• EXTENSION FOR WEBER — It appears Bruce Weber is going to be the Kansas State men’s basketball coach for the next several years.
Ever since tying Kansas for the Big 12 title in his first year with mostly Frank Martin’s holdover players, Weber has had only lukewarm success in Manhattan.
But new Kansas State Athletic Director Gene Taylor on Tuesday extended Weber’s contract through 2021 in what has to be considered a ringing endorsement. Normally when a new athletic director comes on board, he wants to hire his own guy.
Weber’s job was thought to be tenuous going into last season. The Wildcats got off to a blazing start thanks to a tissue-soft non-conference schedule, but then struggled at the outset of Big 12 play and the wolves started to howl.
But a strong finish enabled the Wildcats to slip into the NCAA Tournament, where they won a play-in game before losing in the second round.
Weber’s team was 21-14 last season. He does have to replace stalwarts Wesley Iwundu and DJ Johnson, but has three starters back (Dean Wade, Kamau Stokes and Barry Brown) and some newcomers who should make an impact.
It won’t hurt that the Big 12 could be down this year, as graduation hits and early NBA departures have watered down the league. Kansas appears to be more vulnerable than any time in Bill Self’s tenure. In fact, West Virginia might even be favored this year to end KU’s long 13-year reign as champion (or co-champion).
With the new deal, that should end speculation about Weber’s future. He can concentrate on his coaching without having to constantly look over his shoulder as he’s done the last couple of years. He won’t hear the shouts of Wildcat fans clamoring for Brad Underwood or even Steve Henson. This is now Weber’s team for sure and hopefully that will translate into an upper-division Big 12 finish and NCAA Tournament berth.
• MEDIA DAY THURSDAY —Football officially begins for me on Thursday when the annual KCAC Media Day is held in Wichita.
I can’t wait to hear the truths, half-truths and outright fibs the coaches have for we media types that regularly cover the conference.
A highlight is receiving the media guides from the various schools. I immediately scour the list of newcomers for each team to see who is going to be a game-changer.
If past history is any indication the top four teams will come from a group that includes Tabor, Ottawa, Sterling and Kansas Wesleyan. Those have been the most consistent programs in recent years, along with Friends.
Saint Mary is kind of like the Kansas State of the KCAC as it never receives much respect in the polls, but generally finishes higher than picked. Bethany, Southwestern, Bethel and McPherson College have been the bottom four the last few years and are looking to break out of that grouping.
I always try to figure out which team is going to come out of the blue. I can remember back in 2009 when nobody saw what was happening at McPherson College and the Bulldogs came within a game of winning the KCAC title. Then they ran the table next year to win the title and hosted a national playoff game at McPherson Stadium.
I’ll have a full report on Media Day Thursday.
• HERE WE GO AGAIN? — Are the Royals, who were white-hot before starting their series with Baltimore, about to go cold again?
It seems like this team is either all hot at the same time or all cold. They won five of their first six games of this nine-game road trip, peppering the ball all around Comerica Park in Detroit and Fenway Park in Boston.
But once they arrived in hitter-friendly Camden Yards, it’s as if they have flipped the switch the last two games. They have scored only three runs total and Melky Cabrera has been ice since joining the team.
Should the Royals be swept tonight, that would mean the road trip would end at 5-4. I think before they headed out, most KC fans would have taken that. But after the start to trip, 5-4 would now be considered a disappointment.