Kansas State University (4-4) returns to the Octagon of Doom to take on the Braves of Bradley University. The Wildcats are coming off a 65-64 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville. K-State offered a better defensive effort for the most part, but looked genuinely out of sync and panicked on the offensive end. A game that was just out of arms reach for 39 minutes was made to be quite a bit closer in the final seconds, thanks to some threes from Marcus Foster combined with missed free throws on the part of Tennessee.
The game in Knoxville didn't answer any - and I mean any - of the outstanding questions regarding road play and inconsistency for this year's basketball squad. Thankfully (depending on your point of view), we don't have any true road games left until conference play. After this contest with Bradley, we've got home games against Savannah State, a 'neutral' court game versus Texas A&M in Kansas City, back to MHK for a game with Texas Southern, and close out the non-con slate with a home game against Georgia.
We're to just about DEFCON 2 with these guys already this year. The non-con resume is none too spectacular, and cannot afford another blemish before Big 12 play begins. And even that might not be enough.
Know Your Opponent
The Braves (3-5) have come up way short against any legitimate competition they've taken on this year, losing games to TCU and Saint Louis in the Corpus Christi Classic, and dropping another to the Memphis Tigers just recently. All stats point to this Bradley squad being about the same level as a UMKC or Southern Utah, our first two opponents of the season.
About the only thing that Bradley does well is make their way to the charity stripe - they're currently ranked 13th in the country in free throw attempt rate (FTA/FGA). Their defense is a Top 75 squad in turnover percentage, too. Outside of that? Not very good. They cough up a lot of turnovers, and their eFG% (remember what we learned in class last week?) is in the bottom 100 of all Division I teams.
Referring to that resume above and how we blew our chances already - we still play two teams worse than this.
Random Fandom: You would think the Bradley Braves would have some sort of Native American influence with their mascot...but you'd be wrong. Their mascot is a "grotesque" (similar to a gargoyle) named Kaboom. And my brother-in-law went there. But I digress...
Keep a close watch on:
Forward Josh Cunningham is a freshman that has been giving a solid contribution to the team so far. However, with Bradley's leading scorer Warren Jones out with injury, look for Cunningham to try and fill the scoring void.
Bradley is a man-to-man team, and does a slightly-above-average job of turning other teams over. They also perform slightly-above-average in keeping teams off the offensive glass. Nothing really stands out as remarkable with the Braves' defense, so I'm expecting a K-State squad (which should be embarrassed about how they played offensively in the last game) to really come out and take control early.
We'll throw our man-to-man defense at the Braves. With Bradley's relatively poor eFG% and propensity for turnovers, our guards and wing players should really ramp up the pressure and take advantage of those tendencies. Bradley is an above average team shooting behind the arc, but way below average inside the three point line. Even more reason for high pressure on the perimeter.
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 Auston Barnes, 6-5 215 Jr
F Josh Cunningham, 6-8 210 Fr
F Jermaine Morgan, 6-6 195 So
G Ka'Darryl Bell, 6-6 200 Sr
G Omari Grier, 6-4 180 Jr
3 Keys To The Game
1. COMPLETE GAME.
I'm whittling this down to one item, because it's frankly the most pressing issue facing the Cats.
We need to see forty minutes of basketball at a high level. Period. Offense, defense, transition, leadership, "soul", execution, the whole 94 feet. We're almost 10 games into the season, and if these guys don't gel soon, I don't know that it will happen this season.
No one is escaping fault here - coaches or players - but we're better than this. We're better than a 4-4 record at this point.
All stats by http://www.kenpom.com, or by the respective university's sports information.