Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Marcus Foster’s suspension is a perilous sign for K-State basketball

Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber and the Wildcats’ best player, Marcus Foster, have struggled this season to get on the same page.
Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber and the Wildcats’ best player, Marcus Foster, have struggled this season to get on the same page.

It’s so hard to know exactly what is going on with Kansas State’s basketball team, but it’s obvious Bruce Weber and Marcus Foster are not seeing eye to eye.

Foster, who everyone believed was primed for a great sophomore season after averaging 15.5 points per game as a freshman in 2013-14, has instead found his way into Weber’s doghouse. After being benched earlier in the season at Oklahoma State and at home against TCU, Foster and freshman Malek Harris were suspended for Wednesday night’s game at Texas Tech, which the Wildcats lost is disheartening fashion, 64-47.

The question now is whether Foster’s K-State career can be salvaged. What is his mindset? How far off the tracks has he gone? Just what were the team rules he and Harris violated to warrant Wednesday’s suspension?

Since both made the trip to Lubbock, we can presume whatever these violations are occurred there. Weber also disciplined sophomore point guard Jevon Thomas for immature actions by not starting him against Texas Tech, although Thomas played 34 minutes.

Kansas State went into the season as a potential Big 12 contender. But the Wildcats have fallen to 5-5 in the conference and 12-11 overall. They have eight games, seven against ranked teams: Texas, at West Virginia, Oklahoma, at TCU, at Baylor, Kansas, Iowa State, at Texas.

Wednesday’s loss makes me think the Wildcats will be lucky to win one or two more and that any hopes they had to reach the NCAA Tournament have vanished. Heck, this might not even be an NIT team.

It’s interesting how Weber talked a lot about his team’s immaturity after the Texas Tech loss, given his clipboard tirade during the Kansas game at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, when he screamed obscenities at senior Nino Williams before slamming a clipboard to the floor.

Is the stress getting to Weber?

He’s undoubtedly aware that his approval rating in Manhattan has never been high and that K-Staters are in the midst of a love affair with Brad Underwood, a top lieutenant on Frank Martin’s staff who is doing a bang-up job at Stephen F. Austin. Underwood is a K-State, bleeds purple guy. He’s from McPherson and there’s a nervous twitch going on in Manhattan that Underwood will take a bigger, better job before K-State gets to him.

Weber, who is in his third season at K-State, was hired by current athletic director John Currie to replace the volatile, entertaining, successful Martin, who is struggling to jump start a moribund South Carolina program.

Kansas State’s basketball heritage, of course, is rich. But the Wildcats were sinking under Dana Altman, Tom Asbury and Jim Wooldridge, with only two 20-win seasons in their 16 years.

Then Bob Huggins came to town in 2006, towing Martin and Michael Beasley with him. Huggins turned the program over to Martin in 2007 and Kansas State has a string of eight consecutive 20-win seasons.

The Wildcats were 27-8 in Weber’s first season, but fell to 20-13 in his second. The third looks to be turning into a disaster as the greatest fear of K-Staters – that this could be Weber/Illinois all over again – is gaining credibility.

That’s not to say Weber should bear the entire brunt of the blame. Foster needs to be held accountable for what he’s doing to negatively affect the Kansas State basketball team. Instead of helping lead this team, he’s obviously doing more to tear it apart.

But the 6-foot-3 Foster is a Weber recruit, not a leftover from the Martin era. It’s surprising and disappointing to see their relationship suffer, especially because Foster is such an outstanding talent.

Without him, the Wildcats’ offense shuts down. K-State scored only three points in the final 7:35 at Texas Tech and left Lubbock with its season in jeopardy.

Weber unloaded during his post-game talk with reporters.

“Our whole team, we have been plagued from the start of the season by immaturity,” he said. “By a lack of discipline and a lack of consistency. This has been on and off the court, all year.”

Thing is, it’s a coaching staff’s job to make sure things like this don’t happen. By saying what he said – and Weber had plenty to more to say – he was indicting himself and his coaches.

Again, that doesn’t mean Foster isn’t culpable. It just means Weber, so far, has failed to make it work smoothly with his team’s best player. That’s not a good sign.