*I’ll start this off with a disclaimer. I’ve always been in the pro Bruce Weber camp. My dad was a Purdue grad from Indiana and brainwashed me from a young age. Bruce was Gene Keady’s (K-State grad, small world eh?) right hand man for some of my favorite basketball memories. I think he’s done a solid job at Kansas State, with a few obvious hiccups.
Now on to the article.
Kansas State basketball is in the middle of an unprecedented, at least in my experience, reset of of their roster. Only one scholarship player (Mike McGuirl) remains from the 2018-2019 roster. You occasionally see this sort of thing with one-and-done factories that process players in and out of the program like most of us change our underwear, but as we all know, that’s not Bruce Weber or K-State’s model.
You can look at the roster turnover through two different lenses.
Fire Bruce! Lens
I’ll start with this lens because I’m often arguing against it, but this group has a solid point. The people that complained about recruiting over the last few years turned out to be 100% correct. I somewhat defended the recruiting. I was wrong, it was bad. This roster reset is tantamount to a signed admission by Bruce Weber and his staff that they didn’t recruit well or develop the roster during the Brown/Wade/Stokes run.
It’s one thing to have a transition year after a run with several long term starters. It’s another thing all together to crash and burn like the Cats did last year. Follow that up with the current purge, and you’ve got to question what the hell was going on at practice over the last few years. You’ve also got to question player management and team moral. I get a few guys at the bottom of the roster that didn’t get run looking for new homes, but guys that were seemingly in line to play major roles on the 2020 team also abandoned ship.
I’m not sure what was up with Cartier Diarra, but he had no interest in returning to Manhattan as the Wildcats leading scorer, and instead decided to take his talents to Virginia Tech. It looked like David Sloan was in line for some major minutes, but he left for East Tennessee State. Levi Stockard was in a solid position to provide a veteran presence to a team devoid of senior leadership in the front court, but he decided to jump into the portal as well.
Mistakes have obviously been made by this coaching staff, and having to reset your entire roster (with the exception of McGuirl) gives credibility to many of the key complaints in the Fire Bruce! camp. Y’all know basketball and care about it. I appreciate that about this fan base. The passion is real.
I can see how drastic roster turnover like the one currently underway could be the perfect time to dump a coach and bring in a new voice to coach an essentially new team. You 100% have a solid argument.
Purdue has a small, but incredibly vocal, group of Fire Painter “fans” (otherwise known as Ainter) and they are delusional. Their arguments devolve into temper tantrums and a delusional belief that Purdue is a coach away from being an annual National Championship contender. The Fire Bruce! faction, at least after last season and subsequent off-season, have more than a feeling to back up their desire.
Kansas State basketball fans deserve better than the 2019 performance, and they deserve better than several consecutive recruiting class busts. I think Bruce understands that as well, and the purge is a direct result of that understanding.
I’m still in this camp, but the clock is ticking. If you’re a Bruce fan, however, you can take some solace that Weber, in theory, should be on the hot seat with his most talented roster.
I look at this like poker.
Weber collected a nice stack of chips with his Elite 8 run and Big 12 Championship. Last season took a chunk of his chips. So instead of dying a slow death at the table, Bruce shoved his entire stack of chips into the center of the table on the 2019/2020 recruiting classes. It makes sense to me. He’s gambling on his best two recruiting classes.
The next two seasons will determine how the Bruce Weber tenure plays out in Manhattan. I think he gets a transition season next year. He needs to show progress on the court, and field a more competitive team, but if you’re keeping him because you think he can build the roster back into, you can’t fire him one year into the process.
The 2021/22 season should be the crucial season. In my opinion, it’s NCAA Tournament or bust in 21/22. He exhausted all his built up good-will capital on this roster reset. He doesn’t get two consecutive non-tournament seasons with that roster, because he doesn’t have any chips left. Even the most ardent Bruce Weber fan should understand this. The clock is ticking.
That may sound ominous, but I’m confident that Weber is going to get this thing turned around. I love the pieces he’s collected in the last two recruiting classes. He’s managed to translate his on-court success into recruiting success. That’s been the missing ingredient during Bruce’s stay at Kansas State, and honestly, his entire career. He’s shown the ability to win with good leftover players at Illinois and Kansas State. He’s shown the ability to win with underrated recruits at Kansas State. He hasn’t shown the ability to consistently recruit in the upper tier of a conference. The 2019 and 2020 classes give me hope that he has turned the corner in recruiting. Now he has to win with those recruits, and he needs to do so sooner rather than later.
Bruce pushed all his chips into the middle of the table, but he’s holding the best hand he’s had in a long time.