Games like this suck the witty quips and fun facts right out of you.
After dropping a second game in three weeks to the Oklahoma Sooners, I've decided to run quickly through Three Goods, Three Bads, and player grades.
Following, we'll delve into key factors in the Wildcats success and failures throughout the Big 12 docket so far.Good Things to Take Away:
- Rodney's trying. We all should have seen this coming. We were living large on Rodney putting up 27 points a game at home through conference game so far. Rodney's come back to earth, and because of it, our previous shortcomings are really sticking out now. That being said, he's doing everything in his power to get us to win games.
- FT Shooting. Hard to believe I'm putting this here, but we did go 15-18 from the line tonight, for an 83% clip. Let's take little victories when we can get them.
- Rebounding. It certainly didn't seem like it during the game - I would have said we got our behinds whooped on the glass. Reality says we outrebounded OU 32-25, including a 10-8 advantage on the offensive boards. OU is actually a very good rebounding team, averaging just more than a rebound a game behind us.
Things To Improve On:
- Offense. Period. We spent entirely too much of that game just going through the motions. There was no conviction on offense. Understand this is not the same problem we were having earlier in the year. Previously, everyone just stood around, and took forever for the offense to actually get started. The offense to night had: Lazy vee-cuts and jukes on the perimeter, making moving the ball from side to side on the floor difficult; Listless and sloppy lane cuts, allowing defenders to easily stand in one position and guard the cut; and Poor entry passes, where guards were missing inside guys that had good position, as well as misplacing/forcing the passes when they did try. This was the most discouraged I've been this season watching our offense. Getting guys to move is one thing. This was a lack of effort. It looked like we didn't want to be on the court much of the night.
- PG Play. We won't win another game this year until Angel, Will and Martavious start taking care of the ball. These guys have been absolutely horrendous in conference play. Tonight, again, 20 TOs - with 12 of them being steals, or live-ball turnovers. You may remember the rant I had about steals versus other TOs after the Baylor game. Steals immediately send the ball the other direction, instead of killing the clock and letting your defense get back and get set.
- Attitude. These guys played most of the night like they didn't care. No passion. No fire. No desire. You can see when a team wants to play; there just wasn't that level of hustle. That body language. That spark. Dumb plays. Not getting back on D. Shuffling through the offense. Slow help-side rotation. Giving up 3 offensive boards on the same possession. This team has no attitude leader. No Jacob Pullen. No Denis Clemente. God forbid I actually say this - but no Steve Henson. No Lon Kruger. There isn't a single player on this team that actually leads this team. This team will struggle like this until that person emerges. Don't count on it happening this year.
Individual Player Analysis:
- Rodney McGruder: B. Played decent defense on Steven Pledger once it was realized we didn't have a PG or SG that could actually guard him. Finished with 19 PTS on 6-14 shooting, including 1-6 from 3P. Had 2 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK, and only 1 TO. Team high 39 minutes. Took too many outside shots. What stats will show you is that Rodney is not a good shooter - he's a streaky shooter. He's only shooting 36% from 3P for the season. What this means is that for every 4-5 or 5-7 night he has from three, he'll follow up with two 0-4 or 1-5 games. Great when he makes them, sucks when he doesn't. He is shooting nearly 48% from the floor overall. He needs to spend more time mid-range and in until he hits a few, then stretch out to the three, then work back in on shot fakes.
- Will Spradling: D-. This kid couldn't have played much worse. 6 PTS on 2-10 shooting (0-5 3PFG), 3 REB, 2 AST, 2 TO. Was supposed to be guarding Pledger most of the night, and Pledger just made him look non-existent out there. I don't know what poltergeist has taken up residence in Will's body, but exorcism - NOW. The sentiment has been echoed, but this team will not win until Will starts (a) taking care of the ball, and (b) making shots.
