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Men's Hoops Preview - K-State vs. South Carolina State Bulldogs

The Wildcats return to action in Bramlage Sunday, following a waning-minutes loss to top-10 North Carolina. How will the team respond?

Carlbe Ervin II gets the photo op today.
Carlbe Ervin II gets the photo op today.
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State Wildcats (4-1, #70) take on the South Carolina State Bulldogs in the Octagon; tipoff slated for 2:10pm CST in Bramlage Coliseum. The last time we saw the Cats in action, we gave North Carolina all they could handle, but ultimately one-too-many momentum swings allowed the Tar Heels to escape with the victory and the CBE Hall of Fame Classic title.

Worthy of note - Justin Edwards and Kamau Stokes were both named to the All-Tournament Team for the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. I don't think that information had been mentioned yet on BOTC.

Know Your Opponent

Coming in to this matchup, South Carolina State (3-3, #318), is statistically one of the worst teams in the country, landing at #311 (of 351) in adjusted offensive efficiency (95.8) and adjusted defensive efficiency (107.7), and nearly sub-200 in adjusted tempo. They've played two NAIA teams for two of their three wins, and the best team on their schedule so far - Ball State - is ranked #159 by KenPom. Quick basic analysis: against Division I competition, they don't score easily, they don't keep their opponents from scoring easily, and they don't get the ball up and down the floor much. One thing South Dakota does bring into this contest is a little bit more experience (as compared to K-State).

[For a quick reminder: efficiency is points per 100 possessions; so offensive efficiency is points scored per 100, and defensive efficiency is points allowed per 100. Tempo is possessions per 40 minutes. "Adjusted" means this is normalized based on the opponent's averages.]

To put that in contrast, K-State is currently #149 in adjusted offensive efficiency at 102.7, but #29 in adjusted defensive efficiency at 94.9.

Keep a close watch on:

Junior guard Eric Eaves comes into the game averaging 16.5ppg, notably making it to the charity stripe 9 times a game and shooting nearly 80% when he gets there. Eaves is coming from Dodge City Community College, where he also averaged 15.6ppg.

Senior forward Gabe McCray brings in 14.3ppg, 5.3rpg, and is shooting over 55% from the floor.

Off the bench, Ty Soloman plays 20 minutes a game, shoots over 45% from beyond the arc, and hasn't missed a FT yet. He also leads the team in assists, at nearly 4 per game.

Offense/Defense Strategy:

Honestly, I have no idea what South Carolina State runs on either end of the floor. Very little video out there of these guys, given the couple of NAIA games they've played. However, I did run across a SC State Basketball interview video of head coach Murray Garvin during their shootaround in Bramlage. Judging by the comments he made, he's got some concern about his players being able to score:

...right now, I've got Bruce Weber, and how we're going to try to score some points on this defense that is tremendous, and one of the best in the country... - SC State HC Murray Garvin

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

South Carolina State Bulldogs:

F Gabe McCray, 6-7 200 Sr
F Darryl Palmer, 6-8 210 Sr
G Ed Stevens, 6-2 175 So
G Greg Mortimer, 6-3 191 Jr
G Eric "EJ" Eaves, 6-3 185 Jr

3 Keys To The Game

1. Solid halfcourt defense

The Bulldogs have a couple of guys that shoot the three at a >40% rate, but nobody is really out there launching the ball. Meanwhile, their bigs are a little undersized compared to our frontcourt. SC State doesn't bring anything specific that we need to key on. Our defense - again, rated #29 in the country on a points-per-100 possessions basis, is forcing 15 turnovers per game. All and all, solid man defense in the halfcourt to challenge outside shots, defend passing lanes and strong effort in the post will create trouble for Garvin's group of guys.

2. Leave no doubt

Hop out to an early lead and keep our foot on the accelerator. The only way a team like SC State can steal a game like this is if they believe they can play with us. We need to come out, play our game for 40 minutes, and leave no doubt that SC State can't hang. Suffocating defense and some easy buckets in the first 4 minutes will likely seal this one up early.

3. No turkey - or Tar Heel - hangover

We can't still be thinking of last week's loss to North Carolina, or of the minimal time off the guys got for Thanksgiving. Its gametime. The biggest on-court attitude problem with last year's team is they would get up for a game like UNC, but then completely sleepwalk a game like this. They thought the opponent would just roll over. Make no mistake, SC State is not flying halfway across the country to roll over against us. With a young team, this is very much a concern, but I personally don't think it will be an issue. K-State should take care of this one easily.

BONUS KEY! 4. Star Wars Day in Bramlage

Let the Wookiee win.

All stats by, or by the respective university's sports information.