1. Can Rodney McGruder make fans forget Denis Clemente?
Watching Clemente was made easier with Valium, and his theatrics, as much as his skills, will be missed. McGruder is no Clemente. But McGruder has a lot of talent and, according to coach Frank Martin, has mad leadership skills, much like Clemente except in more hushed tones. Let's not forget that McGruder came up big in a lot of games last season as a freshman off the bench. He never looked to be overwhelmed by his responsibilities and shot the ball well (49.5 percent overall, team-best 41.9 percent from the three-point line). McGruder looks like somebody who will step seamlessly into a larger role. He won't make K-Staters forget Clemente, but he'll soften the loss.
2. With such a rising profile, how long will Frank Martin stay?
No doubt about it, Martin's star is on the rise. He's a Miami guy who knows the East Coast. There has always been an underlying fear that Martin isn't long for Manhattan, at least the Little Apple version. But Martin is beholden to K-State for giving him an opportunity to be a head coach. That wasn't an easy decision at the time, for sure, because of his lack of experience. It's an opportunity he's made the most of and both sides are fulfilled. Martin talks often about loyalty and I think he's as loyal as a coach can be to a school. So why would he leave anytime soon? K-State is on the big stage and it could be a long run.
3. So, better than Kansas, huh?
The pollsters think so. The people picking the order of finish in the Big 12 think so. The TV bigwigs, who are getting K-State on the air a lot this season, apparently think so. But it doesn't really matter what anyone thinks. Knocking KU off its perch as Big 12 king won't be easy. Remember, the Jayhawks have owned Kansas State over the past decade-plus and beat the Wildcats three times last season. KU won't be chopped liver this season, too. Listen, I think K-State is a legitimate Final Four contender. Thing is, I'm not discounting KU from that possibility, either. We have a real battle going on for Big 12 supremacy right here in our state.