By Kellis Robinett
Tribune News Service
Kansas State is the definition of mediocre nearly one month into the college basketball season.
The Wildcats have four victories and four losses. They are undefeated at home and winless in true road games.
They have learned about themselves, but they are still searching for answers.
"It's like the old saying: It's never as good or bad as it seems," K-State coach Bruce Weber said. "We are not horrible, but we are not good, either. We need to have some stability and get some toughness and some confidence."
The next three weeks provide an opportunity to get on track. Though K-State has not started as fast as Weber would have liked, saying after a loss at Tennessee on Saturday that he "overscheduled" by lining up five early games away from Bramlage Coliseum and watching the Wildcats' RPI fall to 160, the pendulum is about to swing the other way. Four of K-State's next five games are at home and the only trip away from Manhattan is to Kansas City for a Sprint Center game against Texas A&M.
Last year, K-State erased a slow start with an undefeated December and went on to easily qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Senior forward Thomas Gipson envisions taking a parallel path this season, starting with a 7 p.m. tip against Bradley on Tuesday.
"It has a lot of urgency," Gipson said of the upcoming stretch, "for me, at least. I am pretty sure everyone else feels the same way. We just have to be on the same page. I feel like we are, but we aren't clicking right right now. I feel like we will be fine."
Weber pointed to team chemistry as a potential area of improvement. While K-State's roster possesses more raw talent than it did a year ago, few players have learned to become selfless on offense. On Monday, Weber said the Wildcats are missing former players Will Spradling and Shane Southwell.
Neither one of them put up eye-popping stats, but they set screens, fought for loose balls and took pride in their defense. When they were on the floor, they did the little things that made everyone else better.
Weber compared K-State's roster to a list of cake ingredients. They are all in the bowl, he said, but now they need to mix together and use their practice time to "rise up and get tasty."
"I do not think there is any doubt on that," Weber elaborated. "Right now that is one of the elements we need, just figuring out roles, understanding, and delivering each person's role. It is obvious by our numbers we need to get something out of Nigel (Johnson), Wesley (Iwundu), Justin (Edwards), and Tre (Harris). That will help us out offensively. Defensively, our guys thought we would be able to outscore guys mentally, obviously that has happened on half the games and not the other half."
K-State could also benefit from a more balanced approach on offense. Sophomore guard Marcus Foster is currently the team's only consistent scoring threat. Edwards, Gipson and Iwundu need to start regularly reaching double figures.
If that happens, the Wildcats will start trending upward.
"We can't even be worrying about that right now," Foster said. "We just have to keep playing every game. We have got a long season, plus we are playing in the best conference in the country. I think we will help ourselves out. ... We always play better at home, so I think we can go out here and play our best. We just have to figure it out right now."