I haven’t written anything on the 2022 K-State basketball team yet, because until Monday night, I had no idea what this K-State basketball team would look like. Now that Coach Tang’s crew has an actual game under their belts, I feel qualified to give a few preliminary assessments.
First and foremost, that was a fun basketball game. The ‘Cats played hard on defense, shared the ball, and kept turnovers to a minimum. They were better than their opponent, and proved that from the opening tip. That’s how you’re supposed to play against teams like UT Rio Grand Valley. Consider expectations met, if not exceeded.
I was pleasantly surprised with the roster depth. I don’t know if this will hold up over the course of the season, but outside Nowell and Johnson, the other players on the roster seem interchangeable (in a good way). There wasn’t a noticeable drop off when Coach Tang went to his bench. The defense remained tenacious and the ball kept moving, even with multiple starters resting. That’s great news. This team is going to expend effort on defense and will need a deep bench to keep legs fresh.
Speaking of fresh legs, Keyontae Johnson looked incredible in his return to college basketball. He’s still got a long way to go to get back to his “Preseason SEC Player of the Year” form, but once he knocks the rust off his game, I see no reason why he can’t be the same player (or a better version of the player) that averaged 14 and 7 as a sophomore at Florida. He’s the galvanizing star player coach Tang needed to turn this roster from a collection of cast off parts, to a legit Big 12 basketball team.
Outside of Johnson, returning point guard Markquis Nowell played his normal energetic, chaotic game, but did so while dishing out 7 assists while committing just one turnover. K-State needs Nowell’s energy and enthusiasm, but they don’t need a gunner jacking up 3’s and throwing the ball to the opposition. He found a nice balance on Monday, and he’ll lead the Big 12 in assists if he can continue finding that balance throughout the season. If you’ve ever wondered, “What if Markquis Nowell, but surrounded by above the rim finishers,” you’ll get your answer this season. It should be fun to watch.
A Few Other Observations
Cam Carter - Didn’t get a great feel for his game on Monday. He played solid defense, but he’ll need to find the range from deep on offense after going 1-5. K-State needs his shooting.
Nae’Quan Tomlin - Kid is a straight up freak. He’ll struggle some this year, especially when he starts going against equally freaky Big 12 athletes, but his potential is through the roof...like NBA potential if he can smooth out the rough edges.
David N’Guessan - About what I expected. He’s a solid role player, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes off the bench at some point this season.
Abayomi Iyiola - The surprise performance of the game. I assumed he was brought on to rebound, block shots, and provide 5 fouls. I was wrong. To quote Shaq, “I owe you an apology, I wasn’t familiar with your game.” He showed nice touch around the rim, and hit two silky mid-range jumpers. If that’s his normal game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the starting line-up at some point this season
Desi Sills - Another guy that I anticipate cracking the starting lineup. He hasn’t been in town long, but managed to put up 10-5-3 and didn’t look lost. He’s the physical guard Nowell needs next to him in the back court.
Tykei Greene - I see him as a potential “microwave” off the bench. He shot over 40% from 3 last season for Stonybrook and isn’t shy about letting it fly. He’s a physical player, capable of playing either wing position.
Dorian Finister - Didn’t expect to see Dorian this season, but he looked capable of providing something off the bench. He’s a bean pole at 6’5”, 190, but he’s bouncy and could provide rebounding and defense from the wing.
Ish Massoud - What a weird game for Ish. I’ll take 10 points in 13 minutes all-day-every-day, but the 13 minutes part of the equation was surprising. He’s a deadly 3-point shooter when hot, but his ability to defend will dictate his minutes this season.
While fun, I’m not sure how much you can take away from a game against UT Rio Grand Valley. Kansas State was the P5 bully, and they played like a P5 bully. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. The real test comes against Cal on Friday. If the Wildcats go into Haas Pavilion and bully the Bears, we may have a surprise on our hands. I’m not on the hype train yet, but I’m standing at the ticket window with money in hand.