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K-State basketball: Not quite there

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Bruce Weber is pulling his best Star Trek "Scotty" and pulling everything he can out of this Kansas State ship. Problem is this ship needs more power.

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Here comes the quickest ever postgame/midseason/future all-in-one post after watching the West Virginia Mountaineers knock off the Kansas State Wildcats, 65-59, on Tuesday in Manhattan.

Here we go ...

1. Man, is Bob Huggins good at his job.

I get a real thrill in watching the true masters of college basketball go to work, and Bob Huggins is among them. Many coaches can't control or motivate their rosters year-to-year to execute one style of play, but Huggins (after WVU bombed at 17-16 in 2013-14, including supposedly key guys leaving the program) decided enough was enough.

" ... all that really means is [Bob Huggins] has trained MMA fighters to run marathons."


He has flipped the switch from half-court fist-fights to in-your-face, dogged, full-court fist fights; which is scary because all that really means is he has trained MMA fighters to run marathons.

And for those who thought the full-court thing was just a cheap-trick fad: You don't tell Bob Huggins what he can't do. He's made a career out of punching "experts" in the face, and it's been a joy to watch.

2. Free throws + turnovers = tired.

Some folks will want to point at how tired Kansas State players were with even five minutes still left in the game and indict the program as not being prepared. I can buy that if you'll grant/remember that prepping for such a game as Tuesday's brings the "offseason" cliche to life. Players have to train/condition for this stuff in the summer (including away from coach supervision per NCAA mandates), not the week or two weeks before WVU comes calling.

As it was, K-State's legs and heads were gone early, swinging wide open the narrative that became 25 turnovers and 57.1% (20-35) from the free throw line at home -- a noticeable detachment considering KSU entered the game shooting 68.7% FT as a team going in.

Still ...

3. All in all, this team's not so bad for not having any sort of real threat at point guard

Boiled all the way down to possession-by-possession, you never really knew who was going to be asked to handle the ball against the Mountaineers press.*

*Side rant: While there is some merit to simply telling the "most open" guy to get the ball across the line, that short-term plan isn't sustainable. I used to hate coaches whose originality extended to  "go to the open space on the floor," and if that didn't work, "just get open." Newsflash, you coaches who teach this: Presses are designed with you in mind. They bait you into finding that supposedly "open" space. Call me if you want to discuss more. /rant

Did those of you who already jumped to the full assumption I'm talking about Weber's mindset enjoy that rant? Ready to destroy Weber for employing the all-hands-on-deck approach? Don't. I meant in general. That's why it was a side rant.

K-State's press-break, just like the offense, has to depend on everybody moving and contributing. It's easy to understand why Weber went this way with this group. It's what gave them the best shot at beating the pressure (even if it wasn't necessarily a great option). Give him a capable point guard or guards, and you will see a much different approach. (I'd hope so, anyways.)

4. Not there yet.

The trap for fans here is that a game like Tuesday can be maddening because it makes you want to believe this team is that close to fully belonging at the top of the league this season. Maybe it is. It plays good defense (finally). It gets pretty even contribution from several sources (finally). Etc. That goes a long ways in the college game.

However, in the interest of championship aspirations, here's the danger in the whole "that close" game ... even in a parity year ...

I don't view this group's "that" as a this-season thing based on experience/player development. I see "that" as needing a really good point guard -- something that won't change any time before next year at the earliest. Still, could one of the point guards on this team magically become second-team All-Big 12 or something? I guess that's the magic of sports, but I'm not one to base expectation on magic.

Still, this team has rounded into reasonably fun to watch most nights, and it will be competitive in most games -- enough that it looks like the race will be on for trying to get a first-round bye in the Big 12 Tournament.