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MBB: Bacon ... and toast

Jamie Squire

On bacon night in Manhattan, the Kansas St. Wildcats were burned on their home court and turned in a season-opening performance against Northern Colorado that left fans thinking this team is already toast.

Maybe it is.

Based on a one-for-real-game snapshot, 20-of-59 from the field (including 2-of-19 from 3-point range) says this team can't shoot. It is height-challenged, which heads straight into problems like winding up -9 (49-40) on the boards. The defense against simple pick-and-rolls is below a junior-high level and situational awareness is worse. How about an inability to grab a single, key defensive rebound at the end of the game? And, shooting 48.5 percent (16-of-33) from the free throw line is the repulsive Remoulade on the crap cake.

There is no way to slice an attractive piece of bacon from that pig, and it's as egregious as the K-State radio broadcast naming Shane Southwell its player of the game over Wesley Iwundu to try to do so.

But, chew on this:

K-State didn't get blown out from the beginning — It's easy to forget because of the result, but the Wildcats appeared to be well on their way to a win as they built a double-digit lead in the first half. A win would have shielded, to a degree, seniors Southwell and Will Spradling shooting a combined 4-of-22 from the field (2-of-12 from 3). It would have shielded freshman Marcus Foster finding out Division I basketball, no matter the opponent, isn't Pittsburg State. And, for the team, it would have been a far-less damaging reminder that games are 40 minutes long, not 15.

Among the darkness, there were a couple of bright spots. I have my doubts regarding Wesley Iwundu's durability once January rolls around, but he was K-State's best player this week in an exhibition and the season-opener. While Foster struggled and Nigel Johnson found himself in an eight-minute doghouse for whatever reason, Iwundu used his length to grab 10 rebounds and again showed flashes of being able to run the break effectively, even at 6-7.

D.J. Johnson wasn't exactly good -- missing way too many shots around the rim -- but, his effort level was noticeably better. The thing to remember with him is that he was never meant to be an anchor go-to type, and he won't ever be. In that light, he has to be energy, and he needs to grab boards, especially the meaningful ones that he (and all other KSU players) missed at the end of the game. However, while Thomas Gipson is out with his concussion, or even when he comes back and immediately gets in foul trouble, the Cats need Johnson to be better at finishing around the rim.

In theory, most of those self-wounds are correctable. Rebounding is box-out positioning and effort. From what I've seen thus far, K-State's effort was better on Friday, but still has a long, long way to go in the former. Is that expected? Probably, since a lot of guards and small forwards are being asked to be rebounders with this group, even after Gipson returns. The other part is inexperience with the young guys, so the expectation is that the team should improve at least some.

Bruce Weber has things to work on as well. To have a Southwell-Lawrence-Williams-Iwundu-Johnson lineup on the floor in crunch time, with your team trailing, isn't winning basketball. Spradling* was in foul trouble, but the moment didn't allow for such luxury-type decisions. It led to an Omari "open gym" Lawrence 3 and a terrible decision by "point guard" Southwell to crash the boards, which meant nobody retreated on defense. It didn't end well, and that last part is on the players for not recognizing their responsibilities. However, that lineup should never happen. Ever.

*Will Spradling's nine attempts from 3 were more than he took in any game last season, and the second most he's ever attempted in a game in his career. He was 3-of-8 against Florida last winter, and 3-of-12 against Oklahoma two seasons ago. That seems like way too many for a career .349 shooter, especially when a lot of those looks are wide open.

As I finish this, it's comical to see Twitter bow down to Bill Snyder while burying Bruce Weber. It was only a month ago that a lot of hand-wringing was going on while people remembered the football season-opener and wondered if K-State football would even finish .500, let alone do something nuts like blow out a Top 25 team on the road.

Much like the football team, the men's bball team has a lot of new, young parts. It has a system the staff believes in and will coach players into. It will take a little time. In fact, while I like season-to-season success as much as anyone, I'm looking for 2014 to be something pretty good. In the meantime, this season will be a roller-coaster, complete with some pretty good highs to balance out Friday's low.