Campus Corner

K-State Q&A: Bruce Weber’s popularity struggle, Lucky Lavenders and football attrition

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

Lots of great topics to get to this week, so let’s get right to them. Thanks, as always, for your participation.

To me, this is a more fascinating question than the ageless debate on Weber’s success (or lack thereof) and future (or lack thereof) at K-State.

The Wildcats are on pace to improve their overall win total (15 to 17 to 21 to ??) for the fourth straight season and to improve their Big 12 win total (5 to 8 to ??) for the third straight season. With a roster that doesn’t feature a single scholarship senior, they project to be better again next season. Unless the team flops down the stretch, odds are good Weber will be back for another year.

He also just passed Frank Martin for fourth on K-State’s all-time wins list for coaches and is on track for a fourth NCAA Tournament in six seasons.

But that doesn’t mean all K-State fans are happy. I can already see my Twitter mentions filling up with comments about how the team should never have dipped to 15 and 17 wins, that this is Year 6 and that Weber hasn’t won a single game in the NCAA Tournament.

What will it take for Weber to win over that segment of haters? That’s a great question.

I don’t think he will ever be universally liked. He says too many awkward things after games. K-State administrators have worked with him on that, and he’s been better this year (the play-hard chart references have nearly disappeared), but he still delivers quotes like “Ask Fran” and “Sometimes you need to get spanked.”

He also schedules soft and loses too often at home, going 11-13 in Big 12 games over the past three years. As good as the Wildcats have been on the road, winning at Hilton Coliseum and Gallagher-Iba Arena in the same season for the first time since 1988, they haven’t given fans much to cheer about at Bramlage Coliseum lately.

The fan base reluctantly hopped on the bandwagon when KU came to town, but left disappointed. A less than capacity crowd came out for the Texas Tech game, but booed at the end. It’s vital that K-State win its next two home games against Iowa State and Texas, both for its NCAA Tournament hopes and for Weber’s approval rating.

More than anything, he needs to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. That’s not always easy, considering the unpredictable nature of the postseason. K-State’s last two games in the round of 64 (Kentucky and Cincinnati) were against under-seeded opponents. But it definitely should have beaten La Salle and advanced to the Sweet 16 in Weber’s first year. Frank Martin made it to the NCAA Tournament four times and won six games. Weber has made it three times and won zero games.

That has to change before some will take him seriously.

Advancing to the round of 32 this season would help Weber’s image considerably. Even then, though, pressure would be on for him to make the second weekend next season. Bottom line: He needs to win consistently. That’s what every fan craves.

I’m not sure. It’s weird. Never thought I would see the day when K-State had a better Big 12 road record (4-3) than a Big 12 home record (3-3).

There’s nothing wrong with the fan support. Sure, there were empty seats for the Tech game, but not a ton. That was still a much bigger crowd than you see in most Big 12 venues like Baylor or Oklahoma State or Texas. Short of playing Sandstorm, I don’t know what more the crowd can do to help. The Wildcats simply haven’t played well in Manhattan. And they don’t know how to beat Kansas, Texas Tech or West Virginia, and those are the three teams that have won in Bramlage.

I wonder if home court means at much as it once did. A lot of teams are going through the same struggles. Kansas also has a better Big 12 road record than a Big 12 home record, and the Jayhawks get to play at Allen Fieldhouse. Oklahoma State has gone on the road to beat Kansas and West Virginia in consecutive Saturday road games, yet has barely competed at home in consecutive Wednesday home games against TCU, Baylor and K-State.

Lots of fan bases are wondering why their home court is no longer a huge advantage.

Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman wrote an interesting story breaking down some recent home success in the Big 12. Home teams won 70 percent of their conference games in 2015, but that dipped to 61.1 percent last season. Mike DeCourcy also wrote a good piece on the gradual extinction of horrible teams in power conferences. TCU and Texas Tech used to be freebies at home. Go back further, and Big 12 teams could kick back and relax against Colorado and Nebraska at home. These days, every game is a dog fight.

Still, K-State gets struggling Iowa State and Texas at home next. It’s time for the Wildcats to get right at home.

I’m hesitant to throw out a number. Even though I expect K-State to win and plan on picking the Wildcats later today with an official prediction, someone is going to claim I owe them whatever number I throw out if I’m wrong. So I’d rather not go there.

