I’ve written before here that Bruce Weber’s career is an ink-blot test, but what I’ve never realized until now is that individual Bruce Weber seasons are that way too.
With February just around the corner, Kansas State is in a first-place tie in the Big 12. The Wildcats (15-4) crushed Texas Tech on Tuesday night, and if you ask Red Raiders coach Chris Beard, K-State has the best defense in the Big 12.
K-State looked all but buried after starting Big 12 play 0-2. But with Dean Wade, Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Xavier Sneed all healthy at the same time now, Kansas State might actually have the best team in the conference.
The first thing you want to say is “what about Kansas?” And it’s true Kansas was the preseason No. 1 team, but it’s playing without its best two big men, Udoka Azubuike (injured) and Silvio De Sousa (NCAA purgatory) and as it is, I’m not sure Kansas has more than one guy (Dedric Lawson) better than Wade, Brown and Stokes.
Further, the Jayhawks haven’t played a lot of good defense this year, and they don’t have nearly as much experience in the rotation.
The other “best team in the Big 12” was, as of like a week ago, Texas Tech, the team Kansas State just beat 58-45. The 14th-ranked Red Raiders have lost three in a row now and haven’t hit 70 points in a game since the end of December, against Texas Rio Grande Valley.
A half game back of Kansas and Kansas State now is, somehow, Baylor (12-6), which has losses to Texas Southern and Stephen F. Austin on its resume. Baylor leads the Big 12 in rebounding margin and blocked shots. The Bears get 13.5 offensive rebounds per game, helping make up for their poor 3-point shooting (31.7 percent) and perimeter defense. But I don’t consider the Bears a real threat to win the league.
And then there’s No. 24 Iowa State, which is probably the best offensive team in the conference, and has wins over Kansas and Texas Tech.
If you casually looked through the Big 12 stats, you might think the Cyclones were in first place. And they would be, had they not lost to … Kansas State.
The Wildcats are last in the Big 12 in scoring, and second in points against on defense. But the stats aren’t real helpful in analyzing Kansas State, because Wade, the preseason Big 12 player of the year, has missed six games since December, including back-to-back losses to Texas and West Virginia to begin Big 12 play. Since Wade returned Jan. 12, K-State is 4-0 with three wins over ranked teams.
Kansas State and Kansas haven’t faced each other yet this season. Those games are Feb. 5 and Feb. 25, and will probably decide the conference champion.
Generally, K-State would be the underdog in those games. This year, I’m not so sure.