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Game Preview - Kansas State vs. Long Beach State University 49ers

A quick drop-and-pop on the way to Maui against a team that we defeated twice last year.

No time for hula dancing yet, boys...this is a business trip.
No time for hula dancing yet, boys...this is a business trip.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Serving as a midway stop on the travel plans out to Maui, K-State is dropping in on the Long Beach State 49ers for a quick game of hoops.  The Wildcats’ last action was a (somewhat) closer-than-expected 83-73 win over UMKC on Monday.  While it is completely meaningless at this point in the year, our own BracketCat showed the squad – at officially 2-0 on the season – is sitting at an RPI of 14, with UMKC currently identified as a "Signature Win" (RPI of 30 or higher).

For K-State, F Thomas Gipson led the way with a All-Big12 caliber performance, posting 21pts, 9reb. G Marcus Foster does what he does – 16pts on 5-10fg (4-7 3pfg), and 4ast. Other positive notes from the last include G Jevon Thomas continued distribution of the ball (9ast, averaging 7ast per contest) and F Wesley Iwundu getting 24 minutes of action after sitting out the previous game and exhibition with injury.

Know Your Opponent

The 49ers (1-2) are coming in off a bit of a thumping, losing to Xavier University 97-74. Based on results to this point, Long Beach is not looking to be much better than last year, where they started off 1-9, including both a 71-58 loss to our Cats at the Octagon of Doom, and a 52-38 loss in the Puerto Rico midseason tournament. Eight seniors are part of the 49ers roster – looks like talent is the issue, not necessarily experience.

Keep a close watch on:

Senior guards Michael Caffey and Tyler Lamb. Both earned All-Big West honors last season, combining to average 31.6ppg, 8.0rpg, 3.4apg. Caffey is brining 19.7ppp and 4.7apg, and better than three steals a game so far this season. Lamb made his season debut against Xavier, chipping in 17pts. Frankly, outside of these two, it’s a lot of "basketball by committee" – no one is really turning in consistent performances.

Offense/Defense Strategy:

Honestly, no idea. Can’t find any reliable video for the 49ers this season so far. When you’re not an upper-tier program, you don’t get the medias.

Alas, trying to delve into memory from last year – you’ll see man-to-man defense from the 49ers, and probably a steady diet of motion offense, focusing on getting the ball into the hands of Lamb and Caffey, and let them go to work.

Jevon, G Nigel Johnson, Foster, and G Tre Harris – specifically their on-ball defense – and how well we defend the screen will be important. Caffey is a big 2-guard at 6-5, 205, so we might see G Justin Edwards or even Iwundu come over and defend to spell Foster in that role.

With no other exceptional size to speak of, players like our C Stephen Hurt and Big Gip could have a field day inside.  One of these days I'll talk a little more in-depth about Hurt.

Our offense should continue to focus on solid, sharp motion, and play from the inside out.  Both passing to the block as well as dribble penetration into the paint will continue to yield open looks early for Marcus, Nigel, Justin and Tre, then open the paint up late for Gip and Hurt when the 49er defense stops collapsing.

Long Beach has had a power conference foe play in their arena twice – with the only victory a 72-71 last-second layup over USC.

Probable Starters

Kansas State:

F Stephen Hurt, 6-11 265 Jr
F Thomas Gipson, 6-7 265 Sr
G Jevon Thomas, 6-0 185 So
G Marcus Foster, 6-3 210 So
G Justin Edwards, 6-4 200 Jr

Long Beach State University:

F Eric McKnight, 6-9 220 Sr
F David Samuels, 6-7 225 Sr
G McKay LaSalle, 6-3 185 Sr
G Tyler Lamb, 6-5 205 Sr
G Mike Caffey, 6-0 175 Sr

3 Keys To The Game

As long as Caffey and Lamb don’t absolutely go off tonight, I’m not seeing any issues here, and the Cats should get to 3-0 before playing Purdue at the Lahaina Civic Center on Monday. LBSU doesn’t have the horses for this race, as long as we take care of business.

1. Continue scoring the basketball.

Shhhhhhhh…K-State is currently 18th in the country at 90.5ppg, 6th in the country at 58.5%fg, and 16th in the country at 20.5apg. Keep moving the basketball, keep putting it in the bucket.  Decidedly un-Bruce Weber, but I don't think anyone's complaining.  Nothing to see here...move along.

2. Does sloppy play start to become a true issue?

While it was better against UMKC than previously, 9 turnovers and 7 fouls by our starting PG and SG – Jevon and Marcus, respectively - is too much giving the ball away. K-State really needs to buckle down and go a full 40 minutes where we value every possession, and not rely on the efficiency with which we’ve been scoring so far.  I want to see what should be considered a 'clean' game (~10 turnovers, ~15 fouls, ~2:1ast/TO ratio) before we put this one to bed.

3. Beware - the dreaded trap game.

This is a true road game against a Division 1 basketball team. Even though they’re not a great team, they've played basketball at this level before. If K-State gets caught looking ahead to wheels down in Maui (like I currently am, putting this together at the airport in Denver), we could get run over without even realizing it. Focus from tip to whistle, and this one shouldn’t be a problem.