OK, everybody that had Angel Rodriguez as K-State's top scorer in the first two games in Hawai'I please raise your hand. No one? Yeah, me neither.
We knew coming in that Angel could create off the dribble as well as anyone on this team, and the word on the street was he could shoot it a little. Against two fairly respectable defenses, he proved it, primarily because he was able to make 7 of 9 threes, which will tend to make everything else a little easier.
Clearly, that part of his game is not going to be that good every night, but the simple fact that his 3-point total went from 4 to 11 in 2 games should do wonders for his confidence, as well as his ability to create off the dribble as defenders start to yell "shooter!" every time he makes a move out to the perimeter.
That being said, I'm definitely not ready to be making any kind of Jacob Pullen comparisons just yet, but it's now conceivable that he could get there. Let's just sit back and enjoy this stretch of great play without the hyperbole, and try not to be overly disappointed when he inevitably regresses back towards the mean.
It's an especially wonderful time for K-State to get some more backcourt depth, although I tend to believe Frank when he says the fatigue factor is overstated for these kinds of tournaments. With even Jeremy Jones contributing some solid minutes, it'll be really nice to have 5-6 guards we can count on come that brutal stretch of Kansas, Mizzou, and Baylor come January.
For a quick preview of Long Beach State, check the jump.
First of all, don't believe anyone who says it was a surprise that Long Beach made it this far. I have to assume I was just one of many who saw this coming. At the end of the year, a win against Xavier would probably look better on the resume, but perhaps not by much.
I think just about everyone knows this by now, but the 49ers made a name for themselves by getting a rare, rare win at Pittsburgh, then proved they aren't just a Davidson by competing at Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina. They're just hoping everyone keeps ignoring that embarrassing loss at Montana. K-State certainly should when preparing for this game.
Like any quality low mid-major team that doesn't have Kenneth Faried, Long Beach is very much a guard-oriented team. Casper Ware is the guy most capable of winning a game by himself, and he dropped 29 vs. Pitt and then 28 vs. North Carolina.
He can beat you from pretty much anywhere, and I suspect Martavious Irving will draw the assignment, though Will and Angel may get their shot as well. Their best bet with Ware is to make him shoot from the outside and hope he continues his recent streak of cold shooting.
Perhaps the tougher guy to stop of late has been Larry Anderson, a versatile 6-5 guard who is a better shooter, but not quite the same threat to go crazy on you. I suspect Rodney will be the main man on Anderson, and Southwell will get his chance to keep Anderson away from the basket and off the boards as well.
Speaking of keeping guys off the boards, T.J. Robinson is an absolute beast and actually poses a significant challenge to the notion that this is a guard-dominated team. The guy averages a double-double and uses his great athleticism and length to get to the basket.
Still, he's not a true post player and at 6-8 he's the tallest 49er in the rotation, which is a significant weakness. It seems to me K-State's best bet will be to pound the ball inside to Thomas Gipson and JO early to open up things up for the guards, who can hopefully continue their red-hot 3-point shooting.
Of course limiting turnovers will be important, but when they do happen the ‘Cats will need to hustle back on defense to make sure Long Beach St. doesn't get too many easy baskets.
This is actually not a great 3-point shooting team (35%) and as long as the effort isn't lacking, K-State should absolutely dominate the boards. Honestly, Long Beach seems to play pretty well to KSU's strengths, and I like our chances though Long Beach is certainly good enough at what they do that untimely lapses or just good/bad shooting could turn this game in their favor.
Merry Christmas, everybody!