The Kansas State Wildcats (3-0, #96) heads into Kansas City to take on the Missouri Tigers; tipoff slated for 6:00pm CST at the Sprint Center. This game is Game 1 of the semifinals of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, with #9 North Carolina taking on Northwestern in the second game.
Know Your Opponent
Missouri (2-1, #146) is all-too familiar of a foe, with the series dating back to 1907, to the days of the Kansas State Aggies, under the auspices of the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletics Association, and later the Big Six/Seven/Eight/12 days. The Tigers and Wildcats have tipped off 235 times in the history of the programs, with K-State leading 119-116.
Second-year head coach Kim Anderson is bringing in a limited core of players from last year's 9-23 team, with only a couple of guys that logged meaningful minutes. The Achilles' heel of the Tigers last year was...well...pretty close to everything. They didn't shoot well (sub-300 inside the arc), they didn't defend well, they had a slow tempo, they didn't pass well, and they didn't rebound particularly well. Mizzou was sub-200 in nearly all meaningful statistics.
That was last year, this is this year. Albeit small sample-size, the Tigers are now top-100 in EFG%, 2P%, FT%, 2P% Defense, and drawing fouls. A very young group of guys, they're playing with a bit more tenacity and conviction than last year throughout all phases of the game.
While the rotation for the Tigers apparently goes eleven deep, only two guys really contribute heavily off the bench from a stats perspective. For comparison's sake, the Wildcats and Tigers have a common opponent - UMES - this season. K-State took down the Hawks 80-53, while Mizzou bested UMES 73-55.
Keep a close watch on:
Junior guard Wes Clark earned 4th-Team All-SEC preseason honors, and is averaging a team-high 30.0 minutes per game, logging 10.0ppg, 2.7apg, 2.3rpg.
Kevin Puryear is a 6-7 freshman forward that's been a beast so far, putting up 15.0ppg and 5.0rpg, and shoots 86% from the charity stripe.
The Tigers take things a bit slower this season, finding themselves under the national average in tempo. They run a bit more isolation than teams we've seen so far this season. Mizzou has lower-than-average assist ratios, very low offensive rebounding numbers, and are right on average for quantity of threes they shoot. K-State needs to be disciplined on getting out to their shooters, but be ready to go with solid help-side defense for dribble penetration. Key focus should be paid to the ball handler, and not necessarily to weak-side openings.
Defensively, Mizzou doesn't have much of an identity yet. They play mostly man-to-man, but they commit way too many fouls for not being great at creating turnovers (sub-250). They also don't defend the three particularly well. K-State should be careful with the ball movement to make sure they don't have a spike in creating turnovers, but really focus on having Barry Brown and Dean Wade find outside shots when available, combined with just hammering it inside to draw fouls.
There's a good chance this will be a bit of a slow, ugly game.
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
F Kevin Puryear, 6-7 236 Fr
F Jakeenan Gant, 6-8 212 So
G Terrence Phillips, 5-11 175 Fr
G Wes Clark 6-0 180 Jr
G Namon Wright, 6-5 202 So
3 Keys To The Game
1. Play clean
Keep Mizzou off the foul line. They've got 7 guys shooting better than 73% from the stripe. Don't give the Tigers any more free points than necessary. They're not drawing a ton of fouls, so no silly fouls on our part to put them in the bonus early.
2. Get up!
This is finally a team with a "name", even though Columbia is probably a better basketball team. Our guys need to come out jazzed and ready to go from tip. The neutral floor (and it will be purely neutral, since the opponent is Mizzou) will be raucous both ways. K-State needs to really come out of the gate with some energy and put their imprint of effort and pace on the game early.
3. D up for 40
Gotta get out and get some turnovers. Xavier was able to really harass the young Tiger squad, forcing 18 turnovers en route to a 78-66 win over Missouri, while also holding them to season lows in FG% and 3PFG%. We need to do the same thing, bringing help defense to force passes out of isolation or force difficult shots. Pressure defense will create bad shots and turnovers, which lead to easy points on the other end.
All stats by http://www.kenpom.com, or by the respective university's sports information.