There are times when you run across a detour that delays the arrival to your intended destination by a few hours.
Kansas State’s basketball team went on such a journey Saturday.
First, there was the heart-breaking low of losing to Oklahoma State at mid-afternoon, and with it, in all likelihood the 2013 Big 12 Conference championship.
“I couldn’t have felt any worse,” said Angel Rodriguez of his mood after the loss.
But by mid-evening, K-State found itself exactly where it wanted to be … champions … for the first time since 1977 … champions of the Big 8/12 Conference thanks to Baylor’s dismantling of the Kansas Jayhawks.
“My mood completely changed,” laughed Rodriguez. “I didn’t watch any of it. I thought Baylor had no chance. I knew they had the potential, but not sure if they really wanted it.”
Baylor did want it, however, and at the end of the day … at the end of the season … at the end of the absolute last game of the season that K-State had no part in … and in all the days to come, Kansas State is the championship team of the 2013 Big 12 Conference.
As for Weber, he joined his players in saying, “It was just a total swing of emotions.
We just played OK and we thought we wasted an opportunity. I watched the game on the ride home on the plane, and to be honest, I totally blanked out the KU game.
“I didn’t watch the game at all. We were out walking the dog and I got a text from a buddy saying that Baylor might hold on, and then all of sudden I hear a bunch of horns and noises and I didn’t know if the baseball team had won, or what,” said Weber.
“Then all of a sudden my phone goes boom, boom, boom, boom … and then John (Currie) called and said, ‘Congratulations.’ He couldn’t believe that I didn’t know.”
Associate head coach Chris Lowery was so “frustrated, depressed and tired” after the loss that he went home and went to bed and didn’t learn of the outcome until Weber called him.
“Obviously, I’m elated for our players and the entire K-State Nation,” Weber said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s harder to win a conference title over three months than it is a Final Four title over three weeks. To get a trophy and to get to hang a banner is special.”
Sunday night K-State took time to conduct a delayed Big 12 championship mini-celebration at the Basketball Training Center where their trophy of 2013 will later be on display.
Upon presenting the trophy to the team in the auditorium/film room, athletics director John Currie said, “You guys earned it. You stuck together, fought, scratched … you deserve it.”
Win or lose, one game like Saturday in Stillwater does not make a season. It was over the 18-game marathon trek through the Big 12 Conference that K-State, along with Kansas, played at a championship level that no other team could equal.
Weber said he hesitated talking about championship rings before the championship was secured, but last night he asked the players in reference to postseason play, “Now, what do you want to add on to it. We have the top, now what do you want to add on to the sides.”
It’s been said, but certainly worth repeating all that Kansas State has accomplished to date.
• One of just three teams in Big 12 history to be crowned champions in football and basketball in the same academic year.
• One of just three teams along with Louisville in the Big East and Arkansas State in the Sun Belt (a division title) to win both football and basketball this year.
• With a combined 36 football and basketball wins, it’s a number bettered only by Louisville (37) in the nation this year.
• No K-State team has ever won more than 25 games heading into postseason play.
To the players, this success has not come as a surprise.
“Last summer I thought something like this could happen,” said McGruder. “We had nearly everyone coming back. We knew what the Big 12 was like and what it would take to win. I remember talking with them, ‘We can do this; we can win this.’ ”