As most of you are aware, my last post criticized Jordan Henriquez for not living up to the expectations he set for some of us at the end of last season, especially on the offensive end. Then on Saturday JO had his best game of the year, reaching double figures for the first time with 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
Regrettably, I couldn't join you guys for the game thread or even watch the game until Sunday (thanks, ESPN3!), but there was some talk of JO responding to my post in a big, encouraging way. Certainly, it was great to see him finally showing some serious aggression in the second half, and he even made some great passes out of the post in a truly complete game. Well, besides the whole 2-for-5 from the free throw line thing, but we can't have it all.
It might seem silly to think K-State players are reading, much less getting motivated by what me or anyone else writes on this blog, and I'm not making any judgments one way or the other. Rather, let me just provide you with some evidence of the "BOTC effect," and I'll let you decide for yourself.
In my first Tournament Tuesday post on Jan. 29, I suggested that maybe just maybe we should be worried about Kansas State dropping back towards the bubble if the 'Cats were to play poorly and screw up in their upcoming games. Instead, Bruce Weber and co. got hot and won the next three games, including key victories at Oklahoma and against Iowa State in Manhattan.
During the KU game thread on Jan. 22 and again in the Slate the next day, there was a whole lot Will Spradling bashing going on and suggestions that his place was permanently on the bench after an awful performance against Kansas State. He responded with 15 points and 4 assists in a great game at Iowa State and has since proved his value and toughness by doing things like coming back into the game by getting his nose broken.
This one didn't happen immediately, but in my Florida preview on Dec. 22, I pointed out the struggles Rod had been having with his jump shot and suggested K-State needed him to be more like the All-Big 12 player he was projected to be in order to be successful. He had three more not-so-great games before breaking out and basically beating Oklahoma State by himself with 26 points in the second half of the Big 12 opener. Since then, he has shot better than 40% in 9 of 11 games and been the unquestioned leader of a team with a real chance at a Big 12 title.
In my preview of last season's Baylor game, I was pretty hard on Angel Rodriguez for his absolutely awful performance against Kansas in Manhattan and his maddeningly persistent turnover issues that almost made Will seem like a better option at the point. Angel responded by scoring 15 points and dishing out 6 assists in a season-changing upset of #10 Baylor, and he wouldn't commit more than 4 turnovers in a game for the rest of the season.
I also bemoaned the team's second half woes in my preview of that game at Kansas just two days earlier. In the next 8 games, the 'Cats won the 2nd half 5 times, tied once, and narrowly lost it in two games that still ended as Wildcat victories. It's just a shame the effect wore off and Syracuse pulled away after halftime to end K-State's season.
The "BOTC effect" even made one appearance in football season, when I wondered publicly whether Kansas State struggles to do better against Missouri State's passing game or get any pressure on the quarterback was a sign of bad things to come. The Wildcat defense answered my questions rather emphatically by holding Miami to 215 passing yards and sacking Stephen Morris five times. K-State would finish 3rd in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense.
Few of us responded well immediately after Bruce Weber's hiring, though we did fairly quickly follow Pan's lead and move from anger to acceptance, with a willingness to give Bruce a chance and see some optimism. Actually, this one probably won't be determined for another 2-3 years, since one of the most popular sentiments on GTCat's brilliant time capsule post was that this year with Frank's players would be great, but things could go downhill quickly after that. Still, no one was predicting a 2013 Big 12 title.
With all that in mind (and feel free to find other examples), let me just make a few comments before tonight's game against West Virginia. For a preview of the Mountaineers themselves, head on over to The Smoking Musket, but here are my thoughts on Kansas State with the "BOTC effect" in mind:
Angel is too small and incapable of making smart decisions. Rod has obviously lost his 3-point shooting touch and can't lead this team. Will Spradling doesn't have the athleticism or dribbling ability to handle high-level defensive pressure or score when he's not wide open.
Shane doesn't have what it takes to be a consistent scorer and is nothing more than a streaky shooter having a lucky season. JO will fold against stronger players and can't possibly post two double-doubles in a row.
Thomas Gipson is too one-dimensional inside and can't handle taller post players on either end of the floor. Martavious Irving is too aggressive and never under control when he drives to the basket. D.J. Johnson should have redshirted.
Omari Lawrence has no offensive game whatsoever. Nino Williams hasn't shown the heart it takes to be a consistent contributor. Michael Orris isn't 1/10th the player Josh Gray is and has a long way to go before he earns that scholarship.
Oh, and did you know Kansas State hasn't won a Big Monday game since beating Texas Feb. 28, 2011? It's true. Clearly they can't handle the big-game atmosphere and probably will be out of the Big 12 title race before they even get to Stillwater March 9.
OK, that ought to do it. Let's go 'Cats!