Mac Stevenson
Kansas State’s football team finished the regular season on a high note with wins over Oklahoma State and Iowa State. The final win against the Cyclones was one of the most-thrilling finishes ever for the home team, and the Wildcats are now all set for their and 20th bowl game during Coach Bill Snyder’s iconic career.
K-State returns every player that started on offense in the last game and the key reserves; the Wildcats also return 15 players who were prominent contributors on defense. In addition, redshirt sophomore QB Skylar Thompson proved in the last two games that he’s ready and able to become the starting QB next season.
Whoever coaches Kansas State next season is going to have the players needed to have a first-class ballclub that can be highly competitive in the Big 12. This year’s team didn’t match the lofty preseason expectations, but a 5-4 record in a prestigious conference would be more than satisfactory to a lot of programs across the nation.
Kansas is the highest-rated basketball team in the Big 12 and ranked third in the national polls. KU was unbeaten after five regular-season games and most of the wins have been one-sided. Coach Bill Self has his team playing superb basketball for this early in the season.
KU has played mostly patsies; however, they have played two tough games, one that counts and one that doesn’t. The Jayhawks defeated Kentucky in the Champions Classic and they beat Missouri in a preseason exhibition game that won’t show on the season record.
Kansas has looked spectacular in the early going, but the pushovers will soon be a thing of the past. Those three-point shots will be much harder to come by and foul trouble—because of the lack of depth—will cause the Jayhawks to lose some games they might otherwise win.
Self has another exceptional group of perimeter players and his sophomore center, Udoka Azubuike (7-0, 285), is showing signs of becoming a special player. And Mitch Lightfoot (6-8, 210) has made significant improvement in KU’s games against Texas Southern and Oakland.
If Kansas had Billy Preston (6-10, 240) playing, the prospects for an extraordinary season would be in place. But Preston hasn’t played and it’s looking more and more like something is badly amiss with that situation. This is pure speculation, but the guess here is that Preston or someone he is closely associated with has violated NCAA rules and Preston is likely out for the season.
Self and KU’s administration have been totally hush-hush concerning whatever the problem is with Preston. That may be for the best. But it’s unacceptable that these type problems keep cropping up.
If Silvio De Sousa (6-9, 245) enrolls at the semester break and becomes eligible to play right away, it will be a huge lift for KU. But it won’t offset the possible loss of Preston; De Sousa is a high school senior with no knowledge of KU’s system or what is expected of him. He’ll help, but don’t expect any miracles.
Wichita State’s basketball team acquitted themselves very well in the Maui Invitational, losing in the championship game to Notre Dame, 67-66. The Shockers should have won the title as they controlled the game until the closing minutes, but “should have” doesn’t feed the bulldog.
Markis McDuffie (6-8, 212) is expected to rejoin the Shockers within the next few weeks and his addition will make Wichita State even more potent. McDuffie was Wichita’s leading scorer and rebounder on last season’s 31-5 team. When McDuffie returns, Wichita will be as deep and talented as any team in the nation.
And don’t forget about freshman center Asbjorn Midtgaard (7-0, 285); Coach Gregg Marshall didn’t play him in Hawaii, but this young man will improve and become a force in some games as the season progresses.
Chancellor Douglas Girod of Kansas has decided to extend the status quo of the football program for another year. In his first year at the helm, Dr. Girod evidently decided he didn’t want to rock the boat. That’s understandable and he’s not doing anything that hasn’t been done numerous times by other KU presidents down through the years. But there will be dire consequences.
KU will finish in the Big 12 cellar again next season. And the Jayhawks will have the worst 2018 recruiting class in the league. This year’s team not only didn’t improve, it wasn’t as good as the 2016 team.
When the inevitable changes are finally made, the frustration of inept management of the football program will have been extended for another year and improvement will be even more difficult. It’s a depressing and unnecessary condition for Jayhawk fans who have suffered because of incompetent presidential leadership of athletics for so many years.