With football out of the way for the...umm...foreseeable future, basketball becomes the primary topic of athletics this time of year. The Kansas State Wildcats (10-3, 0-1 Big12, #55 kenpom ranking) heads out on a two-game road trip, first stopping by The Drum for a matchup with the Texas Longhorns. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm CST in Austin.
Know Your Opponent
Texas (8-5, 0-1 Big12, #52 kenpom)...man, they feel like they've got the pieces, but just can't quite fit them together.
First-year coach Shaka Smart - previously of the tourney-regular Virginia Commonwealth Rams - takes over the helm for perennial underachiever Rick Barnes. So far, he's built a Longhorn squad that, similar to past years, has tendency to underplay its perceived capability. Their enigmatic results this year have resulted in a completely average record so far, but those eight wins include a dramatic last-second victory over North Carolina, but losses to Washington on a neutral court (in China), and two straight misfires - one at home to UConn, and another on the road to open Big 12 play against Texas Tech. A strange anomaly in scheduling - Texas was actually able to avenge its loss to Washington in the second round of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
The Longhorns team is experience-laden at the top, but bring in some solid incoming freshman from the bench.
So, what can we expect from the Longhorns? Texas is well above average on the offensive side of the ball, but drift a little more toward the middle of the pack on defense. Texas is long, athletic, and crash the boards hard on offense. They'll be looking to really pound the ball inside, then start to kick it back out as the defense becomes more adept at collapsing down.
The stats prove out that Texas has a weakness at the free-throw line, where they're collectively one of the worst shooting teams in the country at 62.2%. They also have a hard time keeping opponents off the offensive glass, and have a tendency to put opponents on the line too much.
Of note, the behemoth of a man Cameron Ridley is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a broken foot suffered a little over a week ago. Ridley's absence requires Texas to find a replacement for 12.7ppg, 10.0rpg, and a little over 3 blocks a game from the remaining roster.
Keep a close watch on:
Javan Felix - the stocky 5-11 senior guard - is on fire this season. He hit the game winner versus North Carolina, and comes into the game shooting an absurd 51% from beyond the arc (29-57). Look for him to work the perimeter for open shots and play harassing defense out on our point guard.
Junior guard Isaiah Taylor is exactly the opposite. Not a spectacular outside shooter, Taylor is more of a slashing guard, getting into the paint and either scoring himself or facilitating a basket. Isaiah leads the team in both scoring at 16.6ppg, and dishing at 4.9apg.
Connor Lammert (seems like every team has that player that's been there for about 12 years) is hopefully the last of a string of Texas' three-point shooting posts. The 6-10 senior averages 5.9ppg and 5.4rpg, but always seems to come up with a big three right when it hurts most.
Shaka Smart teams traditionally play straight up man. The Longhorns have the length to cause problems for us in any defensive set, but since offensive rebounding is something we're good at, and something they aren't good at stopping, expect Texas to eschew the obvious 2-3 zone advantage and stick with the man-to-man. Ball movement is going to be key, as Texas excels at defense in the paint. Stretching and compromising the defense, forcing the bigs to get out and defend outside the post is something we're capable of with Stephen Hurt and Dean Wade, and can free up some undercut movement by Wesley Iwundu and Justin Edwards.
Offensively, they're average in tempo, so expect a game that will probably play more to our speed - in other words, this might be a bit slower game than you might typically expect with Texas. As mentioned before, expect Taylor and other guards to try and get in the paint and kick out or dump off. The Cameron Ridley injury will certainly soften what would be a constant crush of inside play, but Freshman Eric Davis will help anchor the post in Ridley's absence. K-State will need to be diligent in keeping Texas guards out of the paint, and knowing where shooters are on the perimeter at all times, even if that means getting beat on the block at times. The Wildcat defense can afford to collapse and help, but second rotations will be critical. Expect a good mix of man and matchup zone from the Wildcats.
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 Connor Lammert, 6-10 235 Sr
C Prince Ibeh, 6-11 265 Sr
G Isaiah Taylor, 6-3 185 Jr
G Javan Felix, 5-11 205 Sr
G Kendal Yancy, 6-3 210 Jr
3 Keys To The Game
1. Finding good, open shots.
This will be a coaching moment for Bruce, as the typical offense (or whatever that stuff is we do when we have the ball) just won't get it done against the Longhorns. If anything, the ball is going to have to get from one side to the other with much greater frequency.
How would I battle the Texas defense? High post. All day. I'd take a look at a motion offense that goes through the free-throw line, basically a 2-1-2 setup that keeps two guards out top, and two wings stretched out on the sides. Pulling the high post up, and leaving the low post vacant, affords the real estate to get some cutting action underneath, and helps in either isolating the lower big against two players, or gets them out of the way entirely. Expect lineups with Budke and DJ both in the game to run into difficulty offensively.
2. Offensive Rebounding.
Offensive rebounds can often lead to easy scores, as can transition buckets. Going and grabbing misses will be a great way for K-State to keep up on the scoreboard.
3. Limit guard drives.
The more we make Texas pass into the paint (as opposed to driving it), the more difficult it will be for them to kick out for open threes, or find chip shots for their sure-handed posts. This means we may give up some points in the paint, but also means they're at least having to take guarded shots.
All stats by http://www.kenpom.com, or by the respective university's sports information.