February 13, 2011
Kansas State should have known better.
As the Wildcats mobbed guard Rodney McGruder following his apparent game-winning fallaway 3-pointer as time expired at Colorado on Saturday night, they should have realized the celebration was going to be for naught.
In a once-promising season that has deteriorated amid a flurry of exasperating losses, costly suspensions and ill-timed transfers, of course McGruder's shot was going to be overturned. Why should Kansas State have expected otherwise considering nothing else has gone right for the Wildcats since they were picked to win the Big 12 and began the season in the top five in the nation?
Sure enough, replays showed the ball was in McGruder's hands a tenth of a second or two after the buzzer, touching off a relieved celebration on the Colorado bench and sending the Wildcats trudging back to the locker room in despair.
Final score: Colorado 58, Kansas State 56. And with that, Kansas State's flickering NCAA tournament hopes only look more faint.
"It's tough," McGruder told the Kansas City Star. "It hurts more than anything. Our team, we celebrated. We felt like it went in before the buzzer went off and come to find out it didn't. That loss hurts."
At 16-9 overall and 4-6 in Big 12 play, the Wildcats need a surge over the final six games of the conference season to remain in contention for an at-large berth. The trouble is that three of those six remaining games are against Kansas, Texas and Missouri, meaning Kansas State will have to win at least one of those just to finish .500 in conference play.
The Wildcats had chances to get back to .500 and avoid a sweep at the hands of Colorado on Saturday, but they could not score easily enough to convert any of them. They shot 30.8 percent from the field and missed 13 free throws, enabling Colorado to win despite 16 turnovers and 2 of 10 3-point shooting.
Even with Wally Judge and Freddy Asprilla both transferring at midseason, the Wildcats do have the talent to dig out of their hole. Unfortunately, the leadership and resiliency it would take to accomplish that feat haven't exactly been strengths this season at Kansas State.
Should Wildcats fans expect a late-season rebirth? Like they're players on Saturday night, they should know better.