The Next Few Months Are Critical For K-State Basketball

The Next Few Months Are Critical For K-State Basketball

Glad that is over.

That is the sentiment of K-State basketball fans after K-State’s 91-82 loss to Iowa in the first round of the NIT. Here is a sampling of the texts I received and some of the posts I saw from friends on social media:

“I’m glad this misery is over for this season.”

“At least the season is over.”

“Every time I watched them this year, I kept thinking they are better than they are showing.”

“Frustrating year.”

“Thank heavens this nightmare is over.”

Others expressed the same sentiment, but that is the jist of it. There was no “Wish we could have won that game so we could watch them some more,” “Wish we could have made a run in the NIT” or “Wish we would have made the NCAA tournament.” Just “glad it’s over.”

K-State basketball fans are a glutton for punishment. The die-hards watch all of the games regardless of how good or bad the team might be. Most K-State fans like football much more than basketball, but basketball tides them over until spring ball. Me? I watch every game and have for over 30 years. I sat through the Dana Altman, Tom Asbury, and Jim Wooldridge years and watched every game. Talk about being a glutton. Then Bob Huggins was hired, and there was hope. Huggins left after one season, and I was devastated. Luckily, Frank Martin took over and was able to keep a great recruiting class intact, including Michael Beasley, Bill Walker, and Jacob Pullen. There were ups and downs with Martin, but the Martin years were mostly positive, and he made the NCAA tournament four out of his five seasons. Bruce Weber took over and won the Big 12 immediately upon becoming the coach, but he never assembled a team that one would consider a national title contender. Most years were bad, but there were a couple of pretty good years sprinkled in there. He probably should have been fired long before he was, as he never recruited well enough in his final five years of coaching to field a contender.

That brings us to Jerome Tang. Tang is a bit of an enigma so far. He arrived on campus promising great things for the basketball program, even saying last year that a national championship would be coming soon to Manhattan. His athletic director loves him, along with the student body. His personality is enough to get him through a rough year or two without much criticism. I logged onto X this morning and noticed “Tang” is trending like it seems it always is after K-State basketball games. If you click on it, you see about a 50/50 reaction to what happened last night. Many come to his defense and will die on a hill for the man. Others are critical of the results this season and are taking a “wait and see” approach.

One thing is for sure. Tang is an expert marketer. He has made such a positive impact in Manhattan that he has bought himself plenty of time to get the program turned around in the right direction. I wonder just how much time he has bought himself. Based on the texts I received last night and what I have seen on social media, apathy has once again set in with a percentage of the fan base. Let’s be honest. It was painful watching this basketball team this season. They had a lot of good individual pieces, but they never adjusted to losing Nae’Qwuan Tomlin and Ques Glover. They were one of the worst teams in the country in turning the ball over. It was bad basketball. On the other hand, this is not just happening to Jerome Tang at K-State. Virginia was selected to the first four of the NCAA tournament, and they only scored 14 points in the first half on Tuesday night against Colorado State. Talk about some bad basketball. And anyone who watched Missouri play this season knows what bad basketball looks like. Sometimes fans are in a bubble watching our team and nobody else and think that we are the only ones who have it bad when that is not necessarily the case. There is plenty of bad college basketball played right now. There are many reasons for it, but that is a topic for another time. I am more concerned with how Tang plans to fix K-State basketball.

The good news is we are talking about “bad basketball” watching a team that was on the NCAA bubble most of the season and that made the NIT. This team is not far off from being a competitor for a conference title soon. A few talented players coming in could fix things almost immediately. That is the key. I will be interested to see how Tang and his staff attack the transfer portal, as well as who they can get to stay from the current roster. I have no idea how that will play out at this point.

If an NIT bid is the worst it gets for Tang during his tenure as head coach in Manhattan, K-State fans will be happy with it. However, if he can’t get this thing turned around quickly, more and more fans will turn on him. Even though it is only his second year at the helm, this offseason is critical to the future success of Jerome Tang and K-State basketball. Hit a couple of home runs, and the program will get back on track. Strike out a few more times, and it might get worse. These next few months are very important to the future of K-State basketball.

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