Last night's 74-65 home loss to Texas was disastrous on multiple levels. Take nothing away from Texas, they are a really good team and appear primed for a No. 1 seed and a deep run into March. At this point, we need to start worrying about our own security for March Madness, but more on that a bit later. Let's get into breaking down the game.
One thing I want to mention is all this "desperation" talk. Everybody said after the Baylor game that K-State was desperate for a win, like that would somehow help us pick one up. In my opinion, desperation is more likely to work against you than for you. It certainly seemed that was last night, as we bricked our way to another substandard shooting night.
What I liked...
...it's a broken record, but Michael Beasley was once again the reason we didn't get blown out. He put up 30 points and grabbed 15 rebounds despite almost no help from his supporting cast.
...most of Jacob Pullen's play. Yes, he's still a freshman and is still prone to bad turnovers and bad shots, for example his flat-footed three in the first half last night or his deep cast late in the Baylor game. But his overall line last night was solid with 19 points, four assists against three turnovers, and three steals. He's also fifth in the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio when only league games are factored in.
...the new Nike Elite uniforms. They look sharp. Can't wait to see the purples and the blacks.
What I didn't like...
...taking 27 three-pointers. Some of them were late, desperation casts that we didn't have much choice on, but this team is reverting to its early-season unwillingness to get the ball inside. We took 67 shots last night, and 27 of them were three-pointers. Meanwhile, we only shot 20 free throws. We absolutely must figure out how to get the ball inside.
...the disappearance of Beasley down the stretch of games. I should note this is not really Beasley's fault, as the outside players often fail to look for him down low. Maybe Frank Martin needs to bring him outside. Either way, Beasley needs to be more involved late in the game.
...the complete disappearance of Bill Walker. Last night, Walker played like a guy desperate to prove his NBA-readiness in front of a bunch of scouts, and the result was he pressed and tried too hard. I have no doubt that was the worst game of Walker's life, and really feel no need to pile on the guy. Just hope he comes back strong.
...Frank Martin's decision to rest both Beasley and Walker at the 10-minute mark of the second half. At the time Beasley went out, the game was tied 50-50. By the time he came back in, K-State was down 56-50 and would never recover. Martin sat Beasley way too long. Fran Fraschilla noted on the telecast that Beasley had gotten almost three-and-a-half minutes of real-time rest, because he had been rested over the under-12 TV timeout. Without Beasley and Walker in the game, we were left with a lineup with no scoring punch and it showed.
...the lack of crowd enthusiasm. While I was impressed again by the fundraising done for the K-State Proud campaign, the atmosphere in Bramlage didn't seem to be there last night. Maybe it was just the dampening effect of the telecast, but it sounded nothing like the KU game to me.
What it means and where we're going...
First of all, it means we're eliminated from contention for the regular-season conference title. Of course, that's the least of our worries right now. A team that looked certain to attain 10+ conference wins is now going to have to win at least one game on the road to reach that level. More importantly, we are rapidly sliding toward the gaggle of teams fighting for the final first-round bye in the conference tournament in Kansas City. We still are in pretty good shape to grab that bye, but we have some serious work to do.
I hate to even talk about it, but we are also reaching a point where we have to worry about whether we will make the NCAA tournament. The body of work this team has put together this year is more impressive than what was accomplished last year, but we can't allow the end of the season to be a total fizzle. That means we must regroup and put in a respectable showing in Lawrence on Saturday. I harbor no illusions that we may win that game, but we absolutely cannot afford to get blown out on national TV. Then we must return home and take care of Colorado before wading into Hilton Magic on the last Saturday of the season. A lot will probably be riding on that game against the Cyclones.
What am I most disappointed in? Not last night's loss to Texas. The Longhorns are a pretty darn good team, and I can handle getting beat once every two or three years by a school that outspends K-State by more than double. I'm most disappointed that this team has been unable to beat less-talented teams on the road. Not saying we should win every road game, but we should have been able to get two out of the four games against Missouri, Texas Tech, Nebraska and Baylor.
I said last week that the best of the season was still ahead. Let's hope there's something we aren't seeing right now, because it's beginning to look like I was utterly wrong about that statement.