SEC, followed by a 21 point ass-ramming at the hands of Florida in the conference title game, the Sows somehow backed into the Big Dance ahead of teams such as K-State and Syracuse, despite their losing conference record in the weaker of two SEC divisions (I'm not still bitter about that or anything).

After making the Big Dance, the Sows certainly proved they belonged, only falling to USC by 17. It appears that even a selection committee gaffe wasn't enough to save Heath's job, however, and now the rumor mill is really ramping up as to who the replacement will be. The early word is that Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie is the front-runner, with some sources even claiming it's already a done deal.

It all makes some sense to me that this is possible. Frank Broyles, the UofA AD, may have had his sights set on Gillispie from the beginning, and wanted to make sure he had him locked up before firing his coach. Probably better to do that than fire the coach before a sure-fire replacement is in the works, right Nebraska fans? Also, Broyles may have wanted to wait until A&M's tournament run was over, in which case he should be commended for not following in Dean Smith's footsteps when he openly courted Roy Williams during KU's run to the title game in 2003. If all this is the case, it's certainly possible an agreement in principle was reached between Thursday night (when A&M was eliminated) and today when Heath was fired.

I also have reasons to believe Gillispie would be interested in leaving A&M, in spite of his near-hero status in College Station. First, Arkansas fans may have a slightly inflated sense of their standing as a traditional power, but they do have a recent national championship to their credit, whereas A&M has never been on the map as a basketball powerhouse. Even worse for A&M may be the "Texas football syndrome." We saw it even in Oklahoma last year, as Kelvin Sampson bolted for Indiana, at least in part due to the fact that football will always be the primary sport at OU (the threat of sanctions probably didn't help either). In College Station, as in the rest of Texas where A&M fans reside (pretty much everywhere), football will always be king. I don't care if Gillispie had taken the Aggies to the Final Four this year, the A&M fans would still be equally interested in spring football news from Fran's Disaster Crew (sorry Ags, Fran should not be your man). At least at Arkansas, Gillispie can coach at a school where basketball can be considered the most important sport.

Another consideration could be the money. As far as I can tell, Gillispie is making $930,000 at A&M, and has the possiblity of earning a $1 million bonus if he stays through 2012. Apparently Heath made a bit less than that, but I'm guessing UofA would be willing to pony up for Gillispie if they really want him. All they really need to offer is $1.1 million per year for five years in order to match A&M's offer.

So what does this mean for the Big 12? Obviously it means losing a young and talented basketball coach. It also fuels the perception that the Big 12 is an inferior basketball conference, in my opinion. As long as the Texas schools continue their damn-everything-but-football mentality and the Big 12 front office (in Dallas) does nothing to promote Big 12 basketball (thanks Kevin Weiberg), the national perception will remain the same and teams like K-State will get shafted from the tournament if there's even the slightest reason to doubt them.


On a happier note, big ups to my sister for being offered her first post-graduate job today. Way to go sis!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Week in Review, 3/25

A busy week in K-State sports, and as always some bad and some good.

Men's Basketball

The Cats ended their season with a disappointing home loss to DePaul. Still, it capped the most successful season in 10 years for K-State as Bob Huggins took us to the postseason in his first attempt. For my full season review, click here.

Women's Basketball

Lazarus, err, the K-State women's basketball team, has now recovered from its dreadful 4-12 record in conference play to win three games in the women's NIT (remind me how a 4-12 and last place conference team gets into the NIT?). Freshman forward Ashley Sweat has been the team MVP in the tournament, averaging 15 ppg the last three. Probably would have been a much better season if former Big 12 All-Rookie forward Marlies Gipson wouldn't have gone down with a leg injury. Good luck to the women against either Wyoming or South Dakota State.


After two dreadful games against the ninth-ranked Texas Longhorns, the Bat Cats finally remembered how to hit today in Austin. After totalling six runs and 12 hits through two games, the Cats hammered out 17 hits and 11 runs today to take the final game of the series, 11-9. I think we all pretty much admitted we were going to drop this series to UT, especially on the road, so I'm happy to take one game when it would have been easy to mail it in. The conference is pretty much wide-open this year, as the current standings show.
1. Texas 5-1
2. Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State 2-1
5. Texas A&M, Texas Tech 3-3
7. Baylor, KU, Nebraska 2-4
10. K-State 1-2

Obviously we're tied with Baylor, KU and Nebraska in winning percentage, but I have us lower because of the fewer games. Next week, the Cats will be host to Texas Tech in a winnable series.

