Kansas State University (3-3) welcomes the University of Nebraska - Omaha Mavericks into Bramlage Coliseum Tuesday for a quick home game before heading back out on the road on Saturday. The Wildcats return to action after their trip to Hawai'i for the 2014 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational, where they went 1-2 with a cruising win against Purdue in the first round, a helluva effort in a loss to eventual champion (#2) Arizona, and, to many, a surprisingly poor performance (and loss) against an energized Pitt ball club to finish things up.
At this point, there are honestly more questions about this team than we had going into the Invitational; we might get to those later. Senior Thomas Gipson is leading the charge (and making a strong bid for All-Big12 honors) with 13.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, and is shooting nearly 70% from the floor and 86% from the line. Marcus Foster is certainly the focal point for opposing defenses, averaging a team-leading 14.7 ppg and shooting exactly 50% from behind the arc on the season. The duo of starter Jevon Thomas and Nigel Johnson are combining to average 6.5 apg on the offensive end, and 3.1 spg on the defensive end.
Know Your Opponent
Let's not beat around the bush - this is NOT a gimme, even at home. UNO (3-2) has already gone into Marquette and come away with a victory 97-89, and is coming of a home win against Nevada 78-54. The Mavericks are currently 19th in the country at 83.2 ppg, and wreak havoc on the defensive end with a Top-50 9.0 spg.
Keep a close watch on:
Guards CJ Carter and Devin Patterson. Both are averaging better than 16 points per game, and combine for 9.2 assists per contest, as well. Carter earned Summit Conference Player of the Week honors for a 25 point performance at Marquette. Freshman Tre'Shawn Thurman is making a solid contribution as well.
According to kenpom, UNO leads the country in adjusted tempo, at better than 78 possessions per 40 minutes. This may actually bode well for K-State in Bramlage, as I think this team plays better - more efficiently - when the guys get up and down the floor.
Expect to see a hectic man-to-man defense from the Mavericks, getting out into passing lanes and really forcing the issue. Defensive characteristics similar to what we saw versus Arizona, albeit with much less length and athleticism on the other side of the ball. Offensively, we need to see much more fluid execution of the offense, as Omaha is susceptible to allowing other teams to score (337th in the country, giving up 79.2 ppg). Foster, Tre Harris, and Thomas/Johnson duo need to work the ball inside-out and find the open three. Big Gip, Malek Harris, and Stephen Hurt should all be able to find room on the inside, as well.
Defensively, expect the Cats to run man-to-man all night, focusing on staunch on-ball defense and swarming trapping when available. K-State currently averages almost 20 ppg off turnovers, a stat we should be looking to capitalize on with UNO giving up 15 turnovers per game.
F Nino Williams, 6-5 220 Sr
F Thomas Gipson, 6-7 265 Sr
F Wesley Iwundu, 6-7 195 So
G Jevon Thomas, 6-0 185 So
G Marcus Foster, 6-3 210 So
F Tre'Shawn Thurman, 6-7 220 Fr
F Mike Rostampour, 6-8 230 Sr
G Marcus Tyus, 6-1 175 Jr
G Devin Patterson, 5-11 160 Jr
G C.J. Carter, 6-1 180 Sr
3 Keys To The Game
1. Just get a win.
This is a must-win game for #EMAW. The team goes out to Knoxville to play Tennessee on Saturday, and a loss tonight not only indicates something drastically wrong with this club, but would also probably lead to a 4-game losing streak.
2. Need more from our wings.
We're actually getting decent basketball from Big Gip, Nino, Marcus, JT and Nigel. I want to see more out of our wing players tonight. We saw flashes against Pitt of what Justin Edwards could bring to the table, but by and large, he's been a disappointment so far. Tre Harris needs to shoot the ball better, period. Wesley Iwundu looks like he's still finding footing a bit, but there's no reason Wes shouldn't be approaching a double-double every night.
3. Execution needs to improve...dramatically.
I'm led to believe our offense might be a little too complex (i.e. too many options), but regardless, it's what we're running. Bruce needs to get our guys running this offense much more smoothly if we're going to be successful this year. Right now, we're having to think about it, and that means its choppy and doesn't really work. While I have questions about how coachable some of our guys really are, Weber needing to stand at the scorer's table and shout out what the players are supposed to be doing isn't...exactly...confidence-inspiring. Defensively, I'm willing to throw the Pitt game out as an anomaly, given how gassed the guys were. That considered, we need to do a better job getting to shooters. I think we rotate well and collapse well on the inside; but don't get back out to shooters, and don't hedge off-ball screens well enough. K-State is giving up 42% behind the arc, and nearly 50% on all field-goals - those numbers just aren't good enough, plain and simple.