Category Archives: My take

My take, Illinois State

You always see flashes. That’s what I took away from last night’s dramatic Kansas State victory. Not that the Wildcats moved on, which is noteworthy and is the topic I touch on in tomorrow’s advance. But that no matter who is called upon, no matter who is struggling, someone always fills the void.

Last night, it was Buchi Awaji in the second half and then Dominique Sutton at the end of regulation and overtime. And Jacob Pullen, who has been Robin to Denis Clemente’s Batman for most of the season, took the challenge and kept the Wildcats afloat.

And it’s the same thing with all of these guys, with the exception of Pullen. Every time something positive happens, their play is instantly elevated. Every time, especially with Awaji. True story – earlier this season, in Las Vegas, an NBA scout was watching the Wildcats. He was fixated on Awaji, asking me all about him. Remember, Buchi didn’t play much until then – and truth be told, he hasn’t played too much since, either. But the scout was blown away by him, convinced he was a star in the making because of his length, athleticism and efficient – mostly effortless – shooting stroke.

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My take, Colorado

How do you keep Kansas State out of the NCAA Tournament field? How do you put the W

My take, Oklahoma State

Found this in my in-box a little while ago:

“Why is it that the writer for K State doesn’t even know that they will still probably get the fourth seed if they beat CU? OU beats O State at home. KU beats UT at home. K State beats CU at home. Three very likely events and KSU is the fourth seed. You need to do your homework. Or better yet, take two weeks off and then retire. You’re the worst.”

Yep, I made a mistake in today’s game story, suggesting the loss cost the Wildcats the No. 4 seed. I admit my mistake, and I’m not going to make any excuses. Shouldn’t have happened.

Anyway, I thought the Wildcats played well Tuesday, no doubt. But don’t you have to close that game out, especially if you’re making the case you belong in the NCAA Tournament field? Not piling on the Wildcats, or kicking them when they’re down, but that game was for the taking. They showed unbelievable poise for 36 minutes – I was fascinated watching every time Oklahoma State made a run, K-State calmly answered with a spurt to cut the deficit to a point or two – and then everything came undone.

This won’t make me popular, I’m sure, but since I’m contemplating following the gentleman’s advice above and retiring at the ripe age of 34, it shouldn’t matter – the Wildcats aren’t there yet. What was it that Frank Martin was saying after Tuesday’s game? He commended Byron Eaton, who played a fantastic game, for being a four-year starter.

Experience is a major factor, which Martin has been preaching since he became the head coach last year. That’s what’s missing – not actual on-court action, but the knowledge of winning games in those situations, of winning in those situations on the road, etc.

Don’t get wrong – this is a fun team. When Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen both have it going, K-State is tough to deal with. And the Wildcats still might do some damage in Oklahoma City. But I felt Tuesday conveniently encapsulated everything that is great about this team and also everything that is lacking.

And with that, I’m off to do my homework.

My take, Nebraska

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.

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My take, Missouri

I hate this expression, and I hate myself for being lazy and using it, but where was the sense of urgency? I mean, from anyone from Kansas State? Missouri had plenty, and it’s little surprise the Tigers find themselves in the position they’re in. Still don’t think they’re especially talented, but man, they play hard. And they cover so much ground. And they’re relentless. And they’re fun to watch.

Funny thing is, those were all things I know I’ve written or told people about the Wildcats. What happened? Why wasn’t it there last night? Is this just another step in the maturation process of a young team? Was this just a matter of a team not recognizing how the intensity level would rise for an opponent with possibly more at stake? 

It was mystifying. And it’s also way too many questions this late in the season.

Now, everyone take a deep breath. 

Because I know this to be true, NO ONE was anticipating a season of 20-plus wins. Well, no one besides Frank Martin, his staff, the Wildcats, assorted family members and a few others. Don’t throw the towel in yet – man, I’m wearing out the cliches here, aren’t I? – because there is plenty to play for. And what if K-State, as streaky as it gets, goes to Oklahoma City and something clicks? You don’t think the Wildcats, on a neutral court for everyone but Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, match up well with the rest of the league?

