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Weak NIT field not helping K-State

By Grant Guggisberg

If you thought Monday night’s game was a yawner, Tuesday night’s latenight snoozefest managed to set the bar just a little bit lower.

Kansas State won 87-26 without much effort in a game that reinforced the idea that college basketball needs a mercy rule.

After Monday’s lull in attendance, K-State officials anticipated more of the same on Tuesday in a game that started two hours later and would be seen on national television. The answer? Free pizza for the first 2,000 students to make it to Bramlage.

But those that faithfully attended both games deserved more than just a slice or two of free pizza. The crowd was small — as expected — but for the kind of game they were in for, it ought to have been smaller.

While K-State didn’t score the game’s first 15 points as they did Monday night, the game was over just as fast. K-State finished the night shooting 55 percent from the field while holding Alabama-Huntsville to 16 percent. They did everything you’d expect a major conference Division-I team to do to a Division-II school.

The real question, of course, is how this team managed to beat North Texas, a team with a potential NBA lottery pick and what you would assume is a roster full of Division-I caliber players. The Chargers beat UNT 78-75 and led most of the night while doing it.

Going from such an exciting win to a devastating defeat in the span of one day gave Alabama-Huntsville head coach Lennie Acuff some perspective.

“There’s nothing fun about tonight,” he said. “But it just shows you that everything you do isn’t based on basketball, because you can go from one extreme to the other real quick. We’re sitting here less than 24 hours ago on top of the world, and this is as tough as we’ve ever had.”

For K-State, the glorified scrimmage does nothing for its RPI, as games against Division-II schools don’t count. Perhaps by season’s end a blank spot in that computer formula will look better than what North Texas would have offered, but still. K-State agreed to participate while likely planning on this tournament being at least a part of an aggressive nonconference schedule. Games against Lamar, Alabama-Huntsville and K-State’s semifinal opponent in New York, Delaware, hardly fit that bill.

And in the mean time, the Wildcats didn’t accomplish much, save earning some confidence in beating up on a group that had no energy by tipoff time.

“Obviously, it was the perfect storm tonight,” Acuff said. “We hit a buzz saw in every way. It was what I was concerned about coming in and became reality, one of our worst nightmares. We shot every bullet we had last night to try and win that game.

“We got home at 2 o’clock in the morning, we were done. The one hope we had to be able to hang with them was to make shots, and we went 3-for-33 from 3.”

As the Chargers kept missing, the score continued to get out of hand as K-State’s unrelenting defense didn’t give them many other options.

This resulted in some of the most entertaining events of the night coming from the jumbotron, not the action on the court. Perhaps sensing the boredom of those left in attendance as the Cats led by 56 in the second half, one older gentleman entertained the crowd for a couple minutes with some lively dance moves during a timeout.

Meanwhile, the desired result of more students in attendance with all of America watching on ESPN’s 24-hour season tipoff marathon didn’t work out, which again reflects poorly on K-State.

Of course, beat No. 5 Michigan in the final in New York, and all is forgotten. But if K-State faces no tests on the way to that game and then loses, the NIT will have officially shafted the Wildcats after historically being a marquee event to start each season.

Meanwhile, K-State head coach Bruce Weber doesn’t have much to show for his efforts in two games in the NIT.

“Each guy is kind of figuring out their role,” he said. “So that’s a positive step.”

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