Even the most hardcore Kansas University women's basketball fan must concede the program is treading water.
Or spinning its wheels. Or running in place. Or whatever expression you want to use to describe a program that isn't deteriorating but isn't improving, either.
Coach Bonnie Henrickson's four seasons at Kansas have been remarkably similar. Bonnie Ball has produced impressive starts against decent non-conference competition followed by disappointing second-division Big 12 Conference finishes.
If the Jayhawks knock off Kansas State tonight in Allen Fieldhouse, they'll finish with a 5-11 league record, the same record Henrickson compiled during her first two seasons on Mount Oread. If the Jayhawks lose tonight, they'll wind up 4-12 in the league, matching last year's record.
Looking at it another way, KU's non-league record under Henrickson is a solid 35-14. But her record against Big 12 foes, including a 1-3 mark in the postseason tournament, is an ugly 19-48.
At least the Jayhawks won't finish in the league basement like they did last year when they shared the cellar with Kansas State. But they certainly haven't made the meteoric rise K-State has. If the Wildcats win tonight, they'll clinch at least a tie for first place, meaning they can go from worst to first in the Big 12, an almost unbelievable feat.
And to think the 'Cats were picked to finish eighth in the coaches' preseason poll last October. Where was Kansas picked? Tenth. And that's about where KU will wind up.
If there's one thing about the Jayhawks, it's that they're pretty easy to predict. That isn't to say Henrickson is a poor coach. Far from it. Nobody knows X's and O's better than Henrickson, whose rapid-fire commentary is constantly filled with technical jargon.
Nevertheless, I've never seen a coach win with X's and O's. Coaches win with talent, and the bottom line is this: Henrickson hasn't recruited enough quality players to be competitive in the Big 12.
Look at it this way: How many of KU's starters would be starting for Kansas State? Answer: One.
KSU coach Deb Patterson would find a place for Danielle McCray, but the other four KU starters would open on the bench. If that sounds harsh, I'm sorry. It's just the truth.
What really hurts, though, is that 9 of the 11 players on K-State's roster are products of either Kansas high schools or Kansas City suburbs. KU has only two players in that category - McCray (Olathe) and Taylor McIntosh (Wichita).
It goes without saying Henrickson had hoped to be competing for the Big 12 title in her fourth season. Perhaps, though, the fifth year will be the charm.
Henrickson is bringing in a talented point guard in Angel Goodrich, an Oklahoma small-school superstar, to fill one of the Jayhawks' biggest needs. In my mind, the best teams in the Big 12 are the ones with the best point guards.
A point guard who can penetrate and shoot off the dribble makes everyone around her better. A quintessential point guard will make McCray and 6-foot-5 freshman Krysten Boogaard, KU's two most talented players, much more effective.
So there is hope the Jayhawks can perhaps sneak into the league's first division next year, then maybe become a legitimate challenger a year later.