“The wheels came off,” he said.
Drew was referring to the Bears' second-half collapse – but he could also use the phrase to describe Baylor's entire season.
And, heck, Kansas State's, too.
One year after each of them reached the Elite Eight, the Bears and Wildcats have been among the most disappointing teams in college basketball this season. Wednesday's setback against league doormat Oklahoma dropped Baylor's Big 12 record to 4-4. Kansas State – which opened the season as the third-ranked team in America – is 3-5.
Barring a late-season turnaround, both schools seem like longshots to make the NCAA tournament. The main reason for the struggles has nothing to do with coaching or a tough schedule or a key injury or two. Instead it involves the point guard at each school.
Or rather, the lack of one.
Anyone who believes there is a player on the court more valuable than a point guard needs only to look at Kansas State and Baylor to be proven wrong.
Kansas State's Denis Clemente and Tweety Carter of Baylor were seniors during last year's magical postseason runs. When they left the court for their final time as collegians, much of their teams' hopes for the following season went with them.
Clemente and Carter averaged 16.6 and 15 points, respectively last season along with 4.2 and 5.9 assists. Even more than in the stat book, Carter and Clemente made their presence felt through leadership. With the ball in their hands more than 50 percent of the time, they directed the action on the court, adjusted schemes on the fly and kept everyone’s minds right in the huddle.
Now they're gone, and all of a sudden the Kansas State and Baylor teams everyone thought would be better aren’t anywhere close to being the same.
What's unfortunate is that Drew and Kansas State coach Frank Martin knew they'd be losing their on-court and locker room catalysts, but they did very little to replace them.
A.J. Walton, who backed up Carter last season, is now Baylor's starter. He's serviceable but hardly the caliber of guard who should start in the Big 12. Freshman Stargell Love, Walton's backup, isn't ready to be a major contributor and shooting guard LaceDarius Dunn doesn't handle the ball well enough to increase his duties.
It's an unfortunate situation for the Bears, who may become one of the most talented teams ever not to make the NCAA tournament. Baylor has three potential first-round NBA draft picks on its roster in Dunn, Quincy Acy and Perry Jones, who some analysts believe will be the first player taken this summer.
Even though things aren't quite as bad in Manhattan, the Wildcats are struggling on the perimeter, too. The ballhandling duties of preseason All-American Jacob Pullen increased when Clemente graduated, mainly because the Wildcats don't have enough quality players to split the duties with him. Pullen is still averaging an impressive 18.1 points. But he's only shooting 41 percent from the field and just 33 percent from 3-point range.
Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling have shown positive signs, but they're not true point guards. Martavious Irving is, but he's not starter quality.
It's amazing how the loss of a single player can change the entire direction of a program, but that's exactly what's happened in Waco and Manhattan. The Bears and Wildcats will play in a postseason tournament.
Just maybe not the one they want.
(Last week's rank in parenthesis.)
1. Texas (19-3, 7-0) – The Longhorns won in College Station for the first time since 2004. (1)
2. Kansas (21-1, 6-1) – Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar continue to play huge roles. (2)
3. Texas A&M (17-4, 4-3) – Khris Middleton went scoreless at Texas. (3)
5. Colorado (15-8, 4-4) – Contrary to popular belief, the Buffaloes are not a two-man show. (5)
6. Oklahoma State (15-7, 3-5) – Keiton Page is averaging 22.5 points over his last three games. (8)
7. Kansas State (15-8, 3-5) – The Wildcats beat Nebraska on Wednesday. Will the positive vibe linger? (6)
8. Oklahoma (12-9, 4-4) – Carl Blair hit four free throws in the final 23 seconds of Wednesday's win over Baylor. (10)
9. Baylor (14-7, 4-4) – The Bears are a different team on the road. (7)
10. Nebraska (15-6, 3-4) – Lance Jeter averages a team-high 10.6 points. (9)
11. Texas Tech (11-12, 3-5) – Kansas snapped the Red Raiders' three-game win streak – and Texas is next. (11)
12. Iowa State (14-9, 1-7) – Things are finally catching up with the Cyclones. (12)
Thomas Robinson, Kansas – The sophomore forward has been remarkable in the two games since returning to the lineup following his mother's death on Jan. 21. Robinson posted identical stat lines against Kansas State and Texas Tech. He had 17 points and nine rebounds off the bench in each game.
Cameron Clark, Oklahoma – The Oklahoma freshman scored 25 points – just one away from his career-high – in Wednesday's victory over Baylor in Norman. The win was the fourth straight for the Sooners. Clark is averaging 15 points during that stretch. Clark was 11-of-19 from the field against the Bears. He also had seven rebounds.
Rick Barnes – It's probably too early to begin thinking about awards, but Barnes should garner national coach of the year consideration because of what he's accomplished at Texas. The Longhorns became the first team in 69 games to defeat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse and are now in position to win the Big 12 regular-season title outright.
Texas A&M – The Aggies have two losses to Texas this season by an average of 20.5 points. Nothing like a 21-point home blowout against your conference rival to get fans excited about the rest of the season. Two weeks ago, when Texas A&M still had just one loss, Aggies coach Mark Turgeon said, "I still don't know if we're any good yet." Hopefully now he has his answer.
Missouri on the road – The Tigers are 0-4 in Big 12 games away from home, which makes them 3-4 in conference play overall. Less than a month ago Mike Anderson's squad was 14-1 and convinced it was good enough to make a run at the Big 12 title. At this point Missouri has no chance.
The Big 12 standings – Other than Texas and Kansas, is anyone any good in this league? Half of the schools already have losing conference records. Only four Big 12 teams are ranked, and that number could drop if Texas A&M and Missouri fall out of the poll after this week.
THREE TO WATCH
Baylor at Texas A&M, Saturday – Texas A&M is in a funk, but Baylor is terrible on the road.
Kansas State at Iowa State, Saturday – From this point on, victories over lesser opponents are absolutely imperative if the Wildcats want to make the NCAA tournament.
Missouri at Kansas, Monday – The Border War usually turns into the Border Bore in Lawrence.
- Kansas State