Men's Golf

Tim Norris' squad headed to Arizona for the Ron Moore invitational earlier this week, notching a third-place finish in a 17-team field. Don't let the high finish fool you though, the Cats trailed team champion and perennial power Wichita State by 19 shots and conference rival Nebraska by two, and did not finish in front of any highly touted teams. So far this spring, the Cats have finished last twice and in the middle of the pack twice against mediocre competition. Golfweek currently has the Cats rated #150, behind every other Big 12 program. Seems like a long time since the days when Matt Van Cleave and the crew only missed nationals by a shot.

Women's Golf

The women's golf team also traveled to Arizona this weekend for the Mountain View Collegiate. After one day, the women stand 7th in a 16 team field, behind primarily Big 12 competition. It's been an up-and-down spring so far for the women, who are rated 78th by Golfweek. Play concludes today.

Track and Field

The men's and women's track teams participated in the Jim Click Shootout this weekend against some solid competition from the Pac 10 and SEC. The women won six events, including Beverly Ramos (3000 meter steeplechase), Kaylene Wagner (high jump), Jenny Glodowski (shot put), Laci Heller (hammer throw), and Ashley Reider (hammer throw).

On the men's side, the Cats had one champion in Kyle Lancaster (high jump).

In other news...

I've been unimpressed by the officiating in the NCAA tournament. Individual calls are difficult, given the speed of the game, but the state of officiating these days is sad. My dad is a high school and college volleyball official back at home, and he went to an informational session for a mid-major college conference, where he was told by the director of the conference that officials who made close calls late in the game would not be hired. People who complain about officiating usually make two tired arguments...
1. Officials need to be more consistent
2. Officials shouldn't "decide games" by making a close call at the end of a game.
I have news for you. When a player commits a foul at the end of the game, the official is deciding the game by NOT calling it. Also, by not calling it then, the officials are being inconsistent with their earlier calls. It doesn't matter if it happens in the first 30 seconds or on the last play of the game, if it's a foul, it should be called.

This whole rant goes to the Georgetown-Vandy game on Friday. I don't care what Billy Packer says, that was a travel by Jeff Green on the game-winning shot. He had established his pivot foot, slid it, and then lifted it in order to create separation BEFORE jumping. Walk.

The other poorly officiated game was today between Oregon and Florida. Oregon was apparently not allowed to breathe on the court, while Noah and Horford continually got away with assault. I'll also never understand how Horford can back a guy down 10 feet with his shoulder and back (like he did against Butler) and that's any less of a foul than the touch on the arm he suffered on the shot.


I looked up Nebraska's disturbing the peace statute, and if Sam Keller really did what is alleged, he is probably guilty as charged. It certainly appears to me that he used "Provacative language consisting of profane, indecent or abusive remarks directed toward the person of the hearer." Like I said on Friday, a disturbing the peace by itself is really no big deal (it's a Class III misdemeanor). But I'll defer to AJ the HuskerH8er on why it's a bigger deal because of who the person is. And to the Husker fans who say they wouldn't even have been as calm as Keller, I suggest you try if you're ever in my current hometown (Houston) and are unlucky enough to have someone take "your" parking spot. Texans don't throw cups in retaliation.


Tough loss last night for KU. It looked to me like experience won out in that one, as UCLA did more than lose to two mid-majors the last two years in the NCAA tournament. Also, KU's lack of a go-to scorer seemed to hurt them, as it looked like nobody wanted to take a shot when the going got tough in the second half. I will be interested to see what this means for KU's players. There was speculation in the KC Star this morning that Brandon Rush, among others, may consider leaving. I won't be surprised if Rush at least tests the waters, but it sounds like Julian Wright is pretty firm about coming back. Mario Chalmers is one heck of a good player, but his primary selling point is his defense, which is less important in the NBA. Another year of working on his offensive game would do him some good. Darrell Arthur better not even think about it, he's nowhere near ready. But anyway, congrats on the good season Beaks, we'll see ya next year.


