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Game Preview - Kansas State vs. Savannah State Tigers

The Zombie Cats are at it again in the Octagon of Doom, taking on a sub-300 Savannah State team that isn't exactly an RPI booster.

Gip, buddy...time to play basketball again.
Gip, buddy...time to play basketball again.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

QContinuing a brief two-game homestand, Kansas State University (5-4) invites the Savannah State Tigers into Bramlage Coliseum for a 5:00pm CT tipoff. The Wildcats are coming off a 50-47 victory over the Bradley Braves on Tuesday evening, and look to take the next step forward in getting better and preparing for Big 12 conference play.

Aside Nino Williams picking up his second career double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, the game was mostly forgettable, save a few records set in the process:

  • Fewest combined points in a first half in Bramlage history - 37 (score was 19-18 Bradley at half)
  • Tied for fewest points by K-State in a half in Bramlage history - 18 (also vs. Kansas, Feb 13, 2012)

Neither team was even close to good in the first half, but that could be somewhat expected from the Braves, who are hovering around #240 in the kenpom.com team ratings. K-State's offense was abysmal, tabbing 13 turnovers, posting a sweltering 3-13 FG shooting performance (23.1%), went nearly 9 minutes without scoring a point, and went a preposterous 16:58 without making a field goal, finally coming to an end with a Nigel Johnson three at the end of the half. Free throw shoowing (11-12 in the half) kept us in the game. Against Bradley. Whodathunk.

The second half was much better from a production standpoint, but the Cats couldn't ever find a run to create separation, as Bradley matched us punch-for-punch. Marcus Foster - 2 points on free throws in the first half - showed up to play in the second half, finishing with 12 points on 4-9 shooting (3-6 from distance). Jevon Thomas saw the floor for a career-high-tying 33 minutes, and finished with 4 points, 5 assists, but 4 turnovers. As far as bigs go, Nino had a good game, but Thomas Gipson and Wesley Iwundu were both almost non-factors, Malek Harris was a net negative during his time on the court, and Stephen Hurt did not play due to injury.

Anyways, that was probably more recap than that game was worth. Moving on...

Know Your Opponent

The Tigers (3-7) are currently ranked #314 (of 351) Division I programs. That should be all you need to know, but we'll continue on.

Savannah State has played some decent competition so far, and been waxed by every one of these teams, including losses to Louisville (87-26), Indiana (95-49), and Miami FL (70-39). But hey, guaranteed money games, right? The Tigers are a sub-300 team in eFG%, Turnover%, 3PFG%, 2PFG%, FT%, Block%, Steal%, and on the defensive side, OffensiveRebound%. To explain that in lay terms, they're really bad at making baskets, they're really bad at giving up turnovers - especially live-ball turnovers (steals), and they're really bad at giving up offensive rebounds.

It's not all bad for Savannah, though: they are a top-20 team in defensive Steal% (19th, at 13.1%), and are well above average in defensive Turnover%.

Keep a close watch on:

Forward Saadiq Muhammad and guard Terel Hall. Nobody on this team is close to exceptional on the offensive end of the floor (see above), but Muhammad and Hall are the brightest spots. Muhammad, a sophomore, is currently averaging 9.1 ppg on nearly 50% shooting, and 5.4 rpg. The senior Hall is more a of a stat-stuffing point guard, with nearly 8 ppg, 4 apg, 3 rpg, and 2 spg. Sophomore guard Alante Fenner will also come in off the bench without much of a let down from the starting five.

Offense/Defense Strategy:

Savannah State has brought a mix of zone and man defense to the floor, so we should probably expect both at times. The only thing that is certain is their propensity to increase pressure and overplay on defense to create turnovers. Offensively, we need to settle down and run the plays, looking to get Foster involved early on moves to the bucket, and get Gip working on the inside. I would also like to see Iwundu and Nino crash the offensive glass and create additional scoring opportunities.

Man-to-man will again the be the defense du jour for K-State. The Tigers are, again, prone to turnovers, so I'd like to see a lot of pressure creating havoc on the defensive end. The inside guys need to be ready to rotate early, and hold down the fort on cleaning the glass. Savannah can't overpower us with their offense, so we should be focusing on improvement in on-ball defense and keeping them from driving, more than keeping them from shooting over the top.

Probable Starters

Kansas State:

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

Bradley Braves:

F Saadiq Muhammad, 6-7 210 So
F Javaris Jenkins, 6-5 200 So
G Terel Hall, 6-1 185 Sr
G Khalen Pinkett, 6-2 180 Fr
G Treyvon Francis, 6-2 175 Fr

3 Keys To The Game

1. Don't Let Bad Performances Linger

We've strung together two pretty poor performances now, with the loss at Tennessee and the last game against Bradley. We need to find a way to snap out of it, don't let those games get stuck in our heads as "normal", and come out and play the game we all know we're capable of. Look for the Cats to try and come out early, stamp their signature on this game, and take care of business.

2. Commitment and Desire

The disturbing trend I'm seeing is our team playing like zombies at times, like they just don't care. Playing as if they're not 'all-in'. Going through the motions, expecting a certain outcome. I would like to see a change in passion, a change in attitude across the board. Guys getting themselves fired up. Defending like their life depended on it. Running offense like they're honestly trying to score every single trip up the floor.

3. Gameplan

Not without fault in our recent struggles is the coaching staff. What adjustments have they made? How are they getting this team to improve? Are we going to see different tactics, different strategies; or are we going to stay the course? Someone once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. How is Bruce and his staff preparing this team to play not only today, but as we move into the Big 12 schedule?

I know these are all sort of nebulous thoughts and introspective, but frankly, this should be a sleepwalk game. Savannah State is a Division I program, so I mean no disrespect to them at all; the only thing that would keep us from winning this game is us. I want to see #EMAW make sure that has no chance in happening.

All stats by http://www.kenpom.com, or by the respective university's sports information.