It wasn't all that long ago -- a month maybe? -- that some folks, including some BOTC staff, had shifted their gears from #skyisfalling to #OMGthisisawesomewearesomuchbetterthanIthoughtseeyouinMarch with regard to the Kansas State Wildcats.
The fast start was nice, as was the apparent quick physical development and adjustment to high-level college basketball for most of the new Wildcats. And, when the boys snatched an unexpected road win at Georgia, folks threw caution and realistic expectation to the wind in the games that followed -- so much that Eric and I felt it was it was a good idea to provide a real scouting report of what you should expect moving forward.
Nowhere in there did we say "all-conference," or "best in the league," or anything else to that effect. The words we did use included "young," "new," and "unfamiliar. And, wouldn't you know, the hair-pulling traits that come with youth have risen to the surface in nearly every one of the team's five losses, including the first three games of Big 12 play.
And yes, it's that easy to point to if you've watched. It's a handful of bad decisions or plays that have helped leads dwindle and become losses -- all five of which have been by 10 points or less.*
*This is a matter of perspective, I get it. But, if you're going to drill the team for starting soft and getting down early to the Oklahoma Sooners, for example, then you have to give some credit for their willingness to battle and stem that tide. A win? No. A moral win? I'm not really interested in that, either. But, when things looked destined to be a 25-point blowout to one of the top teams in the nation on the road, that's worth something ... or should be. The fact is the results show this team has fight to it, even if it isn't quite good enough sometimes to overcome crucial mistakes or, God forbid, a terribly slow start on the road.
So, while some negativity is expected after a loss (nobody likes to lose, of course), to see the amount of borderline depressive negativity flowing lately from some sources (including right here at good ol' BOTC), is unfortunate.
This team has shown grit. It has proven to be more competitive than anyone would have imagined back in November. It defends well enough to be in most games. It struggles offensively, but that hasn't stopped Wesley Iwundu from finding a way to be named Big 12 Player of the Week this year or Barry Brown and Dean Wade each earning Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.
This team currently sits third in the Big 12 in scoring defense, ranks fourth in steals, and only West Virginia does a better job at defending the arc. In other words, while losses aren't fun, there are positives -- real ones -- with this group.
And, considering how new this group is, it stands to reason it will continue to improve.
None of that means it's going to get easier through the rest of this year. The Big 12 is fleshing out as an absolute beast, and to think K-State is going to do much better than a few games under .500 after starting 0-3 would be foolhardy.
Those results will play into whatever narrative someone wants to guide or influence, and if over-the-top negativity is your thing, suit yourself. (Heck, sometimes, it is even warranted.) You're going to find lots of reasons to complain with this group. However, here's hoping you remember how far this team has come in such a short time that it persuaded you to, perhaps unfairly, change your definition of K-State success this season.