Kansas State Wildcats

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2016, file photo, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall directs his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Drake, in Des Moines, Iowa. At this time of year college basketball coaches often sound like political candidates looking for votes as they tout their teams' NCAA tournament worthiness.  (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Looking Forward: Which programs are set to step backwards as we head into 2016-17?

1 Comment

The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some programs on the decline heading into next season.

Wichita State: It’s hard to see the Shockers take too much of a tumble given how good a coach Gregg Marshall is and their superiority to the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference, but the graduations of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker mean the end of an era. Those two were the constants of a Final Four team, then a 35-0 squad, followed by a Sweet 16 and finishing last March in the second round. There’s still talent in Wichita and they are still going to be the heavyweights of the Valley, but the dominance and national prestige that came with VanVleet and Baker may have also left with them.

UNLV: Things haven’t exactly been at a highwater mark in Las Vegas in awhile, but the Running Rebels appear to continue to sink. First, they fired coach Dave Rice in the middle of the season, which is never received well in coaching circles, exactly the place you need to go to, you know, hire another coach. The Rick Pitino pipedream never materialized, and then Mick Cronin couldn’t pull the trigger despite giving life in the desert a serious look. That left UNLV with Little Rock’s first-year coach Chris Beard, until an ugly debate regent debate to approve his contract preempted an exit to Texas Tech just a week after taking the job. New head coach Marvin Menzies was hired with just two scholarship players left in the program. All of that messiness is a terrible sign for the current health of a once-mighty program.

Iowa State: The news for the Cyclones this spring has been almost universally positive, starting with point guard Monte’ Morris deciding to not even test the NBA draft process and return for a senior season in which he’ll be the Cyclones’ focal point. ISU also will be getting Naz Mitrou-Long back after the sharpshooter was granted a medical hardship waiver. But the reality remains that the Cyclones lost one of the best players in program history in Georges Niang and have been enjoying the most successful run in program history. Some sort of slide is likely — and has been expected — as a result. But coach Steve Prohm and ISU may have enough talent to return to the NCAA tournament for a school-record sixth time and forestall any setback.

RELATED: Eight programs that are on the rise as we head into next season

Steve Prohm and Monte Morris (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
Steve Prohm and Monte Morris (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

North Carolina State: It really looked like Mark Gottfried was going to get things rolling in a big way following the 2014-15 season in which the Wolfpack went 22-14, had a good core returning and recruiting booming. But Trevor Lacey turned pro (only to go undrafted), Kyle Washington transferred and NC State stumbled to a 16-17 record last season. Now, Cat Barber is leaving to go pro and Abdul-Malik Abu may do the same or follow the Martin twins into the transfer, and suddenly the forecast in Raleigh isn’t so sunny even with Dennis Smith Jr. in the fold.

Pittsburgh: The Panthers traded a coach who won two Big East titles, went to the Sweet 16 twice, the Elite Eight once and only missed the NCAA tournament twice in 13 years for a guy that Vanderbilt was pushing out the door. Not great. Even if things had gotten stale for Pitt fans with Jamie Dixon, the results he achieved are hard to argue. Few believe that Kevin Stallings is the answer to jumpstart the program back to where Dixon had it during the first years of his tenure, especially as the ACC continues to be a monster to navigate.

Kansas State: The Bruce Weber era in Manhattan started out with a bang, as he tied for a Big 12 title in his first year taking over for Frank Martin, but it’s been backsliding since, capped with a 17-16 (5-13 Big 12) campaign this past season. He couldn’t make it work with the most talented player (Marcus Foster) he’s had there, and there hasn’t exactly been a line of high-level recruits making their way to Manhattan. And if that wasn’t bad enough, KSU fans had to watch Oklahoma State hire former Wildcat assistant Brad Underwood while their administration gave Weber a stay of execution.

Ohio State: This is probably the trickiest inclusion, as Thad Matta’s track record would suggest that last year’s NIT appearance was merely a slip on the path to a return to the top of the Big Ten. The trouble, though, is that seeing four members of a heralded five-man 2015 recruiting class all decide to transfer is a major red flag. The Buckeyes do welcome another strong class to Columbus this fall, headlined by Derek Funderburk, but there are some visible cracks in the facade.

Forward James Love commits to Kansas State

Bruce Weber
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Sunday afternoon Kansas State landed its second verbal commitment in the Class of 2016, as 6-foot-9 power forward James Love made his pledge to the Big 12 program. News of Love’s commitment was first reported by Hoopseen.com, with Love confirming via Twitter shortly thereafter.

