This week I intended to write about all the positive things going on in the world of K-State sports. Among those storylines, the football team demolished LSU 42-20 in the Texas Bowl, K-State legend Collin Klein was promoted to the offensive coordinator position, and the women’s basketball team is ranked in the top 25 and is led by one of the best players in college basketball, junior center Akoya Lee. Jeff Mitte’s team is so much fun to watch and keeps trending upward. The sky is the limit for the young K-State women’s basketball squad.
Then there’s the frustrating men’s basketball team. While the women’s team is trending upward, Bruce Weber’s team is trending downward at the opposite trajectory. I waited until the men’s game was played Wednesday night before finishing up the draft of my article, but instead decided to scrap it altogether. All because everyone who watched the game witnessed one of the biggest debacles of Bruce Weber’s career at Kansas State when the Wildcats fell 60-57 to TCU.
I’ve seen some bad Kansas State basketball losses over the years. A 45 point loss to Kansas in 1995, losses to UMKC and Fort Hays State, and the “Pasco Fiasco,” which ranks right up that as one of the worst. The “Pasco Fiasco” was coined after K-State center Pervis Pasco turned the ball over late in the game versus Colorado in the 2003 Big 12 tournament. K-State scored with 3.3 seconds left in the game to go ahead by two points. Colorado inbounded the ball, which was deflected out of bounds. 2.6 seconds were left on the clock. Colorado inbounded the ball again and the pass was caught by K-State’s Pervis Pasco, who started running with the ball and celebrating the win. The only problem was that time had not yet expired in the game. Pasco was called for traveling, giving Colorado one last chance. They inbounded the ball and made a three-pointer, winning the game. I remember watching it like it happened yesterday. At the time, I just shook my head and laughed. That’s about all you could do. That “fiasco” helped define the Jim Wooldridge era for me. That era consisted mostly of bad, dumb basketball and a bunch of inexplicable losses. Last night’s K-State game against TCU ranks right up there with the “Pasco Fiasco” on the list of bad K-State basketball losses.
First, here’s a short recap of what has happened in the last week or so in the basketball program. Head coach Bruce Weber and assistant coach Chris Lowry both missed the previous two games due to Covid protocols. Assistant coach Shane Southwell coached the team against Texas on January 4th. Despite only having eight players, the Wildcats got off to a hot start and led 35-29 at halftime before eventually running out of gas and losing 70-57. Southwell had to miss the following game against West Virginia last Saturday, January 8th, and assistant Jermaine Henderson was assigned head coaching duties. The Wildcats, missing six players, again got off to a hot start, leading 40-27 at halftime before eventually losing 71-68. Perhaps the most interesting thing about these games was the quick start in both. With Weber on the sideline, K-State is notorious for slow starts and getting behind early in games. Against Texas and West Virginia, the team started great despite being short-handed. Did the players play loose and confident because Weber wasn’t on the sideline? Something sure felt different when watching this K-State basketball team without Bruce Weber on the sideline.
Last night the Wildcats were mostly at full strength, both on the coaching staff and the roster. Mike McGuirl was the only key player still out due to Covid protocols. The game was mostly a dud in the first half and TCU held a 26-25 lead at halftime. As I was watching, I remember thinking “both of these teams are terrible.” Both teams were playing mostly bad, sloppy basketball.
TCU increased their lead starting the second half and led by 10 points with 16 minutes left in the game. K-State slowly chipped away and eventually took the lead and led by five points with one minute and 32 seconds left in the game. Not only did they have a five-point lead, but they also had the ball. All they had to do was run a little clock, play some good defense, and make some free throws and they’d likely get the victory. Unfortunately, the remainder of the game was a comedy of errors. Here’s what happened….
1.) K-State inbounded the ball and Mark Smith was fouled, sending him to the line for a one-and-one. He missed the first free throw and TCU rebounded the miss.
2.) K-State’s Markquis Nowell stole the ball and had a fast-break layup. He lost his balance going to the basket and threw the ball up towards the rim while not hitting anything. The ball was rebounded by Selton Miguel, who turned around and threw the ball right to a TCU player.
3) TCU’s Damion Baugh was fouled attempting a layup on the other end. He missed the first free throw and made the second. K-State now led 57-53 with 1:11 left.
4) K-State’s Mark Smith attempted a three-point shot on the other end that clanked off the rim and went out of bounds over the backboard.
5) TCU’s Mike Miles missed a three-point shot, but it was rebounded by TCU’s Emanuel Miller right under the basket and he put it back up uncontested and made the layup. K-State now led 57-55.
6) K-State inbounded the ball to Ismael Massoud, who was trapped and had to call a timeout. That was K-State’s last timeout of the game.
7) K-State inbounded the ball to Nijel Pack, who was trapped just like Massoud was, and he traveled when pivoting. Turnover to TCU.
8) TCU inbounded the ball and Mike Miles hit a three-pointer to take a 58-57 lead.
9.) K-State fed the ball underneath to Davion Bradford, who lost control of the ball going up and shot an airball. TCU rebounded and K-State was forced to foul with 1.4 seconds left. TCU made both free throws for the final margin of victory of 60-57. TCU ended the game on an 8-0 run.
I hate to admit it, but I shook my head and laughed just as I did in 2003 while watching the Pasco Fiasco. Fans took to social media after the game to eviscerate Bruce Weber. And rightfully so.
Both Markquis Nowell and Mark Smith tried to deflect blame from Bruce Weber after the game by blaming themselves for the loss. It’s a noble thing to do, but there was plenty of blame to go around. The last-minute and a half of the game looked like a pickup game. Even though Weber was screeching instructions from the sideline, it did little to no good. Not in this game, nor in any of K-State’s other games for that matter.
K-State is now 0-4 in the Big 12 conference with games against Texas Tech, Texas, Kansas, and Baylor coming up. Ouch. 0-8 is likely.
Bruce Weber has won seven conference games in the last three years, (7-31), a 23% winning percentage. That’s not including the two losses this season in which he didn’t coach the team. Chris Klieman has won 13 conference games in the same period (13-14) and he’s one game under .500. Do you think Weber will win six more games this season to match Klieman’s win total (which he achieved in half the number of games played)? It looks unlikely.
What’s even worse than the product on the court is that there is zero excitement or buzz about the K-State basketball program and there hasn’t been in a few years now. They only draw a few thousand people per game, but who can blame the fans? K-State needs to put a much better product on the court if they want fans to attend games or to care about the program.
Is the debacle against TCU the beginning of the end of the Bruce Weber era at K-State? It very well could be.