Tonight I give you the Kansas State Wildcats, exhibit A for why preseason college basketball ratings mean virtually nothing.
The vast majority of the media who vote on such things had the Wildcats in the top five in the preseason, or at least the top ten. They were the consensus pick to win the Big 12 Conference. And, Jacob Pullen was considered as a first-team All-American candidate and likely Player of the Year in the Big 12.
Kansas State is now a team in deep trouble--they are 14-8, 2-5 in the league, and have no RPI boosting wins on their resume. What the heck happened to this team?
One, Denis Clemente graduated, leaving a void at the point guard slot. Clemente's Sundance to Pullen's Butch resulted in a guard-led team last year and you know what they say about needing strong guards in the NCAA Tournament. With Clemente's leadership and ball distribution, Pullen was left to focus on what he does best--shoot. Without Clemente this year, Pullen has struggled with being both team leader and on-court quarterback.
Two, Dominique Sutton tranferred. Now, I've yet to hear Sutton's name mentioned when people discuss KSU's woes but he is a guy who the Cats have not replaced. Sutton was the energy guy, a defensive stopper who was long and athletic, and complemented Pullen and Clemente by knowing his role.
Three, Curtis Kelly has been a distraction. Fans and media fell in love with Kelly last year during tournament time when his points and rebounds were critical in KSU's run to the Elite Eight. This year, Kelly's early lack of effort landed him in Frank Martin's doghouse and that became the outhouse once Kelly and Pullen were charged with impermissible benefits due to a shopping spree gone awry.
Four, Wally Judge has not developed--at all. Tonight, Judge fouled out against Kansas and was clearly over-matched in going against Markieff and Marcus Morris, along with Thomas Robinson. Judge's numbers on the year are not what you expect of a former McDonald's All-American--he's scoring 5.6 per game and has four rebounds a game. In addition, he's a liability from the free throw line given his .438 percentage.
And, finally, one has to point to coaching. I'm not necessarily calling out Martin here, although one has to ask if his style fits for a team with these kind of issues. Rather, what's going on with the guys sitting beside him on the bench? When kids like Judge don't develop or Kelly regresses, that's usually a product of the lack of coaching they're getting during the week.
Kansas State has nine games left on the conference schedule, five of which are at home and include dates against Kansas and Missouri. It will be critical for KSU to find ways to win at Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa State. Otherwise, the rousing chants of "NIT" that the Wildcats heard tonight in Allen Fieldhouse will become their unfortunate reality.