K-State Q&A: Jerome Tang’s recruiting mojo, spring football, the new Big 12 and more

It’s impossible to ignore the recruiting momentum that Jerome Tang has generated for the Kansas State men’s basketball team.

Not only will the Wildcats welcome three promising freshmen to campus this summer in the form of four-star point guard Dai Dai Ames, four-star shooting guard R.J. Jones and three-star forward Macaleab Rich — they are also off to a great start for the 2024 recruiting cycle.

David Castillo, a coveted combo guard out of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, chose K-State over Kansas and Oklahoma State earlier this week. That was a big recruiting victory for several reasons.

For starters, ESPN rates Castillo as a five-star recruit and the No. 12 player in his high school class. Most other sites only list Castillo as a four-star recruit. Still, this is the first time the Wildcats have landed a five-star prospect, according to any recruiting service, since Wally Judge way back in 2009.

I believe this is also the first time K-State has landed a recruit who held a genuine scholarship offer from Kansas during the Bill Self era. According to my research, both Logan Landers (not kidding) and Davion Bradford received offers from KU before picking the Wildcats. But the Jayhawks weren’t actually willing to take either of those players.

Some KU fans have tried to suggest that Self didn’t want Castillo either. But that sounds like sour grapes to me. Castillo was at Allen Fieldhouse for an official visit two months ago. Maybe he wasn’t at the very top of Self’s recruiting wish list, but the Jayhawks would have been happy to take him had he not chosen the Cats.

They wanted him. So did most of the basketball teams in the Big 12. K-State was the team that ended up with him.

This is a first.

K-State didn’t win many of those recruiting battles under Bruce Weber. Frank Martin brought in a few elite recruits, namely Michael Beasley and some of his DC Assault pals, but all of those players came to Manhattan mostly because of a connection to former assistant coach Dalonte Hill. Other Big 12 schools weren’t involved.

This feels different. K-State is starting to beat its peers for coveted recruits straight up. It is creating staying power.

Tang likes to say that the Wildcats “have got dudes.” There are more on the way.

Now, let’s dive into your questions. Thanks, as always, for providing them.

The defending Big 12 champs are in good spirits.

They have stayed relatively healthy this spring. They are undefeated. And they think they can hang another banner next season.

Of course, I would imagine just about every team in the Big 12 feels the same way right now. If your team is down in the dumps in April something is seriously wrong.

Boy, that’s a tough one.

Let me start by saying that you can’t go wrong buying stock in either K-State football or men’s basketball. That’s like choosing between a pair a blue chip stocks. You’re probably going to make money if you choose to invest in Nike or Apple.

But my answer is probably with Chris Klieman and the fighting Will Howards.

I say that because the Big 12 is about to become wide open in football with Texas and Oklahoma on their way to the SEC. The Wildcats are recruiting well at the moment and they have the heir apparent to Howard already on campus with Avery Johnson.

It should be a battle between K-State, Oklahoma State, TCU and maybe Texas Tech for Big 12 football supremacy after the Longhorns and Sooners leave town. Who’s to say the Wildcats couldn’t run the league moving forward?

The basketball team is in good hands with Jerome Tang, but things aren’t about to get any easier for him on the hardwood. BYU and Cincinnati are just about always good at hoops, and Houston is a powerhouse.

Adding the Cougars to a conference that already has Baylor and Kansas at the top makes it an uphill climb.

It’s more than reasonable for K-State fans to expect a top four finish in the Big 12 for most of those teams next season.

My only hesitation is with men’s basketball, because we won’t know what that roster will look like until the spring transfer window comes to a close.

Football will definitely be in the mix for another spot in the Big 12 championship game. Even though Deuce Vaughn and Felix Anudike-Uzomah are off to the NFL, the Wildcats still return Will Howard, Ben Sinnott, five starters on the offensive line and Daniel Green.

On top of that, the Wildcats will have the same QB, offensive coordinator and head coach as they did last season. That combo is always hard to beat.

I think K-State takes a step back next year but still finds a way to win eight games and maybe push for more.

Women’s basketball should be dynamite with Ayoka Lee returning from injury.

It’s too early to say anything for sure with men’s basketball, but Jerome Tang knows what he is doing. He will get Max Abmas or Tylor Perry or some other quality transfer to step in and help the Wildcats challenge for a spot in the top half of the league standings.

That has not been decided.

All I can say right now is that the Big 12 will stay with its regular bowl lineup for next season.

Here’s the list, in order of priority:

  • Sugar Bowl (New Orleans) or Playoff

  • Alamo Bowl (San Antonio)

  • Cheez-It Bowl (Orlando)

  • Texas Bowl (Houston)

  • Liberty Bowl (Memphis)

  • Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Phoenix)

  • Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth)

  • First Responders Bowl (Dallas)

My recommendation would be to cut ties with the Liberty Bowl and find something better. It would also be nice to switch one of the DFW bowls with another game for the sake of something new.

Here’s my wish list of replacements:

  • Holiday Bowl (San Diego)

  • Las Vegas Bowl (Las Vegas Bowl)

  • Music City Bowl (Nashville)

  • ReliaQuest Bowl (Tampa)

  • Sun Bowl (El Paso)

The Pinstripe Bowl might actually be worth another look, too, if you could work it out so Cincinnati, West Virginia and Central Florida would get priority.

The football team will need to lose a few transfers before it can add new ones.

Depending on how many K-State football players enter the portal after spring practice, it’s possible the Wildcats could have a free scholarship or two to use on a newcomer.

But they’re currently right at, or a little over, the maximum of 85.

With so many veteran players opting to stay in school as “super seniors” there isn’t much roster space available for transfers.

Overall, I would simply say that conference realignment has been silly and unnecessary.

How many teams that switched leagues are truly better off than they were before?

Connecticut clearly made a smart move leaving the American for the Big East. And Texas A&M probably has no regrets about switching to the SEC, even though the Aggies have never won anything of substance there.

Otherwise, it’s all meh. Colorado, Nebraska and Missouri would all be better off in the Big 12 today. Maryland and Rutgers don’t belong in the Big Ten. USC and UCLA fans are going to get tired of the Big Ten pretty quickly, too. We will have to wait and see what happens with Oklahoma and Texas.

Most of them are making more money in their new conferences, but none of them are winning national titles.

I hope that the new Big 12 brings us some stability and we won’t have to worry about conference realignment in the future.

The Pac-12 doesn’t have a TV deal because it overplayed its hand and is now searching for an unrealistic payday.

Rumors continue to swirl about the Big 12 poaching Pac-12 schools like Arizona and Colorado. I guess it could happen. But if I were Brett Yormark I would look at San Diego State as an expansion candidate. The Aztecs are just as good as any of the four corner schools. They are also free agents. And they are located in a more desirable location, if he truly wants to have a Big 12 school in all four time zones.

Bring on SDSU!

My gut tells me nothing big happens unless the Pac-12 agrees to a dismal TV deal. Then maybe the Big 12 can convince a few schools to leave. But I’m not so sure why adding Pac-12 schools would be a smart move for the Big 12, other than wanting to deliver a death blow to that league.

My wife and I are heading to Europe this summer without any kids.

Then we are taking all four of our children to Los Angeles to visit friends in southern California.

So there are at least two vacation spots I can recommend.

Any big city with adult entertainment seems like a good spot for just the grown ups. I don’t want my kids in tow if I’m going to Las Vegas or New York. But if I’m going somewhere with theme parks or beaches then the whole family can be fun.

Another rule of thumb: the closer the better for a family vacation. The price of multiple hotel rooms and airline tickets can add up really fast. And a long, cross country road trip sounds miserable for everyone.