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Men's Hoops Preview - Kansas State vs. Maryland Eastern Shore Fighting Hawks

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You begin a journey by putting one foot in front of the other. This is the first step of many.

You gotta get big and get some boards, Big Fella.
You gotta get big and get some boards, Big Fella.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State Wildcats kick off their 2015-2016 season with contest against the Maryland Eastern Shore Fighting Hawks in the Octagon; tipoff slated for 7:00pm CST in Bramlage Coliseum. K-State is a massive unknown coming into the game, looking competitive, but certainly young, in two wins in exhibition play.

This will be a great first opportunity to see the full complement of players on the team, as well as how the team as a whole reacts to a game where the final result counts towards something.

Know Your Opponent

UMES begins their season on the road at K-State, returning 6 players from a team that went 18-15, including a berth in CIT, suffering a first-round loss to High Point. Similar to the Cats, Maryland Eastern Shore brings 10 new players to the team this year, including a list of transfers.

Second-year coach Bobby Collins has the Hawks playing at much higher level during his tenure than before. After suffering four straight seasons of fewer than 10 wins, Collins instilled a sense of life into the team, and ripped off their first winning season since the 1993-94 season. That's a lot of losing.

Keep a close watch on:

Senior guard Devin Martin will be leading the Hawks into battle. Martin is coming off a junior season where he averaged 14ppg, 4.3rpg in 30 minutes of action. A shoot-first guard, he can hit the three at a 40% clip.

Fellow senior forward Dominique Elliott will anchor  the team inside. The 6-8, 265lb big man averaged 7.1ppg, 4.5rpg in 21 minutes per game.

Both Elliott and Martin have been named to Preseason MEAC All-Conference teams - Elliott to First-Team, and Martin to Third-Team.

Offense/Defense Strategy:

UMES mixed up their defense quite a bit last year, throwing both zone and man-to-man at their opponents depending on the situation. Expect more of the same Friday night. UMES has the size to match up against our bigger lineups, and can run that zone if we go small. Their defensive stats - low 3PFG% but very high 2PFG%, tells me they gave up a lot of runouts off turnovers last year.

On the other side of the ball, UMES was an above-average offensive team, save hanging onto the ball. They finished the year in the top-50 in OR% and FTA/FGA, but had trouble coughing up the ball (on more than 23% of their possessions).

K-State, will probably throw some man defense out there early, but expect some different looks throughout the game, including a matchup zone. Our bigs have been caught with silly fouls out on the perimeter due to new rules, but so has everyone else's. With their high rate of drawing fouls, we've got to be careful in not committing too many.

Probable Starters

Kansas State:

F Wesley Iwundu, 6-7 210 Jr
F Dean Wade, 6-10 225 Fr
F Stephen Hurt, 6-11 265 Sr
G Justin Edwards, 6-4 200 Sr
G Kamau Stokes, 6-0 170 Fr

UMES Hawks:

F Dominique Elliott, 6-9 225 Sr
G Derrico Peck, 6-7 205 Grad
G Devin Martin, 6-4 205 Sr
G Bakari Copeland, 6-6 235 Jr
G Marc Seylan, 6-4 190 Jr

3 Keys To The Game

1. Rebounding

Defensive rebounding will win us this game. Period. End of statement.

2. Net Positive

Being a young team brings pluses and minuses. As long as the difference between enthusiasm and mistakes maintains a net positive balance, we should be in good shape. Look for Wes, Justin and The Big Fella to keep the youngsters in line and push them in the right direction when things take an unexpected bump...which brings up:

3. Iwundu/Edwards/Hurt Influence

These guys need to step onto the floor and exhibit leadership and control of the game. They can't play as role players anymore - they need to step into the spotlight and act like upperclassmen on the floor. If these three can grab that opportunity, our younger players - Wade, Stokes, Brown, Ervin, etc. will follow suit.

All stats by http://www.kenpom.com, or by the respective university's sports information.