Failing all of that, however, an NIT bid shouldn’t be viewed as a disappointment. What could be a concern is all of the “must-win” talk that spewed from the mouths of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente. It’s nice to be aware, and they’re both good kids and all, but what now? Do you lay down against Nebraska because you think your goals are out of reach? We know Martin won’t allow that, right? Still…

Denis can’t do it all, and he shouldn’t be asked to do so. On a side note, after Martin spent so much time telling us how fast Clemente is, I agree – he has to be the fastest player in the country with the ball in his hands. It’s ridiculous.

My take, Iowa State

Just a brutal game. Also a game Kansas State never made a habit of winning in recent history, at least as long as I’ve been covering the Wildcats. There’s always been a swagger – or, as the kids say, “swag” – associated with Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen, and there were times this season when that wasn’t a good thing. But what we’ve seen is almost what Ron Prince insisted he wanted from Josh Freeman – to keep the game close and allow the superstar to win it at the end.

It didn’t happen nearly enough with Prince and Freeman, and we saw how that ended. Prince is coaching special teams back at Virginia, and I think we’re all in agreement that this is not a promotion or a lateral move, unlike when some former K-State assistants left for “promotions.” As for Freeman, his pro day at K-State – need to get a date on this, Kenny Lannou – will probably be more vital than he anticipated. I don’t think he bombed at the Combine over the weekend, but reports suggest he wasn’t as impressive as he’d hoped.

Anyway, this is a basketball post, and Clemente, Pullen and Fred Brown have been closing games out for K-State. And I don’t see the trend ending anytime soon, either, and I’m looking ahead to next season when the Wildcats should have no less than the conference’s second- or third-best backcourt.

Isn’t the sign of a good basketball team its ability to win a road game when it doesn’t have its best stuff? I don’t subscribe to the tired, Tiger Woods-aided “A” game rhetoric because that’s always a discredit to the opponent. Always. If you don’t have your best stuff and you’re going to make a big deal of it, then don’t show up. You have to compete.

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My take, North Carolina Central

Another win. That was the best thing to come out of Tuesday. And Jamar Samuels rediscovering his game.

A lot – no, make that A LOT – confidence from the players about winning out the rest of the way. How do you all feel about that? 

There’s no reason to suggest Kansas State can’t rip off five in a row, but realistically, with next week’s road trip to Missouri, can it happen?

By the way, Pops said Dominique Sutton is the key to the team. If he plays well offensively, he puts so much pressure on the opposition. When he’s off, where does Frank Martin turn? To Chris Merriewether, who isn’t an offensive threat.

I don’t have much else aside from that. We all know the score. In other news, I’m keeping an eye on the Bryce Brown saga, and hopefully soon, I’ll be prepared to unveil my theory on the whole thing. Need to check on a couple of things in the meanwhile, but stay tuned.

My take, Kansas

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.

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My take, Texas Tech

I was kind of alarmed when Texas Tech coach Pat Knight called a timeout about a minute into the game and ripped John Roberson and Alan Voskuil for not closing out on shooters around the three-point line.

But then I relaxed because I realized that’s exactly what Frank Martin does – I’d just grown used to his act.

Wasn’t particularly impressed with the Red Raiders, but this was what Kansas State had to do Wednesday. In essence, it sent the right type of message to Kansas. When focused, Kansas State is dangerous. And when they, as Martin said afterwards, “don’t respect the game,” well, the Wildcats look vulnerable.

Suddenly, Saturday becomes simple – if K-State plays with energy and passion, the Wildcats win. If not, the Jayhawks prevail.

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My take, Texas A&M

First off, I’m not a big fan of College Station.

Regardless, it was a successful business trip for Kansas State, which seems to be surprising the college basketball world with this five-game winning streak.

Not going to say I anticipated all of this, but I’m not shocked, either. The truth is, most of the league’s teams are very similar this year. There is one good, borderline (but not really) great team in Oklahoma. There is another team that has minimized its deficiencies and maximized its home-court advantage in Kansas.

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