I’m turning 50 this week. I’ve followed K-State sports closely and rabidly since I was 17. People older than me always told me that time goes by fast. At this point in my life, I’ve grown to believe them. It is my wish, as a K-Stater, to see my team win the national championship in basketball or football. Perhaps my least favorite sports statistic is the fact that Kansas State and Virginia Tech are the only two Power 5 programs never to win a national championship in a team sport. Ouch.
K-State has come close before in both football and basketball. The Wildcats had the best team in college football in 1998 but lost in overtime to Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game to get knocked out of the national championship game. The basketball team has made it to the Final Four four times and made it to the national title game in 1951 before losing to Kentucky. Close, but no cigar, as they say.
It begs the question. Will K-State get it done in my lifetime? I’m definitely not going to live forever. My Dad, the forever optimist, seems to think that Chris Klieman will get it done on the football side. Many optimistic K-State basketball fans believe Jerome Tang when he says there will soon be a parade in Manhattan for the basketball team. But it’s not an easy thing to accomplish. You have to get in position to win it every year and then hope that the ball bounces your way and you win it all every once in a while. Look at Kansas basketball, for example. They’ve lost way more times as a higher seed than the number of times they’ve won it all. Look at Alabama in football. They are in a position almost every season to win it all. But they don’t win it every year.
Is K-State positioned in football and basketball to win a national championship? It is easier to do in basketball than it is in football. Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State get the best high school football players in the country every year, which is why they have the best shot to win it all every year. While K-State recruiting has gotten a lot better under Klieman, they still have a ways to go before they are ready to compete at that level year after year. It will be interesting to me this year to see if there is a drop off with the football program or if they can continue to compete at the top of the Big 12.
Basketball is a different story. If you have a roster of athletic guys that can score, plus a couple of future NBA-caliber players, you can put together a run and win a national championship. Syracuse with Carmelo Anthony and Kansas with Danny Manning come to mind as examples of that. K-State made the Elite 8 with a couple of great players in Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell, who will both play in the NBA. If Tang can keep those types of recruits coming in, K-State will be in a good position to make continued runs in the NCAA tournament.
Will K-State win a national championship in football or basketball in my lifetime? I’m more optimistic about that happening than I have been in a while. If I had to guess, it will happen in basketball before it happens in football. I just hope I’m still alive to see it!