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Men's Hoops Preview - K-State vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

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The Wildcats return home for one of the best chances remaining at a conference win on the schedule.

Bruce might need to find a simpler offense to run.
Bruce might need to find a simpler offense to run.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

K-State has put up a fight in the first three Big 12 games, but ultimately came up short in each. This time, the Kansas State Wildcats (10-5, 0-3 Big12, #44 kenpom ranking) sets up shop in Bramlage, welcoming in Tubby Smith's Texas Tech Red Raiders. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:10pm CST in Manhattan.

Know Your Opponent

Texas Tech (11-3, 1-2 Big12, #41 kenpom) has steadily been getting better the last couple years, bit by bit. This year it seems like they've actually put some things together, and are looking to be a solid middle-of-the-pack team in the Big 12.

The Raiders come in with a 10-1 non-conference record, dropping a game to Utah (who is ranked #43, right in the same realm as TTU and K-State), and picking up their best win of the season at home against Arkansas-Little Rock (#48). Aside from three games at the Puerto Rico Tipoff, they never left Lubbock for basketball before Big 12 play. In the conference slate, an 8-point home win against Texas has been followed up with a 7-point road loss to the Cyclones, and a 10-point home loss to Kansas.

Tubby Smith has these guys playing solidly on both ends of the ball, where they're arguably and excellent, but not quite elite defensive unit, and an above average offensive team. Key strengths are going to be solid shot defense without fouling, and scoring inside along with getting to the line. Notable weaknesses include creating steals on defense, and they're nearly as bad at shooting the three as K-State is.

Keep a close watch on:

Devaugntah Williams will be a lynchpin for the Red Raider offensive attack. The senior guard leads the team in scoring at 14.0ppg, and has made it to the free throw line more than anyone else on the team, connecting at an 86% clip.

The lanky Zach Smith protects the rim. The sophomore post came up with 5 blocks against us in a game last year, and will look to do more of the same this year. He's averaging 9.8ppg, 6.4rpg, and nearly a block and a half a game.

Finally, senior guard Toddrick Gotcher is the only real deadly three point shooter for Tech. He's hitting 41% from downtown, and is averaging 11.9ppg on the season.

Offense/Defense Strategy:

Expect the Red Raiders to look to get into the heart of the defense - through the dribble drive or passing - and try to attack the rim. While not necessarily the biggest frontcourt out there, they will still hit the paint hard to try and get to the free throw line, where they're hitting at 72.2% as a team. If available, they'll kick it out for three, but don't expect that to be a focus. Texas Tech has attempted the fewest threes of any Big 12 team, by a decent margin. K-State needs to play straight up in the paint, help out to cut off drives without fouling, and close out on the perimeter in a controlled fashion. Wildcat defenders should expect a pump fake and drive when reacting to the kick-out. Gotcher is the only legitimate threat to launch, but there are a couple other players that can hit the three in the 30-33% range.

Defensively, Texas Tech is also a traditionally man-to-man squad. But, given the shooting woes that K-State has shown this season, I would imagine we'll see a mix of zone and man, with both defensive sets geared toward allowing the perimeter shot versus getting into the paint. Special focus will probably be paid to Barry Brown - we may see more man-to-man when he's on the floor. K-State needs to execute their offense, playing into the high post for an inside-out three or a dump to a cutting wing or high-low pass. Dribble-drives can also be effective, but players need to be aware of the shotblocking ability of the Tech bigs, and either draw fouls or be ready for the short post pass.

Probable Starters

Kansas State:

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

Texas Tech Red Raiders

F Zach Smith, 6-8 215 So
C Norense Odiase, 6-9 260 So
G Keenan Evans, 6-3 180 So
G Devaugntah Williams, 6-4 205 Sr
G Toddrick Gotcher, 6-4 205 Sr

3 Keys To The Game

1. Short Memory.

The Cats can't let thoughts of despair or fear creep into their minds. Even though they've lost three straight, they're competing at levels higher than expected, and have actually beat the spread in each of those three losses. K-State needs to come out and play like they think they're going to win.

2. Make some shots.

It's too simple to just say, "make some more shots," but that's the reality. How to do that? Run the offense. Work for those shots. Know that with a high level of execution and ball movement, open shots will become a reality. Open buckets usually go in; the problem is that we've been doing such a poor job of working to find those open shots. When you're not shooting well, find cheap buckets. Crash the boards hard and get some putbacks. Turn up the defensive pressure and come up with a steal and runout. Attack the rim and draw some fouls for trips to the charity stripe.

3. Keep Tech off the line.

Solid defense without fouling will be important. Only three players in the standard rotation shoot less than 70% from the line for the Raiders. Not giving up cheap points will help the need to overdrive the offensive efficiency.

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