Bruce Weber has been one of the most polarizing coaches in the Big 12 — and perhaps in all of college basketball.
After missing out on the NCAA Tournament with Kansas State in 2014-15 and 2015-16, then being ousted in the first round after winning a play-in game in last year’s dance, plenty in Manhattan wanted a change of scenery on the sidelines.
This season — and specifically on Friday night — Bruce Weber and the Kansas State Wildcats cast the naysayers aside following a statement win over Creighton that gives the Wildcats their first berth into the second round under Weber.
The 69-59 victory over the Blue Jays displayed Weber at his very best, as Creighton’s leading scorer was held to 5 points while K-State won by double-digits with its best player on the bench.
Beating Marcus Foster
This game might be the one that brings people around on Bruce Weber again. Honestly. No Dean Wade, you shut down the guy that drove your program into the ground and you finally won in the Round of 64. This is what he needed. #KState
— Riley Gates (@Riley_Gates) March 17, 2018
Friday night pitted Kansas State against Marcus Foster, a former guard for the Wildcats who was kicked off Bruce Weber’s team after the 2014-15 season.
Foster was an All-Big 12 talent at K-State. His dismissal — part of a slew of departures from the program after that year — drove a wedge in the program.
Weber has spent the last three seasons rebuilding the team in his image, and Friday’s matchup against his former player was the ultimate litmus test.
Foster scored just 5 points against the Wildcats, all coming very late in the second half. That proved to be a season-low for the senior, who’s career ended at the hands of his former coach.
— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) March 17, 2018
In true Weber fashion, Foster went over to his former head coach and gave him a hug as he exited the game for the final time, showing there was no bad blood.
Creighton seniors Manny Suarez making his NCAA Tournament debut, and senior Tyler Clement also checks in.
They'll replace Toby Hegner and Marcus Foster, who leave to a huge ovation and a big hug Greg McDermott. Foster also gets a hug from Bruce Weber, his former K-State coach.
— Creighton Men’s Basketball (@BluejayMBB) March 17, 2018
Winning without Wade
In addition to beating a former player, Weber’s Wildcats won on Friday night without Dean Wade.
Wade was injured in the Big 12 Tournament and didn’t play in a semifinal against Kansas. He suited up against Creighton but was only available in an emergency role.
Without Wade, a First Team All-Big 12 honoree, ESPN’s BPI gave Kansas State just a 35 percent chance at beating Creighton.
Weber dug deep into his bench and found Mike McGuirl, a seldom-used guard who burned his redshirt earlier this season, appeared in just eight games and scored 13 points all season.
Against Creighton, McGuirl poured it on to the tune of 17 points, just one shy of game-high scorer Barry Brown.
Without Wade, K-State was all but forced to go with four-guard lineups. That produced the best 3-point shooting performance — 47 percent on 9-of-19 from behind the arc — since a January 16 win over then-No. 4 Oklahoma.
Weber’s gameplan was brilliant. If K-State is going to be without its best player, utilize the strengths of the reserves.
Despite the four-guard lineups, Creighton was forced into jacking up 34 3-point attempts and connected on just nine (26.5 percent).
Wade isn’t expected to play a major role in Kansas State’s second round matchup, so Weber will again have to devise a gameplan without him.
— K-State DieHards (@KSUDieHards) March 17, 2018
Where the Wildcats are
In the world of Twitter trolls, Weber is still bound to have doubters going forward.
But what basis do they have?
As recently as mid-February, media in Manhattan were speculating about the “ Bruce Weber Debate.”
Revered by some, rejected by others, #KStateMBB coach Bruce Weber continues to divide the Wildcat Nation. But the stance of @KSTATEADGT is pretty clear. The Great Weber Debate: A good problem for K-State? https://t.co/jdLZOG1jGx pic.twitter.com/tN9jFWqOZi
— Tim Bisel (@timbisel) February 15, 2018
Almost every take outside of Manhattan — especially with the recent FBI probe embroiling high major programs in college basketball — is glowing of Weber.
I’m a Bruce Weber fan (as are many of his coaching colleagues). Great win for @KStateMBB without Dean Wade. Next season’s team will very seasoned & FBI will not need to be in Manhattan.
— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) March 17, 2018
“When a great coach has a week to prepare, good things will usually happen.” – Grant Hill about #KStateMBB head coach Bruce Weber.
— Randy Peterson (@RandyPeterson12) March 17, 2018
Another rough day for the Bruce Weber Can't Coach crowd
— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 17, 2018
Even former Indiana head coach Tom Crean, a rival of Weber’s when he was at Illinois, dished out praise before the game.
Tom Crean dropping the Bruce Weber knowledge… pic.twitter.com/MF7rxlAmbF
— Dan D’Antoni Admirer (@breitwieser) March 8, 2018
Kansas State’s future isn’t just about this season — although if the Wildcats are bolstered by even a slight return to the rotation by Wade, is beating top-seeded Virginia out of the question?
The Wildcats are set to return nearly everybody from this year’s roster, including Brown and Wade. K-State, which last won a Big 12 title in 2012-13 in Weber’s first season, will be a candidate to dethrone the Kansas Jayhawks next year.
Wade, and maybe even Brown, could bolt for the NBA. But if Friday night is any indication, with Weber at the helm, Kansas State is ready to win without Wade right now.
The post In beating Creighton, Kansas State’s Bruce Weber cast aside his doubters appeared first on Diehards.
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