Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: Skylar Thompson, Chris Klieman, live mascots and basketball thoughts

Chris Klieman reflects on his career at NDSU and his move to K-State

North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman reflects on his career at North Dakota and his move to K-State. Klieman will coach the Bison in one last game on Saturday against Eastern Washington then take the reins at K-State as the new head coach.
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North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman reflects on his career at North Dakota and his move to K-State. Klieman will coach the Bison in one last game on Saturday against Eastern Washington then take the reins at K-State as the new head coach.

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

Like a team trying to (sand) storm back from a 21-point deficit, there’s no time for an elaborate lead in. So let’s dive right into your questions. Thanks, as always, for providing them.

The Wildcats proved enough in their improbable comeback against West Virginia to make me think they will stay above water until Dean Wade returns and then win enough games down the stretch to make the NCAA Tournament. But that’s about it.

I don’t think this team is magically back on path to a top-10 ranking like some expected at the beginning of the season.

K-State is still offensively challenged. It fell behind 17-3 against Texas Tech and 20-3 against West Virginia. Who wants to bet it falls behind 23-3 at Iowa State?

West Virginia isn’t bad, but it’s far from a good team without Sagaba Konate. The Wildcats beat the Mountaineers with a full-court press and an unexpected surge of offense. It was great to see Mike McGuirl regain his NCAA Tournament form and score 18 points, but Cartier Diarra has disappeared and the Wildcats got nothing from their big men.

What happened Wednesday doesn’t seem sustainable. It’s better than the alternative and a sign that the Wildcats have lots of fight, but it’s not a magic elixir that will cure all that ails this team.

You probably wouldn’t like my starting lineup.

As poorly as Makol Mawien, Levi Stockard, Austin Trice and James Love played against West Virginia (they combined for two points, four rebounds, no assists and 14 fouls) I would seriously consider throwing five guards out there.

Kamau Stokes, Barry Brown, Cartier Diarra, Mike McGuirl and Xavier Sneed.

Iowa State plays small, so it wouldn’t be like you’re giving up a huge height advantage inside. It could work.

Of course, Diarra isn’t bringing much to the table right now, either. He was K-State’s worst guard against West Virginia, going scoreless and choosing not to dive on the floor for a loose ball that led to an easy bucket for the Mountaineers.

So maybe I would take him out of the lineup and go with a more traditional four-guard look around Mawien. He’s a valuable player when he isn’t committing a foul per minute.

Final answer: Kamau Stokes, Barry Brown, Mike McGuirl, Xavier Sneed, Makol Mawien.

K-State coach Bruce Weber talks about Dean Wade's foot injury

I honestly don’t think that has anything to do with the team’s underwhelming start. Bruce Weber, back when he was #ConfidentBruce, went out of his way to try and turn preseason hype into a sign of disrespect. And it seemed to work when the Wildcats started 6-0. It was against a soft schedule, sure, but they turned it up a gear and whooped Missouri with a trophy on the line at the Paradise Jam.

Then they got smoked at Marquette, didn’t show up at Tulsa and then starters got hurt. It’s been hard to judge what’s going on without Dean Wade, the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, in the lineup. To suggest his absence isn’t at least somewhat of an excuse for a 1-2 start in Big 12 play, as some have, is crazy.

I have wondered about the NBA maybe being a distraction for this group, though. Barry Brown tested the pro waters over the summer, Kamau Stokes did the same the summer before that and Wade would have worked out for NBA teams had he been healthy. Xavier Sneed also popped up as a pro prospect following the NCAA Tournament.

Realistic or not, all four players probably entered the season thinking about what they could do to improve their pro prospects. Perhaps that distracted them from doing everything they could to help the team. That hasn’t been an issue in past years. I wonder if that has led to some of their struggles. Stokes is the only player of the bunch performing significantly better than last season. There’s been some selfish play.

Jacob Pullen also struggled with this at the beginning of his senior season.

But Brown seemed to remember he is effective off the dribble against West Virginia and the rest of the team fed off him. Whenever Wade gets back, maybe they can all return to their old ways.

I am all for K-State bringing in some type of live wildcat mascot to complement Willie on the sidelines at football games.

That would be awesome, especially if its trainers could get it to growl after first downs.

Its handlers would have to remember to keep it away from Bevo whenever Texas comes to town, though.

North Dakota State head coach finished out his career with the Bison Saturday going 15-0 and a national championship. Klieman talked about his win and his special relationship with his players and staff.

Here are the numbers K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson put up last season: 1,391 yards passing, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He also had 373 yards and five touchdowns rushing.

I’m expecting all of those numbers to go up. Not only do I see Thompson as a fit in K-State’s new offense (Chris Klieman recruited Thompson at North Dakota State), but Klieman won’t do anything silly like bench Thompson or Isaiah Zuber for no good reason.

My concern is whether Thompson can take the punishment that comes with playing quarterback in a system that features QB keepers as much, if not more, than what we’ve seen in previous years at K-State. He will be asked to run the ball ... A lot. NDSU quarterback Easton Stick had 117 carries this season.

Let’s project something in the neighborhood of 2,000 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The answer was five at North Dakota State last season. It will be something similar at K-State, especially without a proven running back to lead the way.

With Alex Barnes, Justin Silmon and Dalvin Warmack all gone (and Mike McCoy sidelined indefinitely) the Wildcats have no choice but to use a committee of running backs next season.

Ball State graduate transfer James Gilbert will probably get most of the carries, but they will find other bodies to run between the tackles. Harry Trotter, Cornelius Ruff IV (awesome name) and Joe Ervin are all going to touch the ball. You know Thompson, and maybe a backup quarterback, will get 50 touches as a runner.

I’m going to guess six, maybe even seven.

Courtney Messingham explains why his offense will work at K-State

Just to make this clear: Sean Snyder is most definitely NOT on the coaching staff.

He was one of about 20 people pictured in a meeting with Chris Klieman earlier this week, but he will not be on the field with a headset next season influencing the game in any way. He is merely a member of the administrative staff that helps support the football team. I’m not sure exactly what his job will entail. They still might be deciding on that. But he has history working as a director of football operations. It might be something like that.

Not a chance.

He might add some type of helmet sticker, like the front-facing Bison his seniors sported at North Dakota State, but the powercat is here to stay. K-State football has never won wearing anything else.

You can count on alternate uniforms and new pregame music, though.

Pretty sure fans of most teams feel this way. Kansas City Chiefs supporters everywhere are holding their breath about Saturday’s game against the Colts, even though they are favored by 5 1/2 at home against a team that they should have no problem beating. Lin Elliott memories die hard.

If you don’t like it, I guess you can always switch to North Dakota State. That football team never seems to lose.

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Kellis Robinett covers Kansas State athletics for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. A winner of more than a dozen national writing awards, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and three children.