Iowa State preview: What we need from Angel

In case you couldn't tell before Big 12 play started, it's become abundantly clear that Angel Rodriguez is Kansas State's best point guard. The gap between him and Will Spradling gets considerably larger when you factor in potential.

Even when Will is shooting well (I have vague recollections of this) Angel's game just has so many more dimensions. He's quicker, sees the floor better (only Shane Southwell has more assists per minutes played), plays better defense, and just generally handles the ball better.

Will is obviously better at taking charges, largely because he's incapable of preventing opponents from getting to the rim in any other way, and he's probably the more intelligent player. That brings us to the main problem with Angel this season, and how much of it we can forgive as "freshman mistakes."

Check the jump for my thoughts on what Angel needs to improve upon, and what frustrating aspects of his game we'll probably just have to deal with for at least the rest of the season. Also, an Iowa State preview.

One thing that I think the coaches understand is that you don't really want to slow down a guy like Angel or Denis Clemente. Sure, this will result in some stupid turnovers, offensive fouls, and getting stuck in the air on a drive, but the layups and transition baskets you get from that speed are well worth it.

You can't have one thing without the other, and you just have to hope that over time Angel will make his own adjustments based on what works and what doesn't. Along the same lines, it's dangerous to tell him to tone down the aggressiveness defensively, but you'd like to think he'll cut down on stupid fouls (like the ones going for a steal more than 30 feet away from the basket) over time.

So far this season, Angel is averaging 2.1 turnovers in just 18 minutes per contest. Obviously, that's not good.

We're going to see an offensive foul here and there, or maybe a turnover on a tricky pass on that just misses being an easy layup. These kinds of mistakes are going to happen for any good, aggressive scoring point guard.

To take a slight diversion, I want to address that last point. Maybe I'm old school, but I'd love to see a pass-first point guard like UNC's Kendall Marshall.

He's a guy that can and will shoot when open (43% FG) but primarily is looking to find his teammates in transition or off the dribble-drive. Sadly, these types of players are few and far between these days, and if you really want to know why, just go to an AAU tournament some time next summer.

Anyway, Angel's never going to be that guy, and honestly this K-State team has so few offensive weapons that we really need his scoring mentality. Still, he could definitely learn to pass a little more and shoot dumb shots a little less.

There's no reason for him to be trying to shoot over defenders from the perimeter before the shot clock gets to 10, and it often seems like he doesn't even look to pass when he penetrates until it's clear that he has no lane to the basket. The most egregious example of this from the OU game was on one drive where he literally put his head down and carried the ball against his hip for a couple steps, which seems like something no 5-foot-11 point guard should ever do.

At times I feel like the only thing Angel has done more than turn the ball over this season is foul, and he absolutely must find a way to cut down on the stupid fouls without limiting his effectiveness as a defender.

I like his aggressiveness and ability to make plays such as the Reggie Miller-esque steal and 3-pointer against OU, but the foul that came after that was absolutely cringeworthy.

For what it's worth, though I'm generally against Frank's schizophrenic substitution patterns, I think benching Angel for freshman mistakes is one of the best ways for him to learn. But that's true only if we're talking about making him sit for a few minutes, not the majority of a game.

That's probably more than enough of my thoughts, and I'd be interested to hear what everyone else thinks about the guy who is pretty clearly KSU's point guard of the future.

***

It's easy to be terrified of tonight's game at Iowa State, considering the history of Hilton Magic and what both teams did on Saturday, not to mention the recent history of KSU-ISU. I'm a little nervous myself.

But I'm going to try to be cautiously optimistic, since it seems K-State matches up much better against the Cyclones than it did against the Sooners.

That starts on the perimeter, where Scott Christopherson at least offers a guard who Will Spradling can defend without becoming a complete defensive liability. If Christopherson gets hot, look out, but he won't be consistently embarrassing Will off the dribble or throwing down alley-oops over his head.

I'm more worried about ISU's Melvin Ejim and Chris Royce White. The two athletic forwards are extremely versatile, and White is as good as anybody at making you pay if you leave your man to come help defend him.

That's a big reason why the Cyclones are the only team in the league to make more than 8 3-pointers per game, and they've got two sharpshooters off the bench in Anthony Booker and Tyrus McGee who don't do much else.

In an ideal world, Thomas Gipson, Jordan Henriquez and maybe even Adrian Diaz would use their size advantage and attack those two guys whenever possible. But we haven't seen a lot of evidence this season to support the possibility of that happening.

It's pretty obvious Iowa State is going to come out playing hard and have a lot of support from the crowd, so it will be absolutely crucial for K-State to shoot a good percentage early and take care of the basketball to prevent the Cyclones from pulling away. If that happens, I think the Wildcats have a good shot at .....pulling the upset. Yep, I said it.

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