KSAL Staff - February 13, 2017 8:00 am
MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS
After losses to Kansas and West Virginia last week, rumors are circulating among K-State fans that Coach Bruce Weber might be on his way out. That could change.
Kansas State gets a brief respite this week from what has been a brutal stretch in their schedule with a Wednesday game against Iowa State (Feb. 15) and at Texas on Saturday (Feb. 18). If the Wildcats win both of these games, their chance of making the NCAA Tournament would improve.
Regardless of whether it’s Weber or a new coach, K-State’s outlook for the 2017-18 season looks promising. D.J. Johnson and Wesley Iwundu are the only two players of note who will complete their eligibility. That’s two excellent ballplayers to be sure, but K-State has talented young players returning.
Sophomore Dean Wade (6-10, 230) started slowly this season, but he’s been coming on strong for the last two weeks. Wade is talented enough to carry a team like K-State to new heights. Wade’s only major fault is that he’s too unselfish; he should be looking to score every time he gets the ball within 15 feet of the basket. And he has a silky-smooth stroke from the 3-point line.
If the Wildcats are able to recruit an effective center, Wade will be a match-up nightmare for opponents next season. Dean Wade has the talent to be an extra special player. The guess here is that he’s going to be playing for a new coach.
Kansas has a make-or-break week coming up so far as the Big 12 race is concerned; the Jayhawks play West Virginia on Big Monday (Feb. 13) and then complete the week with a crucial road game at Baylor on Saturday (Feb. 18).
If the Jayhawks win both of these vital games, they would be in great shape to claim their 13th consecutive Big 12 championship. If they split the two games, KU would still be no worse than tied for first in the conference. If Kansas loses both games, then it would be a dogfight to see who wins the trophy. The prediction here is KU will defeat West Virginia to set up a showdown with Baylor in Waco. That one will be a toss up, but the old saying is to never bet against the champion.
Kansas has the best offense in the league, but the Jayhawks’ defense leaves much to be desired. KU’s perimeter defenders can’t stop their opponents from driving by them for layups or passes that result in wide-open 3-point shots. The Jayhawks’ rebounders hold their own most of the time, but their on-ball defenders have been a season-long issue that isn’t getting any better.
KU’s starting five of Landen Lucas, Josh Jackson, Frank Mason, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Devonté Graham and perimeter reserve Lagerald Vick have pretty much leveled off so far as dramatic improvement for this season is concerned.
The one player who could make a huge difference at tourney time is Carlton Bragg (6-10, 240). Bragg played terrific basketball in his 13 minutes against K-State, but he was ineffective in the nail biter against Texas Tech. The feeling here is that Bragg is oh-so-close to a major breakthrough; if that happens, Kansas becomes a better team.
Regardless of some shortcomings, KU is having another superb season under the great coaching of Bill Self. And the other top-rated teams in the nation have flaws of their own. The upcoming NCAA Tournament will be crazy wild; there’s no team that has separated itself from the rest of the field.
On February 6, Rivals recruiting rankings had the Kansas 2018 football recruiting class ranked an astounding 7th best in the nation. KU’s rating was ahead of many elite programs, including Alabama, Ohio State, Miami, and Nebraska.
Jayhawk fans shouldn’t become too excited; that high ranking won’t last. But Coach Beaty and his staff had eight commitments through February 10. Six of the recruits are from Louisiana and are rated three- or four-star by Rivals. It’s obvious that the Jayhawks are on their way to an exceptional 2018 recruiting class.
Running backs coach Tony Hull was hired by Beaty for his staff at KU; Hull has been a high school coach at New Orleans and he’s in his second year at KU. Hull was the lead recruiter in the Louisiana recruits. Beaty is so elated over the Jayhawks’ success down South that he promoted Hull to associate head coach/RB coach with an attendant raise in salary from $150,000 to $400,000.
Kansas is slowly clawing its way out of the muddy pit of substandard football.