The Kansas State Wildcats open the 2010-2011 basketball season as the #3 team in the nation in both the AP and coach’s poll. There the pre-season favorite to win the Big 12 over the Kansas Jayhawks. This is a season after the Wildcats made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament, losing to the Butler Bulldogs in a tight game. There coming off one of the best seasons in school history and the best season for them in quite some time. There key losses from last years team are guard Denis Clemente and forward Dominique Sutton. Clemente is a big loss, he was the motor of that team and as he went the team went. Jacob Pullen benefited from Clemente’s skill and ability to pass the ball. Pullen is returning as a Pre-season All-American and as the teams top player. Pullen is one of the purest shooters in the country and Frank Martin will find ways to get him open. I wouldn’t be suprised if he leads the conference in scoring, even with every team knowing they need to stop him.
I will admit that I believed Kansas State made a big mistake in hiring Frank Martin a few years ago. I thought they had hired a coach specifically to get Michael Beasley, which was a great player for them, but I believed once he left the team would go downhill to the lack of having a good coach. Frank Martin has proved me wrong and has become a very good coach and has made the Kansas State basketball program one of the top programs in the nation now. He knows how to bring out the talent in all of his players and he has definately shown that he can recruit. So with a coach that has proven he can win and with a top player in Jacob Pullen, this is going to be a very good team.
We will learn very early on if this team is for real or not because they have a tough start to the season. It starts on Novemter 16th against #23 Virginia Tech at Bramlage Coliseum and then just a week later they go the CBE Tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City and play #12 Gonzaga. If they can get a victory against Gonzaga they will probably face #1 Duke the next day. So any questions you have about this team will be answered early and we will get to see what this team is made of. I believe the question they need to answer is who will replace Denis Clement. Pullen is a great point guard but they need someone else to step up to take control of the that spot so Pullen can focus on getting open because he is a lights out shooter. There hoping Rodney McGruder can step in a be that guy, but I have my doubts with him. He’s a better shooter than Clemente but we will have to see if he can create shots for himself and others like Clemente did. The good news is, even if he does struggle early he is a young kid and very talented and the more playing time he gets the better he will get.
The Kansas State Wildcats are excited about their front court this year. Returning Curtis Kelly and Wally Judge is a great way to establish a good front court. They have a young center in Jordan Henriquez-Roberts that still needs to prove himself but he is a big guy that can cause some problems for other teams. If Kelly and Judge can stay out of foul trouble, they are two very talented atheletes. Wally Judge is another young kid that was highly rated coming out of high school and showed glimpses of that talent last year. Hopefully this year he can be more consistent with more playing time and he can really show off his talent.
Now are they overrated? It’s hard to say, they have some great talent on there team and if it all comes together like Kansas State is hoping for, they could be a favorite to win it come March. If they can get through the tough schedule to start the season ok, they could ride the energy that they will get from those wins into the Big 12 conference and that can be very important. If they struggle to start, if they struggle to find there identity and how they should play, it could be take them longer to get going but they still have the talent that can overcome a slow start to the season. Should they be ranked over the Kansas Jayhawks in Big 12? I’m ok with that, KU lost three outstanding players and they have to prove that they can replace that talent before they can be the best team in the Big 12. K-State has the best player in the Big 12 and a solid cast of supporters, but we will see early on what that team can do.
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