Congrats to Ohio State, UCLA, Florida (well, not really you bastards) and Georgetown. KU fans everywhere rejoice in Roy Williams' misery.

Sure wouldn't mind seeing this again in the UCLA-UF game next week.

Have a good one.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Quick-Hitters

Condolences to my Aggie friends on the loss last night. Good season though, and congrats and good luck to Acie Law.


A hearty congratulations to Nebraska QB Sam Keller for taking road rage to levels I can only envy. Ok, so a girl took a parking spot you considered "yours." If that happens to me, you can bet I'm going to cuss loudly to myself, in my car. I may even lift a middle finger, to express my anger. But I'm not going to get out of my car, scream obscenities at her, and throw a plastic cup at her car. In the big scheme of things, a disturbing the peace citation isn't exactly Lawrence Phillips dragging a girl down the stairs by her hair, but it sure does indicate a lack of maturity.


I missed on my Texas A&M pick, and Tennessee fell apart to ruin my upset pick. Like I said, I'm no bracketologist. That said, for tonight my picks are Florida, Oregon, Georgetown and Roy Williams, thus keeping alive my national title game dream (see below).


Have a great weekend. Don't fall asleep at the wheel of your car and get charged with DUI.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

One Shining Moment

The following is a fantasy based on how I hope the next two weeks of the NCAA tournament turn out. It's based on two aims of mine, 1) that the Big 12 does well, and 2) that KU gets its heart ripped out. These are my goals because K-State got snubbed by the tournament for (among other things) the fact that the Big 12 is considered very weak, and because I can't cheer for KU to win it all, no matter what my conflicting goal may be about having the Big 12 do well. Not only that, but I want KU to suffer the most painful loss possible. So let me set the scene for you...

KU grinds out wins over two defensive-minded teams in SIU and UCLA/Pitt. That puts them in the national semifinals, likely playing Florida or Oregon (I don't really care who it is). Meanwhile, North Carolina and its down-home country bumpkin coach, Roy Williams, dadgums its way past USC and Georgetown/Vandy.

Next Saturday, the two teams win their national semifinal games to advance to Monday's title game. Hippies who knew nothing of basketball until that night run wild down Mass Street, high-fiving random people, congratulating themselves on their great basketball team, and smelling their own farts (obscure South Park reference). The national media write breathless articles about the meeting between "Roy" and "Roy's Former Team." This will irritate KU fans, because they would like to be severed from the memory of all things Roy. It will also cause great anxiety in Fictional-Bird Land, as KU fans would be able to stomach a loss in the national title game to almost anyone except Roy-Boy.

Monday night rolls around and Lawrence is at a fever pitch. Crowds pack the bars made famous for shootings and stabbings of former KU players. Fans shave their heads and wear Danny Manning masks, and rub each other's bald heads to bring back the karma of a horrible 1988 night in Kansas City.

The game begins and the teams stand tied at halftime, 70-70. Roy plays his entire squad in the first half, and Roy's Former Team uses scrubs such as Jeremy Case and Brady Morningstar to prevent Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers from collapsing. Amazingly, Roy's Former Team pulls out to a seven-point lead early in the second half, leading to a frenzy in Lawrence as the hippies can TASTE the championship that is rightfully theirs.

And then, it all unravels. All five starters for Roy's Former Team are forced to the bench because of leg and side cramps due to the frenetic pace of the game. Even the subs for Roy's Former Team are winded, and Roy's Team takes the lead back with less than two minutes to play. Roy's Former Team is forced to foul and dies a slow, painful death, before losing 132-125.

After the game, Jim Nantz and Billy Packer congratulate Roy (it is rumored he has players on his team) on his second championship and ask him how he feels. He responds,
"Half of me feels great, but the other half of my heart bleeds for my former team. I loved that school, and it broke my heart to leave. But dadgummit, Daddy Dean wanted me to come back here and fix things up, and he knew I was the only one who could do it. I hope those folks back in...uhh...Lawrence? Right, Lawrence, I hope they don't hate me. Oh, did I tell you the one about why I like Coke so much?"

