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Alabama Preview: Searching for Offense

In case you missed it, Pan had a very insightful and intelligent comment the other day in regards to why K-State basketball is often so excruciating to watch early in the season against cupcakes, particularly in that God-awful game last weekend.

You really should click the link if you haven't seen it, but basically he said Frank takes the approach of working everyone harder than most coaches would and then trying a smorgasboard of different lineups even in the first half, which often leads to ugly, disjointed offense and even some disappointing defensive lapses. Personally, I hate it, and I think Pan agrees.

But this is the way it is. Even in the Elite Eight season of two years ago, there were some far-too-close games against teams like IUPUI, Arkansas Pine-Bluff and (gasp!) Fort Hays St. Ugh.

Luckily, tomorrow's game against Alabama is one Frank will be taking seriously, so we can only hope this one will be a little more watchable. However, what I'm most concerned about is the possibility that the ugly playing style and disjointed offense will carry over into this one and turn it into a disappointment, much like West Virginia earlier this season and that horrendous 57-44 loss to Florida last December.

The fact is, it's not easy to suddenly turn it on offensively against a good defensive team when you haven't had any real chances to get into a rhythm in previous games. It's pretty much a guarantee that K-State's defensive energy will be way up and that should at least keep the game close, but this game will be decided on the offensive end.

That's where leadership comes in, and Rodney McGruder and Jamar Samuels must step up. Sure, Thomas Gipson may be K-State's best scorer right now and can get his 10-20 points in the post and help a lot by dominating the boards, and guys like Will Spradling and occasionally Martavious Irving or Angel Rodriguez can knock down some shots if you run some set plays for them or they get the occasional mismatch.

At the end of the day, though, Rodney and Jamar are the guys that should be the creators for this team. Both can beat most defenders off the dribble, although Rodney would really help himself on that front if he was shooting better than 21 percent from 3.

Honestly, I'm less concerned about his offense, as his assertiveness has generally been there and I'm still assuming his shooting percentage will rise well above the 40 percent that it's at right now. If that doesn't work itself out, we've got more serious issues.

The biggest problem is Jamar, and the fact that he hasn't reached 10 field goal attempts in a single game this year. A not insignificant part of that is foul trouble and a lack of minutes, but too much of it is him being content to play a secondary role in the offense.

When K-State as a team is shooting just barely better than 43 percent and has only broken 70 once (Loyola) in four* games against respectable basketball teams, Jamar needs to do more. That's the quickest way I see for this offense to get better, unless the 3-point shooting drastically improves across the board, which seems possible but unlikely.

*Listen, I get that Charleston Southern is 6-3 and actually not playing too badly all things considered. But they still gave up 85 points in a 28-point loss in Wichita. K-State scoring 72 is not impressive. End of discussion.

Either way, tomorrow's game against Alabama will be the toughest game K-State plays until at least Christmas, when it could face the Xavier Gangsters Musketeers. Click the jump for a preview.

I think this is the first time I've been able to preview a team that I've actually seen before this season, so hopefully this will be more helpful than past iterations.

Much like K-State, Alabama is a team with great length and athleticism that relies heavily on tough, physical man-to-man defense. The difference is they're better at it. No team has scored more than 64 points against the Crimson Tide in 10 games, and VCU still shot 40% from the field when they hit 64.

These guys go 7-8 deep are very happy to play a slow, grind-it-out game (they're 327th in KenPom's adjusted tempo standings) so any transition or second-chance points would be incredibly useful. Easy baskets in the halfcourt will be tough to come by in Tuscaloosa, and Will Spradling will not be able to drive all the way to the basket or anywhere near it like he could the last couple games.

Offensively for the Crimson Tide, there are really two guys worth watching. These two average a combined 31points per game, and the rest of the team gets about 35.

The first is fringe NBA prospect Tony Mitchell, who is not to be confused with NBA-ready Tony Mitchell, who plays at North Texas and would have gone to Missouri if he was a little smarter. He is the best player K-State will face until either Tu Holloway or Thomas Robinson.

I don't really think K-State has anybody who can guard this guy if he's shooting well. Maybe Shane Southwell. He's 6-6 with a good face-up jumper that extends to the 3-point line, a quick first step, and incredible athleticism that he likes to show off from time to time.

I'd expect Samuels and Southwell to be matched up with him for most of this game, with McGruder as an option as well. The best bet is to make him shoot contested shots, and make sure to block out, or you run the risk of being embarrassed.

JaMychal Green, on the other hand, is much more stoppable as long as you can keep his 6-8, 240 frame outside of the paint, which is easier said than done. Even with the good version of JO defending the lane, Green is going to score pretty much every time he gets the ball within five feet of the basket.

The good news is that outside of Mitchell, Alabama doesn't have any 3-point shooters to speak of. That means K-State can cheat a little more on help defense - which will be uselful against quick point guard Trevor Releford - and anyone that goes for a pump fake on the perimeter should be benched immediately.

I hate to say this, but I don't see any way this isn't another horribly ugly game where both teams are fighting hard and it comes down to who can run their offense most efficiently. I was shocked to see this since it's still football season, but Alabama had more than 15,000 come out for its game against Georgetown so we will finally get to see how the ‘Cats do in a hostile road environment. Hopefully K-State will be aided by a purple crowd at the beautiful Sprint Center.

The good news is that Alabama has been struggling since I saw them beat Wichita State and Purdue in Puerto Rico. But based on what I saw there and what I've seen from K-State these last two games, I am not optimistic.