I can’t wait for Monday night in Manhattan.
Kansas at Kansas State. Great drama, especially considering how K-State manhandled Texas – the only team to beat KU this season in Big 12 play – on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.
This one sets up as not only an interesting game, but a game within a game between two of the best
freshmen in America: the Jayhawks’ Andrew Wiggins and the Wildcats’ Marcus Foster.
Round One clearly went to Wiggins. And to Kansas, which continued its mastery of Kansas State with an 86-60 win at Allen Fieldhouse. It was never close. Foster was never in the game.
He had 22 points and five rebounds in 33 minutes. He made 7 of 13 shots and 3 of 4 three-pointers. It was one of his best games of the season.
Foster, meanwhile, was just 3 of 12 from the floor and had seven points. He missed all three of his three-point attempts and looked out of sorts.
Trust me when I tell you that Foster will have a much better game in Manhattan on Monday night. And that his match-up against Wiggins, though he would never admit to as much, is going to be on his mind.
Wiggins is the best freshman in the Big 12, although there’s a lot of ho-humming going on when it comes to him. That’s not fair and it’s a product of the enormous hype that accompanied him to Kansas. And while it’s not fair, it’s also not surprising. Somebody forwarded him as the best high school player since LeBron James. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t him.
Expecations were silly for Wiggins, starting with the “Sports Illustrated” cover story before the season. And while it’s clear he has areas to improve upon, he’s still been pretty darn good. Wiggins, who plays just more than 32 minutes per game for the Jayhawks, is averaging 16 points and six rebounds. He shoots nearly 44 percent from the field and almost 37 percent from the three-point line.
Those aren’t great numbers. He’s not the dominant force some expected him to be. But he’s arguably been the best player on the nation’s eighth-ranked team and one that has as good a chance of any to win a national championship. Not to mention a team that’s on pace to win its 10th consecutive Big 12 championship.
Wiggins has been outstanding.
But so has Foster, who came to Kansas State amid much quieter circumstances.
We knew Foster would be a contributor for the Wildcats. We knew he was a good high school player in Wichita Falls, Texas. But we didn’t foresee this.
After a 34-point explosion Saturday against Texas, Foster is averaging 14.7 points per game, shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from the free-throw line. He’s a few inches shorter than Wiggins and spends much of his time on the perimeter, both on offense and defense. So his rebounding numbers (3.8 per game) aren’t as big.
Both Wiggins, who was outstanding Saturday in KU’s win over West Virginia in Lawrence, and Foster have battled some inconsistency issues. Hey, they’re freshmen. And freshmen are inconsistent. We’re just less patient with freshmen than we used to be. We hear about guys being ready for the NBA and don’t realize that 99 out of 100 players in the history of basketball need time to reach their potential.
Foster and Wiggins have both become good defensive players, too. They have adapted to their systems and their coaches, Bill Self and Bruce Weber, are adamant about defense.
Foster, I’m sure, will spend at least a couple of more seasons at Kansas State. At least that’s what I think now. And he appears destined to become one of the Wildcats’ all-time greats. He is still getting comfortable at the college level and games like he put together against Texas speed up that process.
Wiggins is likely finished at KU after this season. He’ll be a high pick in the NBA draft, we’re told, and will be paid millions of dollars as an NBA rookie. You can’t argue with his decision, but you can fairly wonder if it’s really what is best.
For now, though, we’re going to be treated to at least one more Wiggins-Foster show. These are two of the best young players to come into either program in a long time and we’re fortunate to have the chance to see them matched up. I’m not expecting a blowout Monday night. I’m expecting an outstanding game and these two bright, young players will be front and center.