But I am confident K-State will win. If someone is willing to make a friendly wager on the game (no point spread) by all means take it.

I was very much looking forward to hearing what clever things Oklahoma State fans had to say about the Lucky Lavenders. Sitting directly in front of the student section, I figured I would hear plenty. Alas, there is nothing good to report.

Former K-State players say the only bad thing about wearing the lavenders was the insults they heard about them on the road while wearing them. I expected the OSU faithful to say some humorous things about the unusual two-tone uniforms, but they never went there.

Heard one fan accuse the referees of “liking Nickelback” and another compare Dean Wade to big bird and another yell “F$%& Kansas State” in the second half. But never heard anything about the uniforms.

The Wildcats played too well in them, apparently. Don’t mess with the Lucky Lavenders!

Personally, I would like K-State to treat lavender the same way Notre Dame treats green or Michigan treats yellow (OK, maize). It should wear them for big games to fire everyone up.

Pretty gross, probably.

Two-tone is a regular thing for football uniforms, so maybe it wouldn’t be so weird. Central Florida has a super light gold uniform, but that’s the least masculine football color I can think of at the moment. I just can’t picture lavender on the football field. Then again, if not for K-State’s historic basketball ties to the color, I’m not sure I could picture them on the basketball court either. And they look great on the hardwood.

The obvious answer is hockey. Install ice at Bramlage Coliseum and you’re good to go. I bet fans would come out and watch games.

If not that, I vote for a Biathlon team. K-State already has lots of students that know how to shoot.

Resist Temptation at So Long Saloon. I sure could go for one of those right now.

Concerned? Yes. Alarmed? No.

Several players with remaining eligibility have decided to turn pro/transfer/quit rather than return to Kansas State, and the departures leave the Wildcats thin in some areas. But every team deals with player exits. It’s not like this is exclusive to K-State. It’s simply more prevalent this offseason than others.

None of the departures have struck me as shocking. Dalvin Warmack tried to make it work for four years and decided K-State’s backfield was too crowded for him, especially with Mike McCoy ready to join the mix. It’s too bad. He’s a great scatback and a good guy, but his chances of having a big senior season are better elsewhere. Dominique Heath probably would have played a lot next year, but he took a big step back in 2017.

Breontae Matthews, Bryce Fitzner, Carlos Strickland and Bernard Goodwater rarely played. Dayton Valentine had injury issues. Winston Dimel’s father left for UTEP. Byron Pringle and D.J. Reed both got invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. Not surprising that they left.

Bill Snyder doesn’t like all those players leaving, because it hurts depth. But it’s best to let them seek other opportunities, rather than try to block a player from transferring.

If Alex Barnes, Skylar Thompson, Dalton Risner and Duke Shelley were leaving the program just because, fans would have ample reason to freak out. But this type of attrition is honestly somewhat expected in today’s game.

That being said, it will be fascinating to see what K-State does at receiver. After Isaiah Zuber and Dalton Schoen there is a sizable drop-off in proven playmakers.

It’s a Next Man Up sport, so plenty of new faces/unsung players will need to step in next year.

As mentioned above, I think you will see more of Mike McCoy at running back. Isaiah Harris had moments of brilliance at receiver last season, just not a lot of them. Maybe he can take a step forward. Zach Reuter? Maybe Landry Weber? Wide receiver will be wide open.

Not sure what to make of the incoming recruits yet. Few tend to make immediate impacts, but they may provide more depth than usual this time around.

Spring ball could be fascinating.

Nah. I think they found a good rotation the other day with Cartier Diarra starting and Kamau Stokes coming off the bench. Diarra’s numbers are far superior when he’s in the starting lineup, but Stokes has now proven he can help off the bench.

Unless Stokes really starts lighting people up, the starting lineup won’t change.

Depends on the opponent.

Bruce Weber has mostly preferred to go big against big opponents and switch small against small opponents. The Wildcats have a hard time rebounding and going small doesn’t help in that area. If Levi Stockard keeps contributing the way he did at Oklahoma State, the Wildcats have more than one big lineup.

But I do really like the lineup of Kamau Stokes, Cartier Diarra, Barry Brown, Xavier Sneed and Dean Wade. It gets K-State’s five best players on the floor at the same time, and that trumps a lot of other concerns.

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett

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