TCU basketball dropped their first game of the Big 12 season against West Virginia this past Saturday, but they have a chance to get back to .500 in conference against Kansas State on Wednesday night. I got ahold of TheBigE, with Bring on the Cats, to talk about the game. You can ready my answers to his questions over on BotC at some point in the next day or so.
1) Kansas State is the only Big 12 team that has yet to reach the 10 win plateau, and they're currently sitting at 7-7. What's the biggest reason for the slow(ish) start?
We're still trying to figure that out ourselves. On the surface, it's inconsistency. We've shown we can be a good team (88-79 over Purdue, 72-68 loss to Arizona, 71-64 win over Texas A&M), we can be an exceptionally bad team (58-56 home loss to Texas Southern, scoring 12 first half points in a home loss to Georgia), and literally everything between. The only thing consistent that K-State has brought to the table this year is turnovers, especially live-ball turnovers (steals), and the inability to keep even good high school teams from shooting high percentages. However, the bigger issue that we're all speculating on right now is what is causing the inconsistency. One can clearly see some attitude issues, some effort issues, and some coaching issues permeating throughout the program right now.
2) This is Bruce Weber's third season as head coach, and he's gotten Kansas State to the Tourney in his first two years, albeit they were quick trips. What does Kansas State need to do to get back to the tournament for a third straight season, and if they don't, does that put Weber on the hot seat?
At this point, win the Big 12 regular season, or Big 12 tournament. That's the only solid way in. Finishing outside the top-3 in the Big 12 regular season probably has NIT written on it, outside the top half has CBI or an early start to the offseason. Weber and a hot seat? Depends on who you ask. In my opinion, if (and it's a gargantuan 'if') K-State were to make the Big Dance at this point, he's safe through his current contract. NIT appearance is probably warming the chair up. With the expectations coming into this season, a CBI or lack of postseason appearance, and you're gonna smell something burning before long.
3) Who are some key players TCU fans should look for on Wednesday?
Our lineup is in a bit of a shakeup right now, so here goes nothing: Senior F Thomas Gipson will be an obvious player to keep your eye on. "Gip" is second on the team in scoring and rebounding, and is top-30 in the country in Effective Field Goal %, True Shooting %, Fouls Drawn per 40 minutes, and FT Rate. Another key player to watch for is Sophomore G Marcus Foster. Foster is an absolute enigma right now - a lot of speculation today on whether he would actually leave the program this week, after the lack of performance and general attitude the past couple weeks. Foster is a pre-season All-Big12 pick, and sat the bench almost the entirety of the second half against Georgia, and did not start against Oklahoma State on Saturday (where he went scoreless on 1-4 shooting - first time in his collegiate career). He's dealing with some mental demons right now, but when he is locked in and playing with passion, is one of the best players in not only the conference, but the country.
4) TCU is a vastly improved squad, capable of pulling off an upset. What does Kansas State need to do to ensure a win?
Find a way to play basketball for 40 minutes. It really is that simple. K-State has the talent and the capability to be a top-4 Big 12 team where they were picked by coaches at preseason. We haven't done it very often this season, but when we have, it's yielded some good results. The issues holding this Wildcat team back are entirely between the ears.
5) Lastly, what's your prediction for how this game will turn out?
Given the flux this team is going through, and the aimless wandering of the desert that everyone associated with the team is in, I'm skeptical K-State can put together the goods consistently enough throughout the game to come up with a win...against anyone. That's the problem with inconsistency - what team will show up? If the team K-State can field based on talent and capability shows up, I think its a rout at home for the Cats. If this version with mashed potatoes for brains that we've seen more recently and more often appears, TCU wins a close one by 5 or 6. I'm leaning more toward the latter, but would be pleasantly surprised with a more favorable outcome.