- Angel Rodriguez: D+. He did start the evening pretty well, aggressively taking the ball to the basket, and scoring 8 early points. Finished with 10 PTS on 4-10 shooting (1-3 3PFG), 2 AST, 2 STL, 2 REB, but 4 TOs. Fouled out with only 16 minutes of playing time. Four of the fouls were absolutely terrible. He played out of control the entire night, and was a black hole with the ball in his hands to boot. I will chalk his errors up to youth, but he needs to seriously learn to harness his energy and enthusiasm, instead of just running wild out there. The unfortunate part of Will playing sooooooo poorly right now is that Angel is needed on the floor. His benefits do outweigh his drawbacks considering the lack of options.
- Thomas Gipson: D-. Largely ineffective - again. 7 minutes, 1 REB, 1 TO. Got pulled for good after pushing Romero Osby following drawing a charge. Between the recent technical he received, the quick little bursts of testiness he's shown on the floor, and the little shove he gave Osby, I don't think HCFM is digging the attitude...just a guess.
- Jamar Samuels: B-. At least Jamar made an appearance at the game today. 9 PTS, 8 REB, 2 AST, 2 BLK in 30 minutes. Had 4 TOs, though. His turnovers are typical not quite as penalizing as the guard TOs, because they're typically dead-ball TOs in the paint. Very rarely does Jamar throw the ball to the other team - he throws it out of bounds, or gets called for travelling or similar. We got plays from Jamar where he missed two straight bunnies on offensive boards, but also plays where he makes a good move to the bucket and flushes it home. We'd be a much better team if he could just exercise some consistency. He also did a good job of defense on Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald, coaxing them into 3-16 shooting and limiting them to 4 REB total.
- Victor Ojeleye: B. Say what you want - the guy goes in, plays his heart out, and comes back out. 4 PTS, 2 REB, 1 AST, 0 TO. 14 minutes of floor time. Had his play of the year tonight, a rebound putback that he almost dunked, but it still went in. Only guy on the team that acted like he wanted to play tonight.
- Jordan Henriquez: B+. 9 PTS, 6 REB, and only 1 TO, which is pretty impressive for JO in a turnover-prone game. His 9 PTS came on 3-3 shooting, 3-4 FTs. JO had a little rust after the suspension against TTU, but he really played well tonight, also factoring his help against Osby and Fitzgerald in the paint.
- Martavious Irving: D+. Three days after his very impressive performance against TTU off the bench, he figuratively crapped the bed tonight. Wasn't able to play defense to his usual level - he was assigned Pledger when Will couldn't guard him (and before Rodney eventually had to go over to him). 3 PTS on 1-5 FG, 3 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 4 Fouls, took team high "honors" with 5 TOs. Threw a ton of bad passes, leading to OU steals.
- Shane Southwell: D-. The Paradox made it in for 2 minutes, didn't log any stats, and honestly, looked like he would have rather been home playing video games.
- Adrian Diaz: C+. Was a little foul-happy in the paint trying to reach. Didn't score, but had opportunities. 5 REB and 2 TO. He did some positive things and played like he knew where to be and what to do, but youth hindered his execution a little, I think.
Alright, now that that's out of the way, let's look at the team in general over the past 8 games:
We're 4-4 in league play now, with wins v. Missouri, v. Texas, @ Oklahoma State, and @ Texas Tech; and losses @ Kansas, v. Baylor, @ Oklahoma, and v. Oklahoma. For the record, we're currently 5th in the Big 12, and the conference coaches selected us as the 6th best team in the league, by a large margin behind 5th Texas.
From the tangible "statistic" side of things, K-State is...:
- shooting worse than its opponents: 42.7% to 43.5%;
- shooting only 29% 3PFG (compared to 30% opp);
- shooting 65% from the line (compared to 78% from our opponents);
- outrebounding opponents by 6.2rpg;
- averaging a half assist less per game than opponents, and 1.5apg less than our season average;
- giving up more than 2 steals per game more than we get.
- scoring 5 ppg less compared to season average, giving up 3 ppg more compared to season average.
- Individually, our scoring has become much more unbalanced. Overall, we have three players averaging double-figures scoring: Rodney (15.7ppg), Jamar (10.4ppg), and Will (10.2ppg). However, in conference play, Rodney's average jumps to 20.7ppg, Jamar drops to 8.8ppg, and Will drops to 7.8ppg.
- Will's shooting has been relatively non-existent all year. He's shooting under 27% from the floor through conference, but is under 40% for the entire season.
