Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber is aware some fans are disappointed.
The Wildcats missed the NCAA Tournament with a 15-17 record last season. Now, they are 16-15, hoping a good showing in the Big 12 Tournament will be enough to earn a spot in the NIT.
Weber is 78-54 with a shared Big 12 championship and two NCAA Tournaments standing out as top accomplishments during four years on the job. But K-State’s Big 12 record is on the decline, going from 14-4 in his debut season to 10-8 to 8-10 to 5-13. The Wildcats last failed to win six league games in 2003.
When asked what he would tell fans concerned about the current trajectory of K-State basketball, Weber said better days are on the horizon.
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“I would say, ‘If you look at the returning guys, you are pretty excited,’” Weber said. “Obviously, last year was a mess. We had a lot of issues, we had to clean things up. I think we cleaned it up. We were very fortunate to get some good, young players. You got two on the all-newcomer (team), probably a third should have been. He had better numbers than maybe the other ones. Wesley (Iwundu) made giant steps. D.J. (Johnson) made giant steps. We have got some good young guys coming. I think that is the biggest thing.”
Weber was encouraged to see freshman guard Barry Brown (9.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists) and freshman forward Dean Wade (9.8 points, 5.1 rebounds) make the Big 12 coaches’ all-newcomer team on Sunday, and he thinks freshman point guard Kamau Stokes (9.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists) was left off the squad because he hasn’t played since late January with a knee injury.
He was also happy to see Iwundu, a junior wing, earn third-team honors and land on the all-defensive team.
All four are expected back next season, and so is Johnson, a junior forward. Weber might already have his starting lineup for the 2016-17 season. That core group, along with seniors Justin Edwards and Stephen Hurt, went 11-2 in nonconference games this season, but wasn’t nearly as successful in the Big 12.
K-State was competitive in the majority of conference play, but failed to win close games, going 0-9 in games decided by 10 points or less.
“No one expected anything before (the season),” Weber said. “I don’t think any of you guys did. You didn’t know any of our players. Some people said, ‘How are you even going to suit up a team?’ Then, all of a sudden, they were pretty good and we beat people. We just didn’t have enough to sustain it.
“But they played their hearts out. They have played together, they have been a great group, they have been fun. The season, for me, has gone so fast. It just buzzed by. Those tough losses are sleepless nights. It makes it hard, but we still come back. We always enjoy them. They are a good group. I have to (tell them to) play a little harder once in a while, but they are there, they do what they are supposed to. That is fun. I think there is a good future. The excitement is there.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett