#3 Kansas State vs #6 Kentucky
Kentucky on Offense
*(KenPom National Ranking)
What They Do Well
Adjusted Efficiency - 116.6 (15)
This isn’t the high octane offense you’re accustomed to seeing. They lack star power on offense but make up for it with experience and efficiency. 6’9”, 260 pound Oscar Tshiebwe leads the Griz...(ahem) Wildcats in scoring, and he does all his damage around the rim. The rest of the guys try to either feed him in the post via passing or bricking shots and letting Tshiebwe collect them for easy dunks...speaking of which.
Offensive Rebounding Percentage - 38.9% (2)
Chuck it up and let Oscar go get it isn’t the prettiest way to play basketball, but it’s deadly effective if you can’t keep him off the glass. He destroyed Providence in the first round, snagging 11 offensive boards, giving the Wildcats extra possessions. Extra possession for an efficient offense equals death (unless you are Purdue, in which case, it gives the middle school sized team you’re playing extra opportunities to embarrass you).
Checking out Tshiebwe on the boards may be the most important thing Kansas State does on defense, which is weird, because it happens after the shot.
Where They Struggle
3 Pt% - 35.2 (105)
2Pt% - 50 (197)
FT% - 70.4 (233)
It’s a good thing Tshiebwe is a human rebounding machine, because this team doesn’t shoot well from anywhere on the court. They need extra possessions because they miss a bunch of shots. It would behoove Kansas State not to give them any.
In their opening round win against Providence, senior guard Antonio Reeves went 5-9 from 3, the rest of the squad went 0-7. Not only do they not shoot well, they don’t have many players willing to shoot it from deep. If you get a lead on Kentucky, they’re not a team that can easily shoot itself back into it using a barrage of 3’s.
What surprises me is their 2 point shooting struggles. They shot 38% from 2 against Providence, but again, were bailed out by 18 total offensive rebounds. Kentucky is more physical than skilled this season, Kansas State has to match that physical play because the bad Cats will bully you if given the opportunity.
Oscar Tshiebwe - C - 16.2 PPG
Antonio Reeves - G - 14.6 PPG
Jacob Toppin - F - 12.7 PPG
Cason Wallace - G - 11.4 PPG
This is a team without a true star on offense. They tend to spread the scoring duties out. It’s hard to double Tshiebwe because the guy he passes to is just a likely to score. He’s not incredibly skilled, but he is incredibly physical, most of his points come from forcing the ball through the rim with brute strength and determination. At an athletic 6’9”, 260 he’s just the sort of center Kansas State has struggled against this season. It would be in their best interest not to struggle today.
Reeves is their gunner, hitting 41% from deep. He’s the only reason Kentucky put up enough points to advance out of the first round. The good ‘Cats would be well served to let Tshiebwe beat them two points at a time in the post instead of letting Reeves get hot from deep.
Jacob Toppin is a solid all-around player who does most of his damage from mid range and around the rim. He shot 32% from 3, but only hit 18. Play him to drive and invite him to shoot until he proves he can hit from deep (that’s easier said than done, every team uses the game plan against Toppin).
Finally, Wallace is their other shooter. The freshman guard is second in attempts behind Reeves. He’s shooting 34% from deep, but can heat up quick. That said, he’s been ice cold down the stretch and may have hit the freshman wall. He’s 1-10 from deep over the last 3 games, and is 7-28 from 2. It would help if he stayed cold today.
*The work against Tshiebwe starts when a shot goes up. He’s prone to fouling when you put bodies in front of him and wall him off.
* Reeves is their shooter, and he’s hot. Never leave him to double Tshiebwe!
* Play off Toppin and invite him to shoot from deep. He’s a better athlete than he is a shooter. He’s tough to stop at the rim.
* Make Wallace prove it. If you give help, help off Wallace if possible.
* Point guard Sahvir Wheeler doesn’t score much, but that’s not his job. He’s one of the better assist guards in the nation. If he gets a piece of the paint, he’s going to make the right play. He also likes to throw lobs to Oscar. Wheeler vs Nowell will be a prime time point guard match-up.
Kentucky on Defense
What They Do Well
Make You Work - Average possession length 18.2 seconds (316)
The bad Cats don’t give up many quick looks. They get down the court, get in their defense, and lock in. They’re tough to beat off the dribble, and Tshiebwe is an eraser on the back end. The good Cats will need to move the ball and put them in rotation. It’s going to be tougher for Markquis to get into the lane today. He can’t force things because the bad cats will swallow him up at the rim if he doesn’t pick his spots well.
Where They Struggle
Conservative Defense - 16.7% (263) turnover percentage
This isn’t so much a struggle as a style choice. It’s a helpful style choice for Kansas State because the good ‘Cats have a tendency to be loose with the ball. Kentucky is more about containing than pressuring. Kansas State can’t get frustrated when they clog the lane and force things (I know, I mentioned that above, it’s important) or they’ll turn it over without the bad ‘Cats playing for a turnover.
Defending the 3 - Teams shoot 32.7%(100) from 3
The truth is, Kentucky is decent but not great at most things on defense. One place where they struggle is defending the deep ball. Their conservative style means defenders are often bailing on drives to contain the drive. They’ll also go under screens to try and cut of drivers. The good ‘Cats will have their opportunities from deep, but they can’t fall in love with the 3, especially if shots aren’t falling. Sometimes the shot Kentucky offers you is the shot they want you to take. Be selective and don’t stop attacking the basket, even if that’s harder than pulling up from 3.
* Don’t fall in love with quick 3’s. Those are the shots they want you to take.
* Move the ball from side to side, and attack Tshiebwe when the opportunity arises. One way to keep him off the glass is to put him on the bench.
* Floaters and mid-range jumpers are your friends. They want you to take these shots because most teams don’t have guys that can hit them. Nowell has a silky smooth floater and Keyontae is great from mid-range.
This game is strange. Kansas State has the star power, Kentucky has the more physical roster. That’s the inverse of what we’ve seen in the past. It’s simple for Kansas State (in terms of game plan at least), Nowell and Johnson need to both have big games. If they can combine for 30+ points the good ‘Cats will be in great position to win the game, especially if they can get a 3rd scorer like Desi Sills to come with them.
Oh, and BOX OUT TSHIEBWE, seriously guys, don’t lose this game on the boards.
Kansas State - 77
Kentucky - 71
I like the good ‘Cats in this one. They’ve got too much fire power for the offensively challenged (on occasion) bad ‘Cats. When Kentucky goes on scoring drought (and they will) I think the good ‘Cats build a lead and hold on at the end.