The Kansas State Wildcats have been disappointing, to be sure, but when you're the preseason coaches' pick to win the Big 12 and a consensus national Final Four favorite, the gulf between "disappointing" and "headed to the NIT" is vast. No, the Wildcats don't look all that good, but Kansas State still has a lot more letting down to do if it expects to miss the NCAA tournament this season. But hey, that's good news, right?
It is. But all this disappointment -- the latest example being last night's eight-point home loss to unranked and mostly unimpressive Colorado -- has Jacob Pullen already considering his nightmare scenario: an NIT appearance. And if the Wildcats fall that far, Pullen won't play. From the Kansas City Star's Campus Corner blog:
"This is my last go-around," Pullen said. "I'm not going to the NIT. I won't play basketball in the NIT. I'm saying that now. If we lose, and we have to go to the NIT, I will not play."
"We've just got to grow up," Pullen said. "That's the biggest thing. The Big 12 is 16 games. We lost our first two. Nothing says we can't win the rest."
It's good to see Pullen express a little optimism along with his frustration.
No, Kansas State has not been good. Yes, there are serious tangible and intangible problems this team needs to solve. Kansas State isn't shooting well and turns the ball over all the time; Pullen has struggled in his new role as the primary on-ball guard both before and after his NCAA suspension; Curtis Kelly, for that matter, is still serving his NCAA suspension; this team clearly seems to be missing former point guard Denis Clemente and defensive stopper Dominique Sutton; Frank Martin still hasn't found the leadership he's so desperately begged his players to display.
All of these things are true. But it's still too early in the year to give up on a team with a guard as skilled as Pullen and a frontcourt as deep and talented as this one. All is not yet lost. Maybe the Wildcats end up in the NIT, and if they do, we'll know how Pullen feels about it. But he should rest easy for now, because that doomsday scenario is still a long way off.