Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: Football recruiting, new uniforms, Jacob Pullen and basketball thoughts

It’s time for a special Wednesday edition of K-State Q&A.

No need for a lengthy introduction this week. We’ve got lots of great topics, so let’s dive right in. Thanks, as always, for your participation.

Here’s the thing about K-State basketball when it comes to consistency: You never know what you’re going to get on offense from the vast majority of the roster.

Barry Brown and Dean Wade are usually going to provide 10-25 points, and Kamau Stokes is usually going to give you 8-15 points. But it’s a mystery after that.

No one else on the team has a high floor. Xavier Sneed, Makol Mawien, Cartier Diarra, Mike McGuirl and anyone else Bruce Weber inserts into games is just as likely to go scoreless as he is to score 15 points.

When those players have good games, K-State tends to win. When they disappear, K-State tends to lose.

Diarra had 14 points against Texas A&M, but everyone else in that group might as well have stayed home. Sneed (two), Mawien (zero), McGuirl (one) and the rest of the team combined for three points.

Fans can count on K-State to play great defense. But every game is a mystery on offense, especially when the opponent goes with a zone defense. That leads to inconsistent results.

When things line up for the Wildcats, they can win five Big 12 games in a row. When the opposite occurs, they can lose to just about anyone. This team face plants every month or so with an unsightly defeat. Odds are good it will happen again, unless K-State can establish more consistent scoring threats.

That’s a depressing question right there. But you asked, so I will answer.

Both losses were pretty darn bad. On paper, I suppose Tulsa was a little worse. The Hurricane are 2-6 in the American and rank 140th in KenPom. Texas A&M is a little better at No. 122, but the Aggies have a worse conference record at 1-5 in the SEC. So you could make an argument, either way.

Let’s make the case for both.

Tulsa: The Hurricane defeated K-State last season in Wichita by deploying a zone defense. The Wildcats scored 54 points and should have been ready to get some revenge in Tulsa. But things didn’t work out that way. Frank Haith stymied K-State with the exact same approach and beat the Wildcats 47-46. Dean Wade (two), Barry Brown (six) and Kamau Stokes (four) combined for 12 points on 30 shots. How in the world does that happen?

Texas A&M: Very few people in College Station, Texas care about basketball and very few people showed up to support Texas A&M in this game. It was a dead environment. The Aggies were struggling so mightily that coach Billy Kennedy turned to walk-ons in the first half and were ripe for a whooping. But K-State failed to bury them when it had the chance in the first half and Wendell Mitchell caught fire in the second half. Once again, the Wildcats had no answer for a zone defense. Makol Mawien and the four reserve big men Weber played behind him all went scoreless.

Yeah, I’m going with Tulsa. The Wildcats should have been up for that game and flopped hard. At least with Texas A&M you could argue the team overlooked a middling opponent in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

You’re kidding yourself if you think you know what will happen in K-State’s next game at Oklahoma State or in any game after that.

The Wildcats’ next five games are at Oklahoma State, vs. Kansas, at Baylor, at Texas, vs. Iowa State. They are all coin flips. You could sell me on anything from 5-0 to 0-5.

But I’m guessing it will be 2-3 or 3-2.

As noted above, this team is inconsistent. And Big 12 basketball has devolved into a game of Super Smash Bros. with eight players crammed into a tiny level. Just when you think a favorite might be ready to emerge, Jigglypuff grabs a hammer and sends three competitors off the screen. That sounds a bit like some of the recent scores. Who expected Baylor and K-State to be leading the race in late January?

Biggest surprise: Barry Brown, I guess. There’s no obvious choice here. Very few of K-State’s players are exceeding preseason expectations. Kamau Stokes is scoring at a higher level than he was last season and he leads the team in assists. So he would be the other option. But Brown has, for the moment, surpassed Dean Wade as the best player on the team. So I will go with him.

Biggest letdown: Austin Trice. He is not the missing piece for this team. But there’s more competition for this spot. Xavier Sneed looked like he was about to break out during the NCAA Tournament and now he’s all over the place, averaging 9.7 points. Makol Mawien hasn’t taken a step forward, and neither has Cartier Diarra.

I’ve got an idea for Jacob Pullen’s jersey retirement. I shared it on the radio yesterday, and people seemed to like it, including Pullen. He literally liked a tweet about it.

Pullen said a few months ago that he wants to wait until the perfect moment to return to Bramlage Coliseum for his ceremony. Not only does timing have to be right for himself and his family, it has to be right for his former coaches and teammates. He wants Frank Martin there.

Here’s what I propose: K-State hosts South Carolina in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, and the Wildcats retire his jersey at halftime. That would get Martin back into the building and give Pullen’s old teammates extra incentive to be there.

That could be an awkward arrangement for Weber, Martin and some fans, but I think everyone would get over that quickly. No one bats an eye at Lon Kruger or Bob Huggins coaching for a conference rival anymore. There were some hurt feelings for the first West Virginia/K-State game in Wichita, but nothing crazy. Martin left seven years ago. Enough time has passed for both sides to be in the same room together.

K-State would prefer to play on the road again in the Big 12/SEC Challenge next season to offset its scheduled home game with Marquette in the Big 12/Big East Challenge. So they should try and bring South Carolina here in 2021.

A solid B.

Are they killing it on the recruiting trail? No. Even with all the hard work K-State’s new coaches have put in this month, Rivals ranks the Wildcats ninth in the Big 12 and 71st nationally, for this recruiting class. But they’ve done an admirable job hanging on to the commits Bill Snyder’s staff landed and they’ve added players at positions of need.

I like the look of Kansas City running back Clyde Price, and Ball State grad transfer James Gilbert was a nice get.

Other power-conference teams wanted Tyrone Lewis. Hanging on to linebacker Gavin Potter will be important.

Chris Klieman and his staff walked into a tricky situation, but they have handled it well.

We will get a better look at K-State’s new football recruiting chops when 2020 prospects start committing. That is a huge class for the Sunflower State, and the Wildcats need to keep some of those players home. For now, though, Klieman seems to be off to a good start.

Van Malone, by a long shot. The K-State cornerbacks coach uses GIFs more than I do!

You should give him a follow, if you haven’t already.

Let’s set the over/under at 3.5

The first fan question Chris Klieman answered during a Twitter Q&A on his inaugural flight to Manhattan was about alternate football uniforms. He said he would bring them to K-State.

Klieman knows there is a hunger for something new on the uniform front from both players and fans. It’s a good bet he will give the people what they want with at least one new look. But will he add two new looks? That’s the better question.

Here’s guessing he probably wants to, but I have no idea how long it takes to order new uniforms from Nike. I’ve heard it takes a very long time, perhaps more than he has. The deadline for anything new for next season might have already passed. I have no idea.

But here’s hoping K-State goes over. It’s time for a new look.

Why not both?

I like the helmet/uniform combinations TCU uses on Saturdays with white, purple and black lids. Did you see what the Horned Frogs unveiled on Wednesday?

Those are hot.

But, to answer your question, I bet we see purple first. It matches what K-State already has, and black doesn’t.

Well, let’s see.

He banged the drum before a Kansas City Chiefs game. He stayed up late and pushed the button at the Little Apple Drop on New Year’s Eve, alas the apple did not drop. And he’s scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a Nebraska coaching clinic in April.

Haven’t seen him around town, but I assume that’s because I don’t frequent either of Manhattan’s two fine Taco Bell locations.

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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.