The Kansas State Wildcats (12-11, 5-5 Big 12) returns home after the debacle in Lubbock, to take on a Texas Longhorns team that certainly has its own demons to exorcise. This will truly be a skid-stopping game for someone - K-State comes in losing 4 of their last 5 (including 3 in a row now), and Texas has lost four straight, with their last being a 2-point OT home loss to Oklahoma State.
If you've been living under a rock with regards to Kansas State basketball, the Wildcats went into Lubbock and got pretty well handled by a not-very-good Texas Tech team, 64-47. This loss, though, was likely a byproduct of the greater story of the day:
A plane crash causing a power outage at the arena Bruce Weber suspending leading scorer Marcus Foster and key reserve Malek Harris indefinitely for the ubiquitous "violation of team rules".
As of yesterday, Foster and Harris were both at practice, and Bruce has offered a "we'll see" response to whether they will be available today, or when in the future. Rumor has it their suspension will be a total of three games each; reason for suspension has still not been divulged.
"We will meet and talk with them after practice and talk to Mr. (John) Currie and then make a decision," Weber said Friday afternoon. "We will see what happens."
Know Your Opponent
The Texas Longhorns (14-8, 3-6 Big 12), well, yipes. Anytime you have a feeling of despair regarding things with the Cats, just think: you could have a program with frequent top-10 recruiting classes, have a coach that is regarded as a relatively decent coach, and somehow be in 7th of 10 in the Big 12, and not really know why.
Texas appears on the surface to be a team that is grossly over-valued. Frankly, I am confused as to how this team is ranked. Or even has been. At all. Their most impressive non-conference win was against Iowa back in November. In the Big 12 slate, they did smack down West Virginia in Austin by 27 points, but other than that, they haven't accomplished much. Their other two conference wins are against Texas Tech and TCU (granted, both road wins). They've come up with a three-point loss in Ames, but have also been beat twice by Oklahoma State, and have suffered 20+ point losses against Oklahoma and at Baylor. Generally, they haven't taken down any world-beaters, and they've frequently been pounded by teams that are as good or better than them. To be ranked in the AP poll and still #24 in kenpom's ratings is curious.
Texas is exceptional in a couple of areas: They're top-30 in adjusted defensive efficiency, the second-best shooting defense inside the arc, and the second-best defense at blocking shots (on a percentage basis) and best on a quantity basis, at 7.7bpg. They're also the fourth-best in defensive eFG%. Similar to Kansas, however, they don't really force the issue by turning you over on defense - there are only two teams in the country worse than the Longhorns in turnover rate, and seven worse in physically creating steals. Just really staunch, straight-up D, especially when you get inside the three-point line. Once the shot goes up - they're fantastic at wiping the glass, at 4th in the country with 28.2 defensive rpg.
Offensively, the Rick Barnes' crew is demonstrably average. They have a propensity for turning the ball over (almost as bad as us), and are very average at FG shooting, both inside and out. Offensive rebounding is a definite strength (5th in the country, rebounding 40.8% of their own misses), and are nearly a top-30 team from the free throw line. All that adds up (somehow) to a nearly top-50 offensive efficiency rating.
Some key injuries are plaguing the Longhorns right now: It's been confirmed that senior forward Jonathan Holmes will miss the game in Manhattan (concussion), and junior guard Javan Felix (concussion) missed Wednesday's game against Oklahoma State, and is questionable for today. Texas playing short-handed will certainly change the paradigm of the contest.
Keep a close watch on:
With those key injuries on the Longhorns side, let's watch for sophomore point-guard Isaiah Taylor, who leads the team in scoring (13.8ppg) and assists (4.2apg). He's not a stellar shooter, but he gets to the rim, draws fouls, and converts at the line. Other significant impacts should be made by junior forward Cameron Ridley, who at 6-9 / 285, is the one of very few dudes in the conference that can compete with Thomas Gipson from a heft standpoint. Finally, let's pay attention to freshman phenom center Myles Turner, who blocks shots at an alarming rate (on 13% of possessions while he's on the floor).
Texas plays defense very similar to the Jayhawks - very tight, straight-up man-to-man defense. They don't overplay passing lanes to create turnovers; rather, they concentrate on forcing their opponent off the arc and into the paint where they have abundant length to alter, change and block FG attempts. To counter, K-State actually needs to get a high-low scheme working. The goal is to get the ball into the free throw line and force the defense to come up, then look to pass underneath the help of the long arms of Texas. Once that inside gets exploited a bit, we may find it easier to find some outside shots or possible dribbling lanes into the bucket.
K-State, of course, will be in its man defense. The one vital facet to this game defensively may be defensive rebounding. As mentioned before, Texas is a phenomenal rebounding team, but not a great shooting team. Limiting the Longhorns to one shot as much as possible will keep their scoring lower, and allow us to stay in the game if we're not scoring particularly effectively ourselves.
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 Justin Edwards, 6-4 200 Jr
G Jevon Thomas, 6-0 185 So
F Myles Turner, 6-11 240 Fr
F Connor Lammert, 6-9 240 Jr
C Cameron Ridley, 6-9 285 Jr
G DeMarcus Holland, 6-2 190 Jr
G Isaiah Taylor, 6-1 170 So
3 Keys To The Game
1. Wipe The Glass
This one's plain and simple. Texas is a great rebounding team at both ends of the floor. We need to be fundamental and intentional with blocking out and going in to grab missed shots. A poor defensive rebounding game for K-State will most certainly end in a loss.
2. Offensive Execution
We've got to find a rhythm early on offense, and hopefully Bruce has these guys coached up after the loss to Texas Tech. It was clear that without Marcus Foster on the floor for the entire game, the offense looked lost and discombobulated in many occasions. He may not be available today, so the rest of the guys need to know what's going on, fill their roles on offense, and work together to find open shots.
Seems like its come up off-and-on all season, but the guys need to play with some pride. Texas is coming into our house, down one (possibly two) key players. Do NOT let them leave with a win. Do what you have to. Hustle. Play smart - Play hard. Rebound. Defend. Knock down shots. It may not be pretty today, but I'll gladly take a gritty, gutsy, close win over these guys, as long as it's a win.
Every. Damn. Day.
All stats by http://www.kenpom.com, or by the respective university's sports information.