Meanwhile, back in Lawrence, angry hippies have taken to the streets, throwing beer bottles against the walls of nearby churches and burning Roy in effigy at the Moon Bar. One fan of Roy's Former Team, already distraught, becomes angered when his drive-through order at McDonald's is not timely presented to him, and attempts to crawl through the drive-through window to get it, becoming stuck in the process.

Back in Atlanta, the coach of Roy's Former Team, Bill "Goodhair" Self is mercilessly peppered by the questions of ignorant reporters, asking if this year's tournament loss hurts as bad as the previous two years' first-round losses to Bucknell and Bradley. The normally calm Goodhair finally snaps and shoots the KC Star's Jason Whitlock, killing him instantly. Brandon Rush, Julian Wright, and Darrell Arthur announce after the game they will be turning pro, citing their belief that "they've done everything they can for Roy's Former Team."

On Tuesday, April 3rd, dawn finds Lawrence in ruins. Only this time, the sacking was not by Quantrill and Missouri's Border Ruffians, but self-inflicted, an accidental spark from one of Roy's effigies. Only Allen Fieldhouse is spared, forcing fans of Roy's Former Team to be reminded everyday of their most disappointing failure to date.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Midweek Musings on Regional Week

Ok, so my Cats aren't in the NCAA tournament this year. I still follow it with a rather ridiculous level of interest, so intense that I won't be able to watch from home tomorrow and Friday because I want to watch ALL the games, not just what CBS shows in my local area. Sure it'll be detrimental to my school work, but it's worth it.

While at the bar watching the games, I'll certainly be "whoop"ing it up for my buddies' Texas Aggies to represent the Big 12 well. I think they have an excellent chance to beat Memphis, who plays the worst form of basketball this side of the NBA. Sure, they have great athletes, but my idea of an 'offense' entails a little more than merely standing around and watching another guy go one-on-one. I'll take the Aggies because of their defense and Acie Law.

The other early game features the other remaining Big 12 team, KU, playing the junkyard-dogs of SIU. Apparently Matt Shaw won't be playing for SIU, which will really hurt because they need all the scoring punch they can get. Defense does win championships, and SIU plays some of the toughest defense in the land, but you have to have some offense to go with it. Randall Falker will be overmatched inside against Kaun, Arthur and Jackson, and Jamal Tatum won't be able to do enough against KU's tough backcourt to keep them in it. I think KU wins this one comfortably, though not in a blowout.

Now, on to teams that I know far less about. Ohio State is lucky to even be playing still, considering what happened against Xavier (if the refs had made the right call on Oden's intentional foul, the two main candidates for player of the year would be at home this weekend). Tennessee rolled bigtime over LBSU, then fought it out over Virginia. This should be a good overall matchup as both teams have talent in both the front and backcourts. I'm going to pick an upset with Chris Lofton shooting UTenn to the Elite 8.

Finally, Pitt will play UCLA in a game where the combined score may not reach 90. UCLA throttled Indiana early last week before struggling to hang on in a fugly game. I'm picking UCLA in this one, because they are at least as talented as Pitt, play tougher defense than Pitt, will basically be playing at home, and because they can neutralize Aaron Gray.

Take those picks with grain of salt, considering I rank 151,000 on facebook right now. Stay tuned for my picks on Friday's games, and a special post devoted to my dream scenario for the national title game.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

2006-07 Basketball Season in Review

After last night's disappointing loss to DePaul, it's time for a little reflection on the up-and-down ride that was this year in Wildcat basketball.

I'll admit to being one who was initially skeptical when Bob Huggins was hired as our new head coach. That was mostly due to the fact that my only information on him was what the media printed, which was mostly thugs and 0% graduation rates. After doing a little more research, I found that his players at Cincy didn't have a whole lot more problems with the law than the average college program, and in my opinion the NCAA graduation rate calculation is horribly flawed. I would never say I was against hiring Huggins, but I did have to come around to the idea that it was a great hire. To this point, Huggins has done absolutely nothing to disappoint me.

