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2014 Maui Invitational: Kansas State vs. Arizona Wildcats - Game Preview

The game will certainly be tough-going for the guys in purple, but a K-State win would be a crown jewel come resume-time in March.

Love the shirt, bro.
Love the shirt, bro.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational continues today, with the second round games at the Lahaina Civic Center on the beautiful west side of the island. For winning yesterday's contest with Purdue, K-State will now take on the #3 Arizona Wildcats at 2:30pm local time.

K-State leads the all-time with Arizona, 8-5, but Arizona has won the last two meetings. K-State upended Purdue 88-79 in the opening game, and Arizona got to this game by defeating Mizzou 72-53 in the second game yesterday. Both teams were able to get back to the hotel, get some rest and recovery, and should be ready to go this afternoon.

Winner of this game will take on the winner of Pitt-San Diego State tomorrow evening for the championship; the other two will play for 3rd/4th.

Know Your Opponent

Arizona (4-0) comes in ranked #3 in the AP Top 25 (slipped a spot from #2 because of an absent ballot, apparently), and has had little difficulty winning games to this point. Head Coach Sean Miller said in postgame yesterday:

But that initial surge out of the gate, playing really well on both ends, I don't know if we've really done that yet, which I can also flip it and make that a positive. Because like every team at this time of year, you're in search of getting better and improving.

So, that's kind of scary. Look for Arizona to come out with more intensity and really try to step on us from the get-go. I think Arizona knows - if they let us hang around like they did Mizzou yesterday, the outcome might not be in their favor.

Keep a close watch on:

Freshman forward and McDonalds All-American Stanley Johnson, junior forward Brandon Ashley and sophomore guard Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. All are coming off solid outings yesterday, with Johnson contributing all-around (14 pts, 4 reb, 3 stl, 2 ast in 29 minutes) and Ashley pouring in 15 pts in 25 minutes. Hollis-Jefferson is a starter-quality player coming in off the bench at around the first media timeout - and was player-of-the-game material with 15 pts, 6 reb in 23 minutes.

Offense/Defense Strategy:

Man-to-man defense is what it looks like our Wildcats will be running up against. Arizona really gets out and pressures the passing lanes (forced Mizzou into 17 turnovers), and have two seven-footers and another 6-10 senior that can anchor the back end of that defense. Scoring will require sharp execution of our motion offense, and maybe isolation with Foster using ball-screens to get open. I like the chances of Big Gip or Hurt going up against their interior one-on-one, but it has to happen quickly before perimeter defense can help.

We'll throw our man-to-man at them, but their offense is very methodical (one of the slowest but most efficient teams in the Pac 12, pace-adjusted), and they take care of the basketball (11 topg). We're not going to be able to live through the defensive lapses that we saw yesterday against the Boilermakers. Arizona isn't a stellar three-point-shooting team (32.8% on the season), so getting a hand up on perimeter shooters while containing the drive will be important.

Probable Starters

Kansas State:

F Nino Williams, 6-5 220 Sr
Thomas Gipson, 6-7 265 Sr
F Wesley Iwundu, 6-7 195 So
Jevon Thomas, 6-0 185 So
Marcus Foster, 6-3 210 So

University of Arizona:

F Stanley Johnson, 6-7 245 Fr
F Brandon Ashley, 6-9 230 Jr
C Kaleb Tarczewski, 7-0 245 Jr
G Gabe York, 6-3 185 Jr
G T.J. McConnell, 6-1 195 Sr

3 Keys To The Game

Let's sit back and enjoy this game.  Arizona is a 10.5-point favorite.

1. Execute, execute, execute.

We're going to have to be nearly perfect to win this one. Arizona doesn't have the team to run us out of the gym, but they do have the team to make it impossible to come back from a 10-point deficit. We have to play our brand of basketball with our usual swagger, but being careless with the ball, undisciplined on defense, and not rebounding the ball on misses will put us in a bad position.

2. Don't force the issue.

Even yesterday, we saw Foster, JT, and a handful of others forcing the issue early. Again, we can't afford to go down early, because we know Arizona will ramp up as the game goes along. We need to get settled in and comfortable right away. I would expect a little cleaner game today, now that both teams have a game under their belt out here.

3. Speed the game up.

Arizona is going to try to make us make mistakes on the offensive end, then slow the game down on their end of the floor. We need to pressure on defense and create turnovers and get more possessions in the game. They're such an efficient team at reduced possessions, I think the more chances we get, the better our chances are. This is decidedly un-Bruce Weber-like, and I could certainly be wrong, but I think if this game is played in the high 60s or 70s, we've got a very slim margin. If the game gets up into the 80s or higher, that margin becomes more favorable for us.