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Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Huggins drama has Manhattan in suspense

April 4, 2007

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The most nervous sports fans on the face of the earth are located in Manhattan, Kan.

The source of their anxiety? West Virginia University, alma mater of Kansas State's popular first-year basketball coach Bob Huggins, has a vacancy and has Huggins at the top of its wish list.

Meanwhile, in Manhattan, nobody's nerves were calmed when a rally planned on the fly aimed at convincing Huggins to stay at K-State was canceled when Huggins sent word he would be unable to attend, according to GoPowercat.com publisher Tim Fitzgerald. A member of the website had organized the rally.

Huggins' inner-circle includes several West Virginia donors, which has contributed to the shaky feelings in Manhattan.

On the other hand, by leaving K-State for West Virginia, Huggins would be leaving behind a recruiting class ranked No. 1 by analysts. Michael Beasley, ranked No. 1 in the nation in the Class of 2007 by rivals.com and the MVP of the recent McDonald's All-American game played in Louisville, is at the center of that class. It's conceivable that if Huggins left, Kansas State could grant Beasley his release from the letter of intent he signed and Beasley then could follow Huggins to West Virginia, which just lost coach John Beilein to the University of Michigan.

Bill Walker, the freshman who helped Huggins to rejuvenate the Wildcats' program before suffereing a season-ending knee injury in his sixth game, would not have such an option. Since Walker played for K-State, transferring would mean he would have to sit out a year, not a serious option since it's widely believed that both Beasley and Walker plan to make themselves eligible for the NBA draft after playing one season together at K-State.

A Huggins departure from Kansas State would be a huge jolt for the Wildcats and for the entire Big 12. After Walker's injury, many expected the Wildcats to fade away quietly. Instead, K-State overachieved, finishing the season 23-12 after an NIT appearance. K-State's hiring of Huggins and the emergence of Texas A&M's Billy Gillispie to join Texas Tech's Bob Knight, Bill Self of Kansas, and Rick Barnes of Texas gives the Big 12 five high-profile coaches. Losing one of them to the Big East would be a tough jolt for the conference.

If Huggins stayed at K-State instead of leaving for his alma mater, that would be a good sign he is in Manhattan for the long haul, which would be a great coup for the Big 12.

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