Tag Archives: Bruce Weber

Another underrated team, another Big 12 title

10 Mar

Is there an echo in here?

If the following story line sounds familiar, it is. You just heard it a few months ago.

“Picked to finish in the middle of the pack this year, the Wildcats surprised everyone by not just putting together a successful season but by claiming a share of the Big 12 title.”

The basketball team, predicted to finish fifth, at the very bottom of the top half of the league, won 25 games after an offseason coaching change that initially left many fans dissatisfied. Even though coach Bruce Weber and the Wildcats lost Saturday at No. 13 Oklahoma State, they still ended up with a piece of the championship when No. 4 Kansas suffered its worst loss in seven years to unranked Baylor in Waco.

The Kansas State football team, which ended the season 11-2, had been predicted to finish sixth. In retrospect, it is hard to believe people thought that the team would straggle into a position in the bottom half of the league. Instead, the Wildcats felled mighty Bob Stoops and ranked Oklahoma in normally unassailable Norman and went on to contend for the national championship.

Does it bother Kansas State players that media outlets often ignore them? A little, but it is nothing new, said junior guard Will Spradling, who played on Saturday despite a bruised sternum.

“We’re not getting the type of respect that we should, but that’s something K-State’s dealt with in every sport, every year,” Spradling said. “The football team didn’t get much respect this year until they got the No. 1 spot, and they still weren’t getting much respect at the end of the year.

“K-State’s just – athletically they’re kind of looked down upon, and teams lately have really been rejuvenating the program,” he added.

Outsiders might not have expected the basketball team to contend for a Big 12 title, but senior Martavious Irving knew the opportunity was there.

“When they won it, that’s the first thing I thought about,” Irving said. “We’re the next major sport at the school, so it’s pressure and we’re pretty good, even though we’ve got a new coaching staff, I was thinking, ‘Now it’s kind of like we’ve got to win it too.'”

Win it they did. It is the first Big 12 title in basketball for Kansas State since 1977. Weber was 20 years old.

As senior Rodney McGruder gazed up at the championship banner on the wall of the gym in the Wildcats’ new basketball practice facility, he remarked how long ago it was – more than a decade before he was even born. He interpreted the length of time since a Big 12 title as a chance for this year’s team to accomplish something great.

Even with the end of the regular season still a few weeks old, senior Jordan Henriquez looked at the chance to win a championship not just as a crowning accomplishment but as the beginning of a new tradition that his younger teammates can continue.

“If we win the Big 12 championship, I want those guys to keep it going,” Henriquez said. “If Kansas can win nine or 10 in a row, why can’t K-State?”

 

 

Numbers to Note: KSU/OU

20 Jan

9 assists for Angel Rodriguez

Angel Rodriguez’s contribution presents a great opportunity to talk about what he and Martavious Irving bring to the Wildcats. They don’t always hang a ton of points on the board, but missing the duo for a pair of games before Big 12 play began showed what the team looks like without them. Suffice it to say that the Wildcats are much better off when both are available. Both were key on Saturday in forcing 16 Oklahoma turnovers, which Kansas State converted into 26 points.

“I thought our pressure would hurt them,” coach Bruce Weber said. “I thought Angel and Tay really set the tempo and really bothered their guards. We got on the floor.”

Rodriguez has looked out of control now and then, sometimes going to the rim too quickly instead of running the offense, sometimes shooting with a bit too much abandon. These days, he just looks a little more steady, a little more relaxed.

“We told him you don’t always have to score,” Weber said. “Make the good pass, the good play. I think he’s starting to buy into that a little bit.”

 

20 second-chance points for Oklahoma

The Wildcats cannot ever allow that again. If the Sooners had not committed nearly a dozen turnovers in the first half, their domination on the boards could have ended Kansas State. As anybody who follows basketball knows, it is hard to overstate the importance of rebounding. It is all about opportunities: each offensive rebound grabbed is another opportunity for your team to score, and each defensive rebound is another opportunity denied your opponent. Huge, huge, huge, huge. The Wildcats will have to keep opponents from getting multiple shots in possessions if they want any shot at challenging for the Big 12 title.

Weber said the way Oklahoma draws the forwards away from the basket makes rebounding against the Sooners challenging because the job then falls to the guards.

“We talked about scramble rebounds and nose for the ball before the game, and the scramble rebounds were going to come because they get you spread out,” Weber said. “You’ve got to rotate, you’ve got to get to their bigs on different things, so now you’ve got to help, now you’ve got to rotate and scramble. We did not do a very good job on that. They killed us on the boards.”

 

10 from long range by Kansas State

Listening to Oklahoma coach – and former Kansas State coach – Lon Kruger after the game, you got the impression that he did not expect the Wildcats to drain quite so many 3s. Maybe no one expected it, but it certainly makes you wonder what all this team is capable of when it really hits its stride. Rodney McGruder made four of those 3s – three coming right in a row – and Will Spradling made three, while Shane Southwell made two and Angel Rodriguez added one.

The offensive production also hints at an increasingly solid grasp by the players of first-year Kansas State coach Bruce Weber’s offense.

“In our offense, any given night anybody can have a big night because it really just kind of lets anybody get the flow of it, so anybody can get hot,” Spradling said, “and it’s nice that we didn’t need to rely on that one person that was hot at the end of the game because we had so many players that were playing well and shooting it well.”

Besides understanding the new system, players have started to believe in it.

“Mentalities have changed around the locker room,” McGruder said. “We’re really focused and things like that. When everyone buys into what coach is preaching to us, then I think we can be very good, and that’s what everyone’s doing. Just from a mental aspect, Everyone’s just buying in. That’s what’s key.”