One final look at KSU, KU and WSU basketball this year

When K-State was upset in the first round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, some fans didn’t like Coach Bruce Weber’s decision to sit star senior guard Barry Brown when he picked up two quick fouls in the first five minutes of the game.

Never mind that more than 90 percent of college coaches in America sit players when they pick up two fouls in the first half, thinking they’ll at least have them for most, if not all, of the second half.

Unfortunately, common wisdom isn’t always logical. In this case, Brown played the second half without picking up another foul. So we’ll never know how much more he might have contributed if he had been able to play longer in the first half. Of course, he might also have picked up his third foul if he had stayed on the floor in the first half.

When a player sits out for such a long time, I wonder if said player really gets into the flow of the game.

The problem for KSU was that they were already hampered playing without one of their best players, Dean Wade, because of a foot injury the previous week.

K-State still had ample opportunity to win the first-round game, and those fans who were critical of Weber shouldn’t forget how he led the team to a co-championship in the Big 12 with Texas Tech, breaking KU’s 14-consecutive-conference title streak.

As for KU, Coach Bill Self had a year with more peaks and valleys than some roller coasters. An injury to Udoka Azubuike probably was the major reason the Jayhawks finished third in the Big 12. It’s hard to say, “next man up,” when the man who gets hurt is one of the best big men in the country.

Adding to KU’s woes was the departure of LaGerald Vick, who left the team for personal or family reasons. Mix that in with an inexperienced backcourt, and the Jayhawks struggled mightily on the road.

Auburn soundly beat the Jayhawks in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, which was eerily similar to the beating KU took at the hands of Villanova in the Final Four a year ago.

Then there are the Shockers from Wichita State. Coach Gregg Marshall had a major rebuilding job on his hands. When Austin Reaves transferred to Oklahoma and Landry Shamet went to the NBA, the Shockers were long on youth and short on experience.

Truthfully, I thought Shamet would have been better served to stay in school one more year, but he proved me wrong on two counts. One, I didn’t expect him to be drafted in the first round. And two, he’s playing and scoring more than I thought he would as a newcomer. Good for him.

Wichita State had a few bright spots in its nonconference schedule, like the win over Baylor, but they also laid an egg, getting blown out at OU.

After starting the American Athletic Conference schedule 1-6, post-season play didn’t seem realistic. But Marshall and his team rallied for a strong finish that resulted in a berth in the NIT.

Bless his heart, my son Nathan seriously asked me if NIT means “Not In Tournament.” Ouch.

My cousin David Klaassen said, ‘That’s a good one. But feel free to tell him that back in 1950 — before the college basketball betting scandal — the NIT held in Madison Square Garden was The Real Tournament, way bigger than the NCAA.”

Turns out that WSU impressively won three NIT road games at Furman, Clemson, and Indiana, the No. 3, 2, 1 seeds, respectively, in their bracket, to earn a trip to play in the Final Four in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

While the goal was to play in the NCAA Tournament and not the NIT, under the circumstances, it’s not too much of a stretch to say WSU ended the season on a higher note than KSU or KU.

Time will tell whether it translates into a better season next year.