It’s me again - and when I’m jumping in to hammer out a mid-week basketball game recap, you know that either something good, or something bad, has happened.
I’ll let you guess by the title of the article.
Official recap: The Kansas State Wildcats went scoreless for nearly 4 minutes to open the game, and the Fort Hays State Tigers led wire-to-wire to win this game. The Cats gave up 55.2% from the floor, were outrebounded 34-26, and allowed six double-digit scorers to the visitors. Mike McGuirl scored 22, DaJuan Gordon had 11 points on 3-for-a-billion shooting while coughing up 5 turnovers, and Nijel Pack added 5 assists. K-State forced 20 turnovers - many of which occurred late in the game when the result was honestly no longer in question. They also found their way to the stripe for 30 FTs, connecting on 20...which isn’t great, but we’ve seen worse. The 11 steals that K-State snagged is also a season high - many of which also occurred in the last four minutes or so.
Now that the recap is finished, Imma go a little editorial on y’all.
That’s previously 0-3 Fort Hays State. The same Division 2 MIAA Tigers squad that lost to Washburn, Emporia State, and Nebraska-Kearney, you ask? The very same.
What was witnessed tonight by anyone that had the wherewithal (or lack of self-respect) to stick out the entire game: This was arguably the most incompetent performance by a K-State basketball program in recent memory.
What positivity, what optimism presented in my previous thoughts and analysis was rooted in slivers of hope, in bright spots that have all but disappeared over the past four halves.
These guys are atrocious on defense. FHSU found open threes at will. Lanes to the bucket opened like the parting of the Red Sea. Perimeter defensive rotations are late. Paint rotations are non-existent. Defensive rebounding is iffy at best. We couldn’t even get caught reaching - that would require someone to be close enough to be within arms’ length. With many of those 20 turnovers forced and 11 steals coming late in the game, don’t let those particular stats fool you...they certainly won’t fool anyone that watched the game. The Tigers opened up a TWENTY-ONE POINT LEAD at one point in the second half.
Read that again.
A winless Fort Hays State came into Manhattan, Kansas - the so called “Octagon Of Doom” - and were up by twenty-god-bless-america-one points in the second half.
The only reason it should still be called the “anything of Doom” is because it’s our own damned coffin.
The offense - on its own - is just as bad. The decision-making is horrific. Listless off-ball movement, lazy passes, terrible shot selection, substandard ball handling and security. Remove McGuirl’s 4-6 effort from behind the arc, and we went 0-for-15 from deep. Why? Very few of those shots were in rhythm and in context, and the ones that fit the bill were taken by folks that are a combined 8-for-29 from beyond the arc. Many of our players have an uncanny ability to make layups look tremendously difficult. We still force too much, try to manufacture too much, try to think our way through it, instead of just playing.
We now have two straight wire-to-wire losses - 80 straight minutes of not leading a damned minute of either game - to two previously winless teams. Subjectively, we have regressed over the past couple of games. The defense has somehow gotten worse, and the offense hasn’t gotten better.
We do nothing to make this game easier for ourselves.
We can use our overwhelming youth to explain - or, as it may be, explain away - a lot of things. This particular performance, and the UNLV game, if so inclined to include it, can’t be explained away. These guys were unprepared to play basketball competitively against a winless Division 2 opponent. Heck, we should have the talent - unless evaluators are complete frauds - to just roll a ball out there and beat a winless Division 2 team on pure athleticism alone.
We can also use COVID-19 to explain - or, as it may be, explain away - a lot of things. No more. Everyone is having to deal with the pandemic at some level or another; we’re not unique in this regard. If it’s somehow worse for us, we need to take a good hard look in the mirror as to why.
You might have noted by now that I have completely avoided using a particular word typically associated with basketball to describe K-State in this article...
These guys don’t play as a “team” in the slightest. No idea how to play team defense, no idea how to attack the basket as a team. No one has any idea what the other is doing on either end of the floor. Basketball is a dance - each partner needs to know what the other is doing; otherwise, the dancers are just stepping on each others’ feet. That’s where we’re at - we’re stepping all over each others’ toes.
Until we start playing in a fashion such that “team” is an appropriate description of the play we’re seeing on the floor, this team will struggle to be in games, much less win them.
Bruce Weber gets paid $3 million a year to coach this “team.” Its his job to not just draw the X’s and O’s, but to get the team where it needs to be philosophically. We’re not particularly close right now, and we’re not really looking to be making notable strides yet.
Patience is a virtue, but it’s also becoming a scarce commodity among even the most ardent of fans and supporters. Start making it happen, coach...or do it somewhere else.