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Men's Hoops Preview - K-State vs. St. Louis Billikens

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The Cats return to action after Christmas break, with one last home tune-up before conference play begins.

Can Microwave Brown get some offense going today?
Can Microwave Brown get some offense going today?
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

First off, merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you all have had a great holiday season, whether it be with family, friends, or whatever it is that makes you happy. The Kansas State Wildcats (9-2, #73 kenpom ranking) wrap up their non-conference slate (well, for the most part) today, taking on a staggering Saint Louis Billikens team this evening (7:10p CST) in the Octagon of Doom.

Know Your Opponent

Saint Louis (5-6, #230 kenpom ranking) is coming into the game losing 6 of their last 7, after a promising 4-0 start to the beginning of the season. Scoring has been their issue of late, topping 60 points in fewer than half of those 7 games. A little more in-depth look shows us the problem isn't necessarily shooting - it's in possession and tempo. The Billikens are currently one of the worst in the country in both committing turnovers (14.7 per game, but at a rate of 21.5%) as well as rebounding their own misses (7 offensive boards per game, at a rate of 22.0%).

[Side note: when doing research, I stumbled onto the fact that former K-State center Adrian Diaz, who transferred out of the program after the 2012-2013 season, is currently leading the nation in blocked shots, at 3.8 swats a game, at Florida International.]

They're not spectacular at shooting the three - but what's more important, they don't shoot that many. They've only attempted 183 on the season (16.6 per game), and shoot a relatively pedestrian 32.8% from outside. Realistically, their offensive numbers have really dropped off based on the defenses they've been playing lately (Louisville and Wichita State are both in there), which has caused a precipitous drop in both offensive efficiency and tempo for the Billikens.

Defensively, they're not that bad. A key strength for Saint Louis is on protecting the glass, allowing a top-50 26.0% offensive rebounding rate.

Keep a close watch on:

Miles Reynolds is a name you'll probably hear a lot of today - the sophomore guard comes in as the teams second scorer at 11.0ppg, but adds in 3.7 assists per game, and adds almost two steals a contest. Reynolds is not a great shooter, so expect him to try to get into the paint, where he's a top-50 player in the country at drawing fouls and can connect at 81% from the stripe.

Let's also watch junior guard Mike Crawford coming off the bench - he's a legitimate shooter across the board, averaging 88% from the free throw line, 56% from two, and 36% from outside the arc.

Offense/Defense Strategy:

The Billikens play a mix of defenses, but expect primarily 2-3 or matchup zone today. If Saint Louis plays more than five minutes of man-to-man throughout the game, fourth-year head coach Jim Crews should be fired before he gets back to the bus. K-State has shown no consistent ability to shoot a defense out of the zone, but are more than happy to keep hoisting threes up instead of methodically finding a way to get the ball into the middle of the zone and work inside-out.

Offensively, Saint Louis shares the ball well, as nearly 64% of their made shots are assisted, so we should see some solid ball movement, stretching the K-State defense to get advantages near the basket. The Cats need to get out and pressure passing lanes, creating some of those turnovers that the Billikens are prone to giving up. Creating turnovers will help the K-State offense get out on transition, which needs to be a focus today.

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

Saint Louis Billikens:

F Reggie Agbeko, 6-7 240 Jr
C Austin Gillmann, 6-10 220 So
G Miles Reynolds, 6-2 170 So
G Davell Roby, 6-4 200 So
G Ash Yocoubou, 6-4 215 Sr

1 Key To The Game

1. Offensive efficiency.

Period.

Our offense has been atrocious lately, whether it is ball movement, ball security, shooting...all aspects have been equally bad. We've got to see an improvement in offensive efficiency today, because it's going to have to get much better to have a shot in conference play.

I'm not worried about defense: Our 62.8ppg allowed is tied for 26th in the country, with a top-25 defensive efficiency and eFG% defense, and a top-10 three point defense. Our guys not bad at not letting the other team score. Rebounding is not a concern either, as we're a very good offensive rebounding team, and a solid defensive rebounding team. Heck, we're not even that bad at turning the ball over, including the recent woes.

Nope, the concern is making shots. We're officially a poor shooting team. Our 29.3% from outside the arc is sub-300, and when combined with our entirely average 2PFG% and FT%, makes us a sub-250 eFG% team, and a dead-in-the-middle offense in terms of adjusted efficiency. Only TCU is worse in the conference, and Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are the only two other teams outside of the top-50 in the country.

I said it before, I said it above: Every team we play should just sit down in a 2-3 zone against us. Until this team decides that moving the ball and putting the defense in compromising positions is the best method of attack, we will continue to be easily guardable. We will continue to be a poor shooting team, and we will continue to struggle to score.

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