The Kansas State Wildcats (13-14, 6-8 Big 12) polish off their week-long trip to Texas and their two-game series with Saturday's game against the Baylor Bears. The Bears are coming off a closer-than-need-be win over Texas Tech in Lubbock, 54-49. I don't know about you, but it seems to me that TCU and Texas Tech are figuring a couple of things out, and while not ready to hang with the big boys yet, can hold their own at times.
K-State, on the other hand, fell victim to that very TCU team that can hold its own. In Fort Worth, an uninspired, unmotivated, lackadaisical (where have we used those words before? Oh, yeah, more than half the games this season) "effort" led to a 20-point halftime deficit. The Wildcat subs came in and knocked that gap down to 5 in the first 8 minutes of the second half, at which point the starters came back in and proceeded to stretch it back out to 15 or more.
Yes, we got beat by TCU twice that game. By more than 15 each time. Apologies for the lack of true post-game recap, but that was one I just couldn't muster the desire to cover afterward. It was actually the first game I stopped watching at the end all season...it's fallen that far.
We should have some Fireside Chat with Our Daily Bears coming up, so stay tuned for that.
Know Your Opponent
The Baylor Bears (19-7, 7-6 Big 12) have put together the best damn unsexy profile in the history of college basketball. After going 12-1 in the non-conference slate (with an inexplicable loss to Illinois), the Bears have gone 7-6 in the conference schedule so far. Their 6 losses are a season-sweep by KU and OSU, a loss at Oklahoma, and, as you might remember, a loss in Bramlage earlier this season. Since that mid-January game in Manhattan, Baylor is 6-3 with an impressive 18-point win at West Virginia, and home wins over ranked foes Oklahoma and Texas.
So what's changed? Defensively, not much. The Bears are still an outstanding defensive team, because of their lengthy wingspans combined with the over-playing zone defense that frustrates and turns offenses over. They're #40 in adjusted defensive efficiency, and #29 in the country in defensive eFG%, keyed on their opponents only shooting 29.2% from beyond the arc. They're keeping their opponents under 60ppg on the season, which is pretty impressive this late in the year.
Offensively, they've actually regressed in shooting the basketball. While they connect at 37.4% from beyond the arc (#50 in the country), inside the three point line and from the charity stripe, they're hovering around the sub-250 mark, or in the bottom third of all NCAA teams.
Baylor's offense is reminiscent of the early Frank Martin teams, where their offense appears to be get the ball on the rim and go get a rebound. Baylor has maintained their rebounding prowess, and are now the best offensive rebounding team in the country, snagging back 42.8% of their misses to create extra scoring opportunities. They are also #4 in the country in overall rebounding, tallying a mind-boggling 40.7 windexes every contest. That, my friends, is crashing the glass.
Worth noting: K-State (second-to-last) and Baylor (last) are the slowest paced teams in the Big 12, and by a large margin. Both teams are now above the magical sub-300 mark (remember, there are only 351 teams in D-I basketball) in adjusted tempo - how many possessions each team would garner against the average team.
Keep a close watch on:
Junior forward Rico Gathers, senior guard Kenny Chery, and junior forward Taurean Prince. It's confirmed, I have a Rico Gathers man-crush. He's the only player in the Big 12 averaging a double-double, at 11.1ppg and 12.2rpg. Those numbers have gone UP since the last time we played, helped by a game-for-the-ages 25 points, 28 rebounds against a school called Huston Tillotson (?). Gathers is 47 rebounds short of Brian Skinner's career rebounding record, with a guaranteed 6 games left this season...and since he's a junior, all of next season, as well. The senior Chery runs the show out front, and had 21 against us in Manhattan. Prince is still leading the team in scoring (13.0ppg) from the bench, and is still one of the best three-point marksmen in the conference.
The Baylor defense will have more of a zone slant compared to most teams K-State has played, and it's a long, athletic 1-3-1 shot-defending zone. 1-3-1 zones are typically susceptible to teams that can field a couple of big athletic forwards on the baseline, and can be broken by dribble penetration in the gaps, and having players crash the off-elbows or off-blocks to find openings when the defense collapses, or find the skip pass to open three point shooters after getting a foot in the lane.
K-State, of course, will be in its man defense for most of the game. It's going to be paramount to keep Kenny Chery out of the lane, know where Taurean Prince is at all times and close out on him at the arc, and don't let Rico Gathers snare every single rebound available.
Kansas State Wildcats:
F Nino Williams, 6-5 220 Sr
F Thomas Gipson, 6-7 265 Sr
F Wesley Iwundu, 6-7 205 So
G Tre Harris III, 6-5 195 Fr
G Jevon Thomas, 6-0 185 So
F Johnathan Motley, 6-9 230 RS-Fr
F Royce O'Neale, 6-6 215 Sr
F Rico Gathers, 6-8 275 Jr
G Kenny Chery, 5-11 180 Sr
G Lester Medford, 5-10 175 Jr
3 Keys To The Game
1. Keep Baylor Off The Offensive Glass
Everyone needs to be responsible for keeping the Bears off the glass when they put a shot up. It's clear that Baylor scores points by giving themselves more chances, so the more we can force one-and-out possessions, the greater rate of success we'll have.
2. Make Shots
Sounds so simple, right? A good offensive gameplan against a zone will yield open shots on every possession, end of story. Against the Baylor zone, those shots are going to be mid-range jumpers as well as maybe a few 2-on-1 bunnies at the rim. Gotta focus and put the ball in the basket.
3. Role Players Step Up
This is a game where players like Stephen Hurt, Tre Harris (who is getting the start today), Wes Iwundu, and Justin Edwards can have a greater impact. If we can get some solid, if not exemplary, games from these guys today, we might just sneak one out at the end.
All stats by http://www.kenpom.com, or by the respective university's sports information.