It may not have been the most entertaining game we've ever seen, but damn, it sure was a nice venue, wasn't it?
Pretty much every discussion I've heard about the game has used the terms sluggish, or uninspired, or muddled, or words to those effects. Undoubtedly, last night was not the prettiest basketball game we've ever seen. But if you really look at it, there were some notable positives, although as noted yesterday, FAMU is a really, really bad (and undersized) basketball team.
The first positive I would note is the Cats' three-point shooting. K-State went 8-17 from three-point range, which is a very solid 47.1 percent clip. Considering we would take 40 percent from the arc each game, I'll take that as a positive sign. Even better, Bill Walker knocked down one of the threes (his only attempt of the night), to continue his jump-shooting improvement. Also of note, Jacob Pullen was 2-4 and Clent Stewart was 2-5. I take two positives out of all this: first, we knocked down a high percentage of the threes we attempted. Second, we didn't jack up 20+ shots from beyond the arc against an undersized team.
Another positive was the overall field-goal shooting last night. The Cats made nearly 50 percent of their field goal attempts, with Beasley leading the way at 7-16. Even on a night when his jump shot was not working (more on that in a second), Beasley had an efficient night, scoring 24 points on only 16 attempts. Stewart continued his solid play from the Cal game, chipping in 13 points, while Pullen also managed double-digits with 11. I should also mention that Stewart had one of the great passes I've ever seen when he hit Darren Kent on the breakaway with a pass I thought had no chance in hell of getting through.
Thus, using my new favorite basketball metrics (see Ken Pomeroy for more), we ended up with solid offensive and defensive efficiency numbers. Offensively, we played at a level that would yield 110.7 points per 100 possessions, while defensively we would have given up a shade under 80 points per 100 poessessions. Those are numbers that would be near the national leaders in both categories; now we just need to start playing that way against more solid competition.
Using those numbers, you would think the sportswriters would be raving about our efficient, well-played game. As mentioned earlier, not exactly. I will admit, the game was not terribly exciting to watch, but that had nothing to do with overly sloppy play. It had much more to do with the number of fouls FAMU racked up. For the game, FAMU was whistled 28 times, and starting forward Akini Akini had four fouls after just 17 minutes of play (and they left him in!). Factor in K-State's 20 fouls, and you have a game that was stopped approximately every 50 seconds by a foul call. Then you can add in the 38 combined turnovers, and you have a game that was stopped approximately every 31 seconds by whistles for turnovers and fouls alone. Suffice it to say, there were not many long stretches of uninterrupted play.
Now that I've made excuses for the game, I'll get to a couple concerns. Beasley came out in the pregame with a lot of tape on his left hand and wrist. I noticed later in the first half he had taken it off, but it makes me wonder if he didn't ding up his wrist somewhere along the line. Given his jump-shot struggles yesterday (0-2 from three-point range, at least a couple other missed jump shots), I think there might be something to this. Let's hope it's not too serious.
There are other potential injury concerns as well. Bill Walker only played two minutes in the second half because apparently his knee is sore again. He looked athletic enough in the first half, but I really want his knee to get healed up before conference play. He played 19 minutes last night; I hope he doesn't play any more than that until the Xavier game. Blake Young was also visibly hobbling around the court in the middle of the second half, before heading to the bench for good.
The final concern is one that has already been discussed thoroughly by other sources: turnovers. Last night the Cats managed to hand the ball over to FAMU 22 times. Some of the game reviews linked above credited FAMU's press for forcing those turnovers, but I didn't really see it that way. We did a pretty good job of breaking their press, except for a couple times when Pullen forgot he wasn't in high school anymore and tried to dribble through it himself. I shouldn't limit it to any one (or two) players, but Pullen and Andre Gilbert really need to be more careful with the ball. They each had four turnovers last night, and while I think Pullen is an incredible talent who will be a great player for the Cats, he leads the team for the season with 36 turnovers (3.6 per game). Let's hope he uses the rest of the non-conference slate to get a better handle on protecting the ball.
OK, that's enough of the game review. Let me just say this: the Sprint Center is an amazing facility, and the surrounding Power & Light District is going to revive downtown Kansas City in an amazing way. As long-time readers of this blog have probably figured out, I currently reside in Houston. Downtown Houston has some impressive facilities, including Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros) and the Toyota Center (Houston Rockets). And there are some nice restaurants and bars in the downtown loop, too. But KC is really doing it right. I have been to the Toyota Center, and Sprint is every bit the facility the Toyota Center is. The place looks sharp with the black tones, the scoreboard and replay boards look amazing, and access is overall pretty good.
On top of that, when the P&L District is finished (which it should be before the Big 12 tournament this March), all the shopping, dining and drinking anyone's heart could desire will be within walking distance of the Sprint. Right now, McFadden's is really the only bar that's open in the P&L, while Vinino's is pretty much the only restaurant. That's not to say there aren't other options right now, including Paddy O'Quigley's, Willie's and Tanner's. But what I absolutely love about the Sprint Center setup is that you can walk out the west doors of the arena and literally walk right across the street and into a bar or restaurant. Or, if you don't like those options, you'll be able to walk two or three blocks past them and find several other options.
As for inside the Sprint Center, there's not much that I saw to complain about. They still seem to be working out some of the kinks in their service areas, as I walked about halfway around the arena before I found a beer vendor and waited a fairly long time in the food line (that may have been the fault of the people in front of me, not the servers). But once you find what you're looking for, there is plenty of it. I had the KC 1/2-LB. Hot Dog with brisket and onion rings (and surprisingly didn't explode), and there seemed to be plenty of good menu choices, as well as places to sit on the concourse and eat.
Speaking of the concourses, they are nice and wide, making ingress and egress a breeze, at least for me. Unfortunately, we didn't go into The College Basketball Experience, although from what I could see it looked awesome. I'm pretty sure I'll check that out at some point, and if any of you who were there last night did, give us a report.
The only real complaint I had was the lack of a scoreboard that had comprehensive player and team stats, and I was told they had a system error that negated that. I seem to remember that before the game they had some scoreboard space reserved for those stats, so a system error wouldn't totally surprise me.
As for our purple denizens last night, let me say well done. Announced attendance was 17,699, and I would say that sounded pretty accurate. The upper level was very full, while the lower-level showed a little spottiness. Some of that can probably be attributed to season-ticket holders who live in western Kansas and couldn't make it to KC for a Monday night game (perfectly understandable). As I said yesterday, at the top of my wish list for a K-State game in KC would be a weekend date in the future. Coming in a close second would be a better opponent.
The crowd that was there wasn't particularly loud, but they were solidly supportive and there was a good contingent of students who helped organize things somewhat. I was told the pep band was not K-State's pep band, but I didn't notice any major difference (no offense to our regular band if that wasn't them). Finally, a big shoutout to the couple on the kiss cam who kissed and then held up their sign "Bill Walker Pisses Excellence." That is one of the best signs I've seen in a long, long time.
For more photos of my night at the Sprint, hit the "Full Story" link below.
These were our seats, about 50 minutes prior to tipoff. Thanks to Steve for the tickets!
Beasley taking a shot in pregame warmups. The guy in the white shirt in between me and him is David Hoskins.
As you can see, the scoreboard has jumbotrons (high-definition) on four sides, and those eight screens above the jumbotron are scoreboards. Last night, they only had the score, team fouls, time-outs remaining, and game time on them. I would guess they are supposed to have individual stats, as well, but like I mentioned earlier, I heard they had a system error that prevented that.
These next pictures are the view from our seats.
The other end of the court, from our seats.
And finally, a zoomed view from our seats.