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Hardwood Haziness: Part 1 - Where Are We At?

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The first of a three-part series diving into the 2019-2020 K-State Men’s Basketball season

UC Irvine v Kansas State
Sneed, McGuirl, and Stockard are part of a returning core...but is that core enough?
Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

“It’s not about you! It’s about the team!”

Head coach Bruce Weber ripped into his team during a timeout mid-way through the first half against Bradley on Wednesday evening. Clearer, and truer, words could probably not have been spoken at the recent Fort Myers Tip-Off tournament this past week, which saw our Cats drop a close one to the Pittsburgh Panthers (63-59), then never really challenge the Bradley Braves (73-60) once separation had been made in the second half.

With that (and a total of 6 games) behind our Kansas State Wildcats, let’s spend a few moments parsing through what we’ve seen, and go on the fools’ errand of making a few projections toward the rest of the season.

Part 1: Where are we at, statistically* speaking?

The Wildcats leave Thanksgiving with a 4-2 record, with home wins over North Dakota State, Monmouth, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, an OT road win over UNLV, and two neutral-site losses to Pitt and Bradley.

K-State currently sits at 77th in Kenpom’s rankings, and for those of you still clutching on to meaningless rankings, 123rd in RPI.

A refresher - the Kenpom rankings are simply descending rankings based on teams’ Adjusted Efficiency Margin, or the delta between their Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. It is *purely* statistical and doesn’t factor in any “eye test”, and is as reasonable a guide to objectively ranking teams from 1-353.

Of the teams we’ve played, Pitt is the best team at 74th, just above K-State. The Wildcats’ best win is their road OT win over UNLV, who sits just above the midpoint at 169. The loss to Bradley isn’t going to look great by the end of the season, as Bradley is currently sitting (and will likely remain) outside the Top-100.

Offensive Statistics:

  • PPG: 63.5
  • FG%: 40.8%
  • 3PFG%: 28.3%
  • FT%: 61.8%
  • RPG: 34.0
  • APG: 13.7
  • TOPG: 14.0
  • SPG: 10.2
  • BPG: 1.8

Defensive Statistics:

  • PPG: 58.5
  • FG%: 40.3%
  • 3PFG%: 29.9%
  • FT%: 71.9%
  • RPG: 37.2
  • APG: 9.2
  • TOPG: 20.2
  • SPG: 6.7
  • BPG: 3.3

Looking at deeper stats, we see a handful of things sticking out. Let’s start with the bad…err, offense: The Cats’ FT% of 61.8% (316th) and 3PFG% of 28.3% (297th) are some of the worst in the country. FG% on twos isn’t much better, at 47.9% (193rd).

K-State commits a turnover on just over 20% of its possessions (210th). This (and the poor shooting metrics above) culminates in an effective FG% of 46.0%, which is 260th in the country.

Overall adjusted offensive efficiency is at 98.8 (191st), which would be the worst in the Bruce Weber era by nearly 70 spots…despite being the fastest tempo team he’s had in Manhattan. Offensive rebounding percentage (168th) and Free Throw Rates (215th) are also bottom half, and tracking as the worst (or near-worst) in the past 8 years.

Couple in the fact that this squad gets out-rebounded on average, and is carrying a below-one A/TO ratio, and, well...

In the words of Pete Campbell: “Not great, Bob.”

Defensively, it’s a bit of a different, and better, story:

K-State forces a turnover on 29.3% of possessions (3rd). Of those turnovers, the Cats get a steal on just over half of them (14.8%, 5th), which are live-ball turnovers. Live-ball turnovers are critical for a team that wants to “score off of defense”.

They’re giving up an effective FG% of 46.5% (119th), which is too close to average for success for this team. Overall adjusted defensive efficiency is at 88.5 (13th). For comparison’s sake, last year’s Big 12 Championship team finished at 88.4 (3rd).

The fact that K-State gets out-rebounded has a negative effect here as well, giving up second chance opportunities (29.1% opponent OR%, 207th), and it’s reasonable to say that’s one of the culprits to why our opponents’ eFG% is as high as it is.

Boiling down all these numbers, we can reasonably arrive at the following deductions:

Offensively, we suck right now. There’s just no way to manufacture enough spin to put our offense in any positive light. We do manage to share the ball moderately well, assisting on 58.2% of our scores. Outside of that? Our OR% is actually the bright point, at 166th in the country.

Generally, we’re pretty solid defensively; but the stats paint an exacting picture. Our defense typically wreaks havoc, creating turnovers, and even more importantly, steals. However, when the opposition can keep from turning the ball over, we regress to just above average in most statistics.

Coming up in Part 2, we’ll be examining how we got here. Hint: There are a multitude of reasons, some dragging on for several years now.

*All statistics and subsequent rankings current as of 11/30/19, per kenpom.com.