USA TODAY Sports
Particularly in Big 12 play, Kansas State has gotten a crucial, unexpected scoring boost from its junior guard.
For most of his first two seasons wearing a Kansas State uniform, whenever Shane Southwell got the ball outside of 15 feet and showed the slightest desire to shoot, I started screaming at my television "NO! NO! NO!" Southwell's crazy athletic ability has always been obvious and his vision coupled with his defense generally meant I didn't mind when he was on the floor, except when he decided he needed to score.
All too often, that led to disaster, and it showed in his abysmal shooting percentages (36% FG, 25% 3FG). Entering this season, I figured the best we could expect from Shane was some more discipline offensively to not force shots, and perhaps more consistency in his passing and defense.
I did predict Shane would play more relaxed and confident this season under Bruce Weber than under Frank , when it seemed like more than just about anyone else he would be given a seat on the bench anytime he made a mistake. But I had no idea that transformation would include monumental increases in his shooting percentages, and subsequently, the same for his scoring average.
Southwell is shooting 50% from the field and better than 46% from 3, where he's already made more than twice as many shots as he made in his first two seasons combined. The days of me yelling "NO!" are long gone, and have been replaced by the wish, at times, that Southwell would actually take more jump shots.
That's when I have to remind myself of the new paradox associated with Shane, which is admittedly much better than the old one. In a nutshell, shot selection is a huge part of what has allowed him to make such a great leap this season, though he's starting to get to the point where he can even hit a guarded jumper off the dribble as long as he's set.
Make no mistake, he's obviously put in some hard work in the offseason and the newfound confidence that comes with playing from a more forgiving coach has helped a lot. But it also helps that Shane has, for the most part, learned to accept his unique role in K-State's four-guard lineup better than just about anyone else.
The new dynamic has proved vital, since K-State doesn't really have anything resembling a true low post threat. Any athletic big man with size can pretty much shut down Gipson, and Jordan Henriquez offers real, consistent value to this offense so rarely that it's hardly worth mentioning what his potential could be anymore.
Fortunately, Southwell is not only vastly improved, but he still seems to be trending upward as we head into the second third of conference play. It's hard to believe, but Shane Southwell is by far Kansas State's second-leading scorer behind Rodney McGruder in conference play at 11.8 points per game.
This is the guy we were all hoping we'd see eventually when Shane first showed off his athleticism and explosiveness during his freshman season. But through poor shooting and general offensive ineptitude, I'd more or less given up on ever seeing him emerge as a scorer. What's happening now is a beautiful thing.
In some respects, then, I guess you could say Texas has a lot of players who are like freshman/sophomore Shane Southwell. You won't see many lineups in the conference as athletic as the Longhorns, but Rick Barnes has once again failed to get the best out of his young talent.
Sheldon McClellan leads Texas with 14.8 points per game, but he certainly hasn't been doing it with much efficiency. Honestly, it's probably best to let him take the threes (28%), especially since we saw last Saturday just how poorly K-State's defense can be as far as letting players get to the rim.
Julien Lewis is really only good by comparison as far as shooting goes, especially when you throw point guard Javan Felix and his terrible 32% shooting from the field into the mix. But Felix is much more dynamic with almost six assists per game, even if he is prone to freshman mistakes.
The fact that Texas starts three freshman and two sophomores has to bode well for Kansas State in Bramlage, especially if the crowd can produce an atmosphere at least somewhat similar to the one we saw against Kansas last Tuesday. Also, no one need worry if Texas gets out to an early lead. This team has made a habit of giving games away late.
Gipson might actually be able to do some damage against a team that doesn't start anyone taller than 6-9, and all the ‘Cats should be crashing the glass hard against the Longhorns, who rank near the bottom of the Big 12 in most rebounding categories. A healthy dose of second-chance points plus good transition offense like we saw in Ames should be enough to beat a Texas defense that is actually pretty good in the halfcourt.
Essentially, if K-State can stop Texas from getting to the rim too much and Angel Rodriguez can get the offense out and running smoothly, this game shouldn't be much of a problem. McGruder scored 33 in Manhattan against this team last year, so perhaps this would be a good time for him to break out of his mini-slump.