There seemed to be some demand on the blog for a basketball preview prior to the game against Loyola, so especially since there’s no KSU football this week I thought I’d offer some thoughts on the Hawks of Maryland Eastern-Shore.
More importantly, it’s the first game of the season for Jamar Samuels, the guy who has all the physical tools to be K-State’s most dominant player.
For the first time, we get to see the new and improved Jamar, or so we’re told. The biggest thing stopping Jamar has always been Jamar, and I’m not going to believe that’s changed until I see it for a few games. I’d be stunned if he sees anyone who can come close to guarding him tonight, so he should get a lot of dunks and layups.
In an ideal world, that would eventually lead to some wide-open looks for Angel Rodriguez, Will Spradling and Rodney McGruder outside the three-point line, but I’ve seen enough of Jamar's passing abilities in the real world to temper my expectations on that front.
In the first two games, the K-State forwards have 48 points on 16-30 shooting, which is decent efficiency, but really not the kind of production Frank would like to see. However, that concern is nothing compared to the abysmal work of the Wildcats on the boards, particularly if you take away the 14 rebounds of McGruder, the Big 12's best rebounding guard.
Despite playing teams that don’t even come close to stacking up to them in size or athleticism, Kansas State has mustered just a +1 rebounding edge. I think Frank would be the first to say that signals an alarming lack of effort, something that we only can hope Jamar will help to fix.
K-State’s 63% free throw shooting looks great compared to November and December of last year, but by any other measure, it’s pretty terrible. Sadly, this is not something Jamar and his 59% career FT mark is likely to improve.
We’ve seen two very different sides of Thomas Gipson thus far, but I really like the idea of Loyola Gipson playing alongside Samuels down low. Add in K-State’s team leader in blocks and rebounds, Jordan Henriquez-Roberts, and I see no reason why the Wildcats shouldn’t absolutely dominate the paint against every mid-major they see.
As far as tonight it concerned, it may be kind to call UMES a mid-major. The Wildcats are 23-0 all-time vs. the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, including a 79-58 beatdown of UMES in 2006. The Charleston Southern game proved that K-State isn't afraid to sink to this level, but UMES is a terrible basketball program and an awful team.
Still, they do provide some fun facts: 1. UMES was the first historically black college ever to play in the NIT, in 1973-1974. 2. One of their assistant coaches is none other than Ricardo Patton, who of course coached many mediocre to good Colorado teams from 1996-2007.
UMES’ leading scorer is Louis Bell, a sophomore guard who lives at the three-point line, where he made 13 of 20 in his first three games this season. JUCO transfer Percy Woods can also score some points on the perimeter and hit 4-5 threes last game after missing his first 10.
Inside, 6’6" senior Hillary Haley was the Hawks’
least-bad best player last season, but he hasn’t really come that close to matching his season average of 16.8 points per game even once in his first four games. At least K-State will get to see some height with 6’11" Nigerian Olatunji Kosile and 6’9" Pina Guillaume, though neither of them can score.
In fact, it will likely be a disappointing defensive effort if K-State allows UMES to break 60 in this one, since that’s something this team hasn’t done in regulation in four tries.
Winning doesn’t really matter in a game like this, except in the unthinkable scenario when it doesn’t happen. The only quasi-danger is that this is far and away the toughest game on UMES's schedule, so you can bet they'll be playing all-out with nothing to lose.
Instead of watching the scoreboard, we need to look for K-State to rebound better, share the ball better (maybe watch some film of Missouri’s game last night) and play defense for an entire 40 minutes.
I'd love to see the Wildcats get out and run a little bit, but I'm also hoping to get tickets to see KSU in a BCS bowl for Christmas, which seems just about as likely.*
*I should stress here that K-State getting into a BCS bowl after OSU beats OU, KSU beats ISU, and some other top 10 teams lose, is far more likely than me actually getting tickets to that hypothetical game.
I’d really like to see Rodney McGruder be more assertive offensively, and Jamar can probably afford to ignore his jump shot in a game like this unless he’s really feeling it. Just as bad as the rebounding margin is K-State’s 18 turnovers per game, so Frank needs to figure out a way to get his team to relax and play a lot more cohesively.
If you're looking to set the bar somewhere tonight, consider this: George Washington, who coincidentally visits Bramlage next on Dec. 1, beat UMES 64-48 in the season opener. A win that convincing should be the bare minimum as far as expectations go for K-State tonight.