Of all the head-scratching performances that we’ve seen this season, there perhaps has been none more confounding than that of Kansas State.
A favorite to finish in the top half of the super-competitive Big 12 entering the season, the Wildcats are just 8-7 after beating TCU on Wednesday night. They’ve already lost to the likes of Long Beach State and Texas Southern. They were picked off by Tennessee, Georgia and Pitt in non-conference play as well. KenPom is currently projecting K-State to win just one more game this season — at home against Texas Tech — and gives them a 0.01 percent chance of winning the league.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, entering Wednesday’s game, Marcus Foster — K-State’s star guard and a sleeper pick to win Big 12 Player of the Year in the preseason — had scored a grand total of two points and played 38 minutes in the two previous games, both losses. In their Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State, Foster was benched, playing just 14 minutes and showing some horrible body language on the bench. At one point in the first half, when the broadcast zoomed in on him, his lips could be read as he talked with a teammate. I’d be fired if I posted what he said, but suffice to say, he was not happy about not playing.
“He’s hit a little bit of a non-confident period,” head coach Bruce Weber said of Foster after Saturday’s loss. “He went from being a star and now he’s struggling, and it happens to everyone. He just has to push himself every day in practice, just like everybody else.”
Wednesday was different.
On Wednesday, Foster came off the bench and immediately scored five straight points, finished with 23 on the night and led the Wildcats to a 58-53 road win over a scrappy TCU team that entered the game with a 13-1 record.
“He had two great practices, acted and played like we hoped he should,” Weber told reporters after the game. “But I told him, `I can’t start you. You have to earn it on the court, for yourself and for the team,’ and obviously he had a pretty good night tonight.”
“What it came down to, I think, is I got away from what I did well last year,” Foster added. “That is why I went through a little slump, but I am back and I have my mind right. I think I am ready for the rest of the Big 12.”
The key words there: “I have my mind right”.
The knock on Foster this season is that he has been focused too much on becoming a point guard, that he was told over the summer that was where his future was. Instead of focusing on doing what he does well — being an elite wing scorer at the college level — he was worried about proving his potential as a pro.
Maybe that’s accurate and maybe it isn’t, but the bottom line is that Foster did not look like the Marcus Foster we expected to see this season … until Wednesday night.
And if he continues to play that way, than maybe Weber’s decision to bench him against Oklahoma State will go down as the turning point in Kansas State’s season.