Editor’s note: This is the sixth article in a continuing series previewing the 2013-14 Big 12 men’s basketball season and examining all 10 conference teams.
No. 5 Kansas State Wildcats
Lsst season, Kansas State won a share of the Big 12 regular=season championship, the Wildcats’ first conference title since 1977. And their 14 conference wins matched the school record for wins in league play set by the 1958-59 K-State team, when was a perfect 14-0 back in the days of the Big Eight Conference.
Kansas State has averaged 24 wins a season over the past four years and has appeared in five of the past six NCAA Tournaments. KSU has won at least 21 games in each of the past seven seasons. But the 2013-14 Wildcats will be hard pressed to reach those same heights this season.
Bruce Weber is starting his second season as head coach of the Big 12 co-champion Wildcats. He must replace four of the team’s top seven scorers from a year ago, including the Cats’ leading scorer and All-Big 12 selection Rodney McGruder. K-State also loses the services of high-energy point guard Angel Rodriquez, who decided to transfer to the University of Miami to be closer to his family.
With Rodriquez and and McGruder now gone, the spotlight in the Little Apple will shift to senior guard Shane Southwell and backcourt mate Will Spradling, who is the team’s leading returning scorer, at 8.4 points per game.
“For us to be competitive in the league,” Weber said during Big 12 Media Days in late October, “there is no doubt that our older guys have to be consistent. You look at last year, we had experienced guys, Kansas had experienced guys. It makes it so much easier on a coach.”
Thomas Gipson, who saw quite a bit of action last season, replaces Jorndan Henriquez in the post, and forward D.J. Johnson and Nino Williams should also see plenty of playing time in 2013-14.
The top newcomer coming into the season appeared to be 6-2 freshman shooting guard Marcus Foster from Wichita Fall, Texas.
How well the K-State returning veterams mesh with a talented group of freshman players will determine how far this team will go this season.
The Wildcats are 1-1 to start the new season, losing the season opener to Northern Colorado before rebounding to defeat Oral Roberts in game two.
Next up: Iowa State