Nice win, and nice to see Frank Martin’s reaction afterwards – first with Doc Sadler, who is someone Martin has a lot of respect for, and then with the media in regards to his Wildcats. He has never minced words when it comes to how he feels about this team, and Saturday, he allowed himself to sound a little vulnerable, which has to be difficult for him.
I walked away thinking the Kansas State coach realizes how rewarding this season has been, especially compared to last year, when outside observers believed his job was easy because of the existence of Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. In actuality, it was just the opposite, certainly for a first-year coach.
There is a question I tend to ask coaches and, sure, it might be a cliche. But I always wonder, is the job more satisfying when you coax more out of a group with minimal expectations or when a talented group finds success? I asked Martin this once and he was perplexed. In his mind, coaching is always coaching, but I bet if I’d asked him my question following Saturday’s game, his answer would have been heartfelt and thoughtful.
Are the Wildcats talented? There is athleticism to spare, but I don’t know if anyone would refined enough at either end of the court to qualify as talented. That, to me, makes 20 wins so much more impressive.
Know how we, the media, always write about “buying in”? Well, K-State bought in so much, the Wildcats have sold out. It’s remarkable, really, how much they’ve trusted Martin, and how much he, although it may not seem it from game to game, trusts his players.
But now is when everything gets interesting. A solid case could be made that if K-State wins tomorrow night, the Wildcats should be in the NCAA Tournament. Why? Because the Big 12 should get at least four teams in the tournament, and K-State would be the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament. Personally, I don’t think it’s that simple, and neither does Martin.
There is still work to be done, and if it’s more wins that it will take to impress the selection committee, fortunately for the Wildcats, there are more games left to be played. If K-State rips off a handful more victories, it would be difficult to deny the Wildcats a dance ticket. How many? Who knows for sure?
But, in that scenario, K-State controls its own future, and Martin can live with that. He’s seen enough from the Wildcats to know what to expect, and there can’t be a better feeling for a coach – a second-year coach who now has 41 wins to his credit – than that.