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Men's Hoops Preview - Kansas State vs. Columbia Lions

The best basketball team hailing from a Manhattan? That title is on the line tonight.

The Big Fella may have his hands full with Columbia's 7-1 Conor Voss.
The Big Fella may have his hands full with Columbia's 7-1 Conor Voss.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State Wildcats, fresh off a season-opening win against Maryland Eastern Shore, welcome the Ivy League's Columbia Lions into the Octagon; tipoff slated for 8:00pm CST in Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats look to continue to build on a relatively solid performance from Friday night - a relatively quick 72-hour turnaround between games.

With such a rapid return to the floor, we'll see how conditioning and mental focus is with this young squad.

Know Your Opponent

Columbia heads out on the road for the first time this season, after taking care of Division III Kean University by 45 on Friday night themselves. The Lions put up 107 in the win, including gawdy numbers such as 60 (!) rebounds (30 on the offensive glass), 80 FGA, and 10 blocked shots.

So, that's not exactly helpful. Let's look at last year instead. The Lions were delightfully average across the board in every meaningful stat. The only thing that really sticks out is they were downright terrible at drawing fouls (not that it's a reliable metric for this year), and don't force many turnovers.

Offensively, they were very heavy on the three-ball last year - only four teams in the country shot more threes as a percentage of their total field goal attempts - but weren't necessarily exceptional at connecting on them, at just over 35% on the year. Tempo-wise, they were one of the slowest teams in the country last year (333rd in the country at 60.9 possesions per game).

Columbia was picked to finish 2nd in the Ivy League this year by league coaches, so they're looking to be much improved from their 13-15 finish last year. They're returning many players, and have a quality core of upperclassmen leading the team.

Keep a close watch on:

Senior guard Maodo Lo is garnering some news this year, finding himself on both the Cousy Award (nation's best PG) and Lou Henson Award (nation's best mid-major player) watch lists. Lo put up 13pts, 3ast in the win against Kean, including launching 9 threes (hitting 4), in 16 minutes. He averaged 18/4/4, shooting over 43% from behind the arc last year.

Another player to keep an eye on is freshman guard CJ Davis. Davis will be coming off the bench, but he went 5 of 6 from behind the arc for 19 points in his debut, and added 5 assists.

Offense/Defense Strategy:

Columbia is a man-to-man defense team, but they are ultra-conservative with it. They're not out pressuring passing lanes as much as they're staying in front of their man, not giving up dribble penetration, and making their opponents select less-than-optimal shots. Strangely enough, this type of defense doesn't succomb to inside-out play as much as other defensive schemes. However, If we can improve the ball movement a bit from last game, get some good screening and cutting action, and hit a few shots, that should soften up the inside for dribble penetration and post play.

Offensively, Columbia chucks the ball up from behind the arc, then supposedly crashes for offensive rebounds (though last year's stats don't support that theory on rebounding). They run the Princeton Offense, which is geared around backdoor cuts in a motion offense. It is very methodical and processed, so it will be important for K-State to stay disciplined for 25-30 seconds per possession, limit to one contested shot, and secure the rebound.

Probable Starters

Kansas State:

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

UMES Hawks:

F Isaac Cohen, 6-4 215 Sr
F Alex Rosenberg, 6-7 224 Sr
C Conor Voss, 7-1 260 Jr
G Grant Mullins, 6-3 175 Sr
G Maodo Lo, 6-3 194 Sr

3 Keys To The Game

1. Defend the three

Columbia lives by the three. The entire team isn't full of pure sharpshooters, but there are a couple guys that can knock down shots. We've got to get out and run them off the line, to make them shoot with a hand in their face. Then...

2. Clean the glass

Columbia will run a lot of clock; if we do our job defending the shot, we must then turn around and get the miss. Letting the Lions reload for another 30 seconds from an offensive rebound can be crippling for anybody, especially a team that isn't exceptional in the conditioning department.

3. Speed the game up

We've got to push the ball up the floor, play aggressive lines in passing lanes, and get some turnovers. The more free/easy points we can get off of runouts, the better shape we'll be in. If we can push the pace and get it up around 70-72 possessions, I'll like our chances compared to a game run in the 60-62 possession range.

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