First of all - let's all forget Friday happened, shall we?
The 2014 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational kicks off for real with our Wildcats taking on the Boilermakers of Purdue. K-State comes in sporting a 2-1 record, and hopefully a little more focus than exhibited their last time around. Let's not forget - we had lost AT HOME to NORTHERN COLORADO by this time last year...and still ended up just fine. That's one of the wonderful things about college basketball (versus football); as long as you don't do it too much, you can lose and still make up for it down the road.
That performance did put a pretty big damper on what was a solid offensive display so far this season. K-State is still shooting almost 50% fg on the year, and is in the Top 50 in scoring at 80.3 ppg. While it's taken a backseat in the frame of reference so far this year, the Wildcats are also in the Top 100 in opponents' effective possession ratio. There's some narrative showing K-State could be a poor defensive team this year; digging into more advanced metrics and context, we're middle of the road so far, and should probably expect to be so given the makeup of this year's team.
Putting some positive light on things, Big Gip is writing his resume early for All-Big 12 honors, currently averaging 17 ppg, 6.7 rpg, and shooting 68.4% fg. Foster had a remarkably bad game on Friday - likely the worst in his career, but I'm not doing the research for that this morning - so I think a bounce-back game is coming our way. The 'Cats have four double-digit scorers on the team so far this year, with Gip, Nino (12.0 ppg, but only one game), Foster (11.3 ppg), and Nigel (10.7 ppg). More important at the game in Long Beach, however, was the fact our roster returned to full-strength, as Nino and freshman Malek Harris finally suited up (DJ Johnson is out for the year due to foot injury last year that apparently didn't heal properly). Another quick point on stats - Jevon is currently at a 2:1 ast/to ratio, which isn't great, but is completely acceptable at this point, as long as he continues to show improvement.
Know Your Opponent
The Boilermakers (3-0) are landing in Maui with good thoughts in their head after applying an absolute drubbing to Grambling State, 82-30. Though their average margin of victory so far this year is +37.3 ppg, they've played exactly zilch in the competition department - all three of the teams they've played should find themselves in the bottom 100 of the RPI at the end of the year, and all three games were played at Purdue. Collectively, K-State has a 6-2 edge all-time against Purdue, but the last game was in '88. Matt Painter has had Bruce Weber's number more often than not in their competition in the B1G during Weber's tenure at Illinois. Even considering their quick start, many projections have Purdue being a .500 team at the end of the year, at best.
Keep a close watch on:
Junior center A.J. Hammons, sophomore guard Kendall Stephens, and freshman forward Vince Edwards. Hammons is an All-B1G Honorable Mention pick, and a true seven-footer averaging better than 3 bpg. Stephens and Edwards front an offensive attack that has some explosiveness, with both averaging better than 13 ppg, and both posting a 20+ point outing so far this season. Edwards also hits the offensive glass hard, with 3.0 orpg and 7.3 rpg total.
Purdue put in a zone defense for their game against Grambling, and it paid off in spades, causing more Grambling turnovers than allowed field goal attempts in the first half. I would expect to see that zone defense consistently against K-State today, especially with the suspect shooting we saw outside the Octagon of Doom.
Our defensive strategy needs to rely on solid on-ball defense, playing the passing lanes, and forcing turnovers so we can get out and run. Hammons is not an offensive juggernaut, but the combination of Hammons and Isaac Haas (coming in off the bench at 7-0, 297 lbs) could start to wear down the interior, and their size could cause more 'stay-at-home' defense on the interior, meaning one-on-one defense will become more paramount.
Offensively, we need to be disciplined, moving the ball while taking care of it, to take down Purdue's zone defense. Outside shooting and great interior passing will be important; get the zone to move, get the ball between the zone, and find some good shots. Dribble penetration by larger players (Foster, Edwards, Iwundu) to collapse parts of the zone with cross-court skips should also be effective.
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
G Jon Octeus, 6-4 170 Sr
G Kendall Stephens, 6-6 197 So
G Rapheal Davis, 6-5 217 Jr
F Vince Edwards, 6-7 220 Fr
C A.J. Hammons, 7-0 261 Jr
3 Keys To The Game
I'm a bit nervous about this one, truth be told. Vegas has Purdue a 2-point favorite, and it's a pick-em for me.
1. Forget Friday.
Don't let Friday beat you today. Move on, play better, and execute. We're playing teams now we can't out-talent; we have to out-play.
2. Is 9:30 a.m. too early?
Ugh. I'm sitting here typing this out at 6:00 a.m.; I couldn't imagine playing competitive basketball in three hours. The good thing is this impacts both teams. I understand the desire to have all the games out here televised on the mainland, but I would expect some sloppy basketball from both sides.
3. Shoot the ball well.
Shooting well against a zone is the easiest way to beat it. This isn't having our best shooters on the floor; no, the goal here is to execute a zone offense in order to get our shooters the best shots available. Moving the zone side-to-side (you might hear talk about the "third side" today - this means the ball crossed from one side of the floor to the other three times) and collapse-and-kick plays have to be run to get defenders out of position and our guys open. If we end up trying to win by just chucking it up, it'll be a long day.