- Unbelievably, we are averaging fewer turnovers (1.5tpg) than our opposition for the season. That gap narrows a little bit for Big 12 play, but we have still committed 5 fewer TOs than our opponents in the last 8 games.
- We actually shoot 3's at a slower clip than our opposition (29.3% of our FGs are 3's, compared to 29.8% of the opponents FGs are 3's).
- Our opponents have a much higher AST/FG ratio than we do (60.7% FGs are assisted, compared to 54.4% of our FGs are assisted).
Alright, so looking at the stats, it would appear that we lose games due to the following tangible effects:
- Poor ball movement. Our APG rate has dropped, and our opponents are finding easier buckets than we are.
- Poor ball handling. While we turn the ball over less than our opponents, we average more live-ball turnovers than the other team.
We lose games because of a strange phenomenon called "not showing up".
That's why we can outrebound a team by 20 and lose. That's how we have the conference leading AST/TO ratio defense, and we're 4-4. That's also how we can blow out a Missouri team ranked #6 at the time, and ascended to as high as #2 so far this season.
The fact of the matter is that we don't have a very strong team when it comes to leadership. Our best player - Rodney McGruder - has been a #2 option his entire career to this point, and has never exhibited the necessary personality to lead the entire team on the floor. You see him try every now and then, and it's just not natural. Jamar Samuels has been well-chronicled as being a "sixth-man" - he's arguably had his best production coming off the bench. Martavious Irving and Jordan Henriquez are role players, plain and simple. They do what they do pretty well, but they're not well-rounded players. Will Spradling is still just a sophomore, and has obvious physical limitations compared to the players he's matched up against night in, night out. Angel Rodriguez is a little freshman fireball that doesn't have a grip on his energy. Thomas Gipson has somehow gone from a dominating force to a complete disappearing act in conference play. Victor could be the best leader on the practice floor and locker room, but just doesn't translate to the game. Regardless of how much HCFM coaches this team up, there's just no floor general. No one on the floor that holds the rest of the team accountable.
This team is also very young. Given 1 point for each year in school (1 - freshman, 2 - sophomore, etc.), our team averages just over a sophomore - or 2.19. This is the second youngest team in the Big 12, to only Texas Tech (1.90). Young teams make mistakes. Young teams are inconsistent. Young teams have trouble executing. Young teams have difficulty transitioning from game to game, and from practice to play. What context cannot be lost is that we only lose Jamar and Victor next year, and pick up two more seven-footers. This season, if anything, should largely be a growth period for Rodney and Will, and an excellent chance for Gip, Angel and Diaz to develop. My only worry about next year is whether or not the leader we need emerges.
This team has no superior physical athletic specimens. Collectively, we have a team that can hustle and out-effort other teams, but we don't have a single person that can truly create for themselves, and not a player that can guard a stud on the other side. We're a team that, given the right gameplan and mindset by the opposing team, will give up big games to single players. If the other team can isolate players effectively in favorable positions, we're in trouble. Rodney and Martavious are the only two players that can effectively play on-ball defense with any efficiency. The rest of our defense, and the entirety of our offense, must be predicated on team play. If we play a team that makes us guard straight-up, we're not going to do well. Oklahoma just happens to be a team of that mold - their interior (Fitzgerald/Osby) combined with Pledger makes you guard inside and out. The first time we played them, we made Pledger work pretty hard, but Fitz and Osby killed us inside. Tonight, exact opposite. We sagged in, made it tough on OU's interior, and Pledger lit us up. On defense, we're forced to be an "either-or" team, and we're not escaping that fact any time soon.
What does this all mean? To be honest, I'm not sure. I'm just explaining what I see. What I do know is that all we can do for the rest of the season is expect the unexpected. I don't foresee a complete collapse by any means, but is probably not out of the question. Likewise, we're probably not going 10-0 for the rest of the conference slate, but in theory, we have shown the talent to make it at least plausible, though inconceivably difficult. I think we all know who this team is - they're a young, inconsistent team whose success seems to be tied to something as fickle and random as the flip of a coin: will we show up, or not? Let's watch and find out...