I was wrong.
The better team won Saturday, although that won’t be a foregone conclusion for much longer. Give Bill Self and his staff credit, and how do you not acknowledge KU doing enough to emerge from a seriously hostile environment – on and off the court, it turns out – with a victory, one Self suggested might be the best of the road variety since he’s been the Jayhawks’ coach?
Sure, it stings, especially since Kansas State had a 16-point lead in the first half.
But I’m not as disturbed with this victory as, say, the Oregon loss. Or the setback to – take your pick – Kentucky or Iowa in Vegas. And that Baylor result is looking worse and worse, isn’t it?
So let’s boil this down. You can go in so many directions – some want to point at foul shooting, which doesn’t bother me so much. That comes and goes. I’d rather have players making plays.
I couldn’t get past the supporting casts. Marcus Morris averages 7.7 points per game. He went for 15 against the Wildcats. Meanwhile, Fred Brown and Jamar Samuels, each a shade under 10 points per game for K-State, combined for two against KU.
Call me crazy, but that’s a problem.
As for Denis Clemente, he’s a talent. He’s the best guard in the Big 12 not named Sherron Collins. But his competitiveness, the very thing that has turned the Wildcats’ season around, can be a detriment. In that sense, he’s not unlike Bill Walker, which is interesting because Frank Martin said K-State was looking for someone to fill Walker’s leadership void before Clemente climbed into the role.
Is he a bad kid? I spoke with some people at his last stop, the University of Miami, and while they remain tight-lipped on the reasons for his departure, they all spoke fondly of the native of Puerto Rico. In fact, they wish he was back with the Hurricanes, teaming with Jack McClinton to form one of the nation’s best backcourts.
Instead, he’s teaming with Jacob Pullen to form, arguably, the Big 12′s finest backcourt. And moving forward, we’ve always heard how in March, guard play is vital. Well, March is less than two weeks away. The Wildcats are wobbling on top of the proverbial NCAA Tournament bubble, and why does 23 wins seem like it might be the magic number? Six games remain, and tomorrow night’s game – with or without Clemente, who, without any inside intelligence here, might sit out Tuesday – against North Carolina Central is a lock.
Assuming K-State can win its remaining home games – the Wildcats should handle the Nebraska in Bramlage as the Cornhuskers have struggled away from Lincoln, and Colorado in the regular-season finale or, as it’ll be known around these parts, “Darren Kent Appreciation Day,” seems manageable – that would be 20 wins. But those road games? At Iowa State – Hilton is a tough venue, at Missouri – Pullen thinks K-State has that one locked up, by the way – and at Oklahoma State, which is always difficult at home.
Take two on the road, which might be a stretch, win one in the Big 12 Tournament, and the Wildcats will still be sweating through an anxious Sunday evening at Doe’s Eat Place.
Thoughts? In or out? A long NIT run? Let me hear them. Also, did anyone pick KU to win? Who’s getting the Beasley bobblehead?