The start to the season had me thoroughly worried, because I was naive enough to believe that a great coach like Huggins could take moderately talented team and immediately make them winners. I forgot that even great coaches have to get players to buy into their system, and Huggins is not an endearing person who gets you to buy in on his charm. It took the players a while to see that his system really did work, but after the wins against New Mexico and USC, something clicked on with the players.

Just as the season was looking up, it all seemed to come crashing down again, with the big loss to Xavier and the season-ending injury to Bill Walker. I managed to make it to three games in person this year, and the first was the Big Monday tilt with Texas Tech, and after that game I was sure we were headed for a finish in the lower third of the Big 12. But I think it was clear it took the team a while to readjust to not having Walker out there, and once they did the light came back on, hence the seven-game winning streak culminating in the win in Austin (the second game I attended).

The team far exceeded my expectations by finishing 10-6 and 4th place in the league. I really thought prior to the season we would have a good chance to beat KU at home this year, and indeed we played them as tough as (almost) anybody, but they are too talented and deep and present horrible matchup problems for us this year. We did see that once we get an infusion of upper-level talent next year (Walker and Beasley primarily), the Streak's days will be numbered. Mostly we need to get players in here who aren't afraid of that Streak, and I'm sure Walker and Beasley have that type of attitude.

Of course the season ended on a disappointing note with the third loss to KU in OKC and the NCAA tournament snub. All my friends down here in Texas, and indeed all of my friends in Nebraska and from KU (yes, I do admit to having Jayhawk friends) could not believe we got left out. I know it wasn't your fault, Arkansas fans, but your team had no business being in the tournament ahead of K-State. Same goes for Stanford. But even in a difficult situation, Huggins had the best response possible, basically saying we could have won more games. In the future, I don't think that's going to be a problem.

I was able to attend the NIT game against Vermont with several of my friends who are still in Manhattan. It really illustrated to me how far the team and program had come in just one year. I was impressed that we managed to get nearly 8,700 people for that game; my friends (who had gone to every home game that year) were not. I was impressed by the atmosphere, as it seemed the whole crowd was really loud and into it; my friends were not. And to top it all off, we drew a sellout crowd for an NIT game against DePaul while the students were gone over spring break. I'm excited for the future with the players coming in and the fan support that has been shown this year.

One final note. Thanks to all the seniors this year for all they did in their time at K-State.
Cartier Martin: This kid made huge strides from his freshman (when I saw him put up shots that would make a 4th grader proud) to his junior year (when he became one of the Big 12's leading scorers and a deadly outside shooter), but the improvement he made from the beginning of this year to the end was almost unbelieveable. It would have been so easy for him to quit when he got in Huggins' doghouse and couldn't find his butt with both hands in his back pocket early in the season, but he didn't. By the end of the season, I didn't cringe when I saw him put the ball on the floor or go underneath to rebound or rotate to pick up somebody else's man. Thanks for everything, C-Mart.
Lance Harris: One of the most athletic players we've had in a long time, and a streaky shooter who single-handedly kept us in the game in Austin earlier this year. Also one heck of a nice guy, from my one personal encounter with him at Buffalo Wild Wings two years ago.
Akeem Wright: This dude got big thanks to Huggins' training program, and he turned into the defensive stopper we needed him to be. He made life hell on Vermont's PG during our second-half comeback, and was always the one guy opposing players didn't want to see. Also became a good rebounder during the season.
Serge Afeli: A fan favorite and a feel-good story. Gotta love a guy who loves his school and team so much be breaks down in tears on senior day.
Jermaine Maybank: He won't get much credit from the mainstream media, but this guy was a huge bonus for us this year. He played some good minutes to spell Clent Stewart at point and showed his athletic ability several times with big dunks. A good, smart role player that every program should have one of. Thanks for the one year, Jermaine.
And also to the graduating seniors, congrats on getting your diploma.

Can't wait til next season.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Welcome to the Purple Nation

I decided to start this blog after noting the lack of blogs that discuss K-State sports (among other things K-State). I've read blogs for Missouri, for Nebraska, against Nebraska, and for KU, but I have yet to run across a K-State blog, so I decided to take action.

The action around here won't be limited to K-State or KSU sports. I'm sure I'll randomly venture into other Big 12 topics, as well as other college and pro sports items.

Thanks for reading.