Love joins small forward Xavier Sneed in Kansas State’s 2016 recruiting class to date. The Wildcats will lose a member of its front court rotation at the end of the 2015-16 season in center Stephen Hurt, and Love gives them an active and athletic forward moving forward.

Love attends American Heritage School in Miramar, Florida, and his decision came on the heels of his official visit to Kansas State this weekend.

Kansas State gets four-star 2016 wing Xavier Sneed

Leave a comment

Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber picked up a big commitment on Monday afternoon as four-star wing Xavier Sneed committed to the Wildcats. A bouncy 6-foot-5 wing, Sneed is regarded as the No. 92 overall prospect in the Class of 2016.

The Wildcats landed Sneed over his other finalists of Illinois and Xavier. Sneed is the first commitment for Kansas State in the Class of 2016 and he’s a great start.

Playing with the very successful Saint Louis Eagles in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer, Sneed started alongside Duke commit Jayson Tatum and Iowa commit Tyler Cook and averaged 6.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game in 24 contests. Sneed elevated his play at Peach Jam, however, averaging 9.8 points in five pool play games and shooting 50 percent from 3-point range (8-for-16) over eight games.

Sneed will help replace the departure of senior Justin Edwards as a bigger guard and he’s a nice fit for what Kansas State needs in this class.

Kansas State forward cleared to return

D.J. Johnson
Leave a comment

Kansas State is getting an experienced forward back in action as redshirt junior D.J. Johnson has been cleared to resume on-court activity, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The story was first reported by Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson appeared in all 33 games for the Wildcats as a sophomore and averaged 13.9 minutes per game for the NCAA tournament team, breaking his foot in the Round of 64 clash with Kentucky. Missing the 2014-15 season recovering from that foot injury, Johnson was granted a medical redshirt and now he can return to help contribute in the Kansas State frontcourt. Johnson averaged 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore and shot 51 percent from the floor.

The return of Johnson might not be a season-changing move for the Wildcats, but he has played in at least 30 games his first two seasons in the program and is dependable enough to play in plenty of situations this season.

Kansas State lands commitment from Class of 2015 wing

Bruce Weber
Leave a comment

Kansas State added a late addition to its 2015 class as California native Ron Freeman committed to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 6-foot-5 Freeman was previously committed to Cal State Fullerton as a member of the 2014 class, but opted to do an additional year of prep school at Future College Prep.

A scoring wing with good length, Freeman joins a large 2015 recruiting haul for the Wildcats that includes three-star guards Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and junior college guard Corlbe Ervin while three-star forwards Isaiah Maurice and Dean Wade and three-star center Dante Williams round out the group.

Of the seven-man recruiting class for Kansas State, Freeman is a unique piece because he has good size on the wing. In a recruiting class of smaller guards and front-court players, Freeman should be a decent fit. The new 2015 recruiting class helps offset the loss of five players this offseason for Kansas State. Forward Malek Harris and guards Marcus Foster and Tre Harris were dismissed from the program while Jevon Thomas and Nigel Johnson decided to transfer.

Kansas State head coach open to games against former Big 12 foe

Bruce Weber
3 Comments

Much has been made about the impact that conference realignment has had on certain rivalries, with games becoming non-conference affairs (Syracuse and Georgetown will meet this upcoming season for the first time since 2013) or simply falling by the wayside. One such matchup was the rivalry between Kansas and Missouri, with the former refusing to play the latter in basketball since Missouri left for the SEC in 2012.

However Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have played the Tigers since their move, and according to the Kansas City Star Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber expects Missouri to be his team’s opponent in the semifinals of the CBE Classic this coming November. That matchup isn’t official, with that due to be announced at a later date.

But in the midst of that conversation, Weber stated that he’d be open to playing Missouri with the Sprint Center in Kansas City serving as the venue. Weber noted that the two teams could meet “every couple of years” should things work out this fall with a possible matchup in the CBE.

Weber stressed K-State and Missouri have merely had informal conversations about a series, but he sees its merits. He was part of a similar series with Missouri, the Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis, when he coached Illinois.

“It is not a definite by any means, but we have talked about it,” Weber said. “We will see what happens this year with the CBE. If it looks like it was a good thing and a success and we have officially broken the barrier of them leaving, that kind of stigma, then maybe we can move forward with it.”

Kansas City currently hosts the Big 12 tournament and will continue to do so through the year 2020, and Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri have all played regular season games at the Sprint Center as well. For Kansas State and Missouri this would be a nice regional game to play if they agree to do so.

As for Kansas and Missouri meeting again in a regular season matchup, that’s an entirely different situation.