Kruger's Sooners next for Wildcats

MANHATTAN, Kan. - There's a new coach on the block and he's getting rave reviews sitting atop the early Big 12 standing with a perfect 3-0 record and No. 16 national ranking.

It's mid-term for the Kansas State basketball team and the report card for Bruce Weber's Wildcats is good … really good. Record: 14-2. That's pretty much an "A" on anyone's scale.

Ranking: No. 16 out of 300-plus teams that play the game of leather ball and iron hoop … that's another "A."

Coaching: Only one coach in Kansas State history – Zora Clevenger, 1916-17, 15-2 – has ever had a better start to a Wildcat coaching career. Yet another "A" for coach Bruce Weber and his coaching staff.

Schedule: K-State has a win over No. 8 Florida; the ‘Cats are 3-0 to start Big 12 play for the first time since 2008, which includes a 2-0 road record; the Wildcats only losses are to No. 5 and 16-1 Michigan and No. 9 and 16-1 Gonzaga.

Winning the close ones: K-State is 5-0 in games decided by six point or less, which includes a pair of Big 12 wins.

Kudos go out to Weber, who has molded Frank Martin's players into his motion offensive system, and less risk-taking defensive schemes to make a team of his own.

Weber says, "We talk about our brand. That's guarding people. If you play great defense you have a chance to win on the road. We want to contest shots."

While Martin's "ways" were very effective, few ever viewed the former Wildcat coach as being very "K-State-ish." Weber's grounded, blue-collar methods do seem to be in the Wildcat mold of Lon Kruger, Jack Hartman and Tex Winter.

Oh, he can verbalize his ways in a language that translates with uncertainty whether from suburban Kansas City to Harlem, N.Y., but the key here is that players respond to Weber's methods, and the buy-in has come relatively quickly team-wide.

Fight Weber's ways, or go at 70 percent on the practice floor, and you'll get booted from the gym. Ask Shane Southwell.

Giving a sheepish smile to the mid-December happening, Southwell said, "I thought I was going hard, but it took me a while to understand that he knew I could give more."

When that finally soaked in, Southwell has since responded by playing his best basketball of his three-year KSU career.

And that's another point on behalf of Weber. There is no question that playing abilities have fit in the system, and the games of multiple Wildcats have taken a significant stride forward from a year ago today.

In particular, see Southwell; see Nino Williams; see Thomas Gipson; see Will Spradling; and, that doesn't mention, as Weber says, the "star power," and the "face of the program" of a Rodney McGruder.

While McGruder is the Collin Klein of the basketball program, this 2012-13 Wildcat team is also very much K-State football-like with lower profile recruits playing their role, and the team doing whatever it takes to win games.

Angel Rodriguez had 12 points and Gipson 12 rebounds in a road win at George Washington; Spradling netted 17 and Jordan Henriquez had five blocks versus Florida; Williams scored 17 against Oklahoma State to complement McGruder's 28-point heroics; and, it was Southwell who stepped up with game-winning plays on offense and defense against West Virginia.

In those significant wins, K-State has won the rebounding portion of the game in each one.

In those significant wins, K-State out-shot George Washington from 3-point range to make up for a deficit at the foul line; K-State made 10 more free throws than Florida to overcome the fact that the Gators made three more field goals; against O-State, the ‘Cats had to make seven more field goals to make up for the 12-point free throw advantage the Cowboys enjoyed; and against West Virginia, it was a last possession defensive stand that reserved a victory.

Simplified, this K-State team is doing whatever it takes to win games on a particular day, which comes back to coaching. Looking ahead, Weber says, "I don't know how special we can be, but we can be very good." So far, K-State has been very good.

Kansas State returns home for consecutive home games with those coming against Oklahoma at 3 p.m. Saturday, and against Kansas on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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