#3 Kansas State vs #9 Florida Atlantic
FAU on Offense
Johnell Davis - Legit Tough Guy
Johnell Davis is the heart and soul of this FAU team. The 6’4”, 205 pound sophomore out of Gary, Indiana is a legit tough guy. He’s not a 4*, AAU prima donna that falls over and dies at the slightest hint of contact, instead, he’s a tough as nails kid out of Gary, Indiana that, despite averaging 25 points, 10 rebounds 3 steals and 3 assists as a senior in high school and earning a spot on the Indiana All-Star team, was overlooked by the big 3 schools in the state.
FAU coach and Bob Knight disciple Dusty May knows what getting a tough guard out of Gary does for a program and got him to Boca. This team, in many ways, is a reflection of the 3rd year Sophomore guard. They’re not afraid to get in the trenches and mix it up.
He struggled in their opening round game against Memphis, going 2-7 from 2 and 2-5 from for 12 points, but also made some crucial lays down the stretch. He eviscerated FDU’s pressure defense in the next round, sending Cinderella packing with a 29 point, 10 rebound, and 5 assists while only turning the ball over once against the FDU’s full court attack. In the Sweet 16, Tennessee did what they do, and drug the game into the gutter. That’s fine, that’s where Davis thrives. He led all scorers with 15 points, 9 of which came from the line.
Job #1 for the ‘Cats is trying to limit Davis. He reminds me of an upgraded Mark Smith in many ways. He’s a guard that plays like a forward. He doesn’t mind contact, in fact, he seeks it out, and he’s a menace on the boards. You’ve got to put a body on him and keep a body on him. Desi Sills will have his hands full today and can’t give away any cheap fouls. I like Cam Carter, but I’m not sure he can handle Davis’s power game.
K-State has to be competitive on the offense glass. Michigan State let them off the hook on multiple occasions in the Sweet 16. Don’t expect the same from FAU. They had 18 offensive rebounds against Memphis, 15 against FDU, and 12 against Tennessee. They swarm the glass and rebound by committee, but 7’1, 240 pound Vladislav Goldin could be big problem for the ‘Cats on his own. This is a huge ask for Tomlin. I think you’ll see more N’Guessan and possibly Iyiola (Bey-Bey) in this game to try and keep a body on the Goldin.
Some of FAU’s rebounding success comes from being first to the ball Goldin tap outs. K-State has to match their intensity level and remember that defensive possessions don’t end until you have the ball in your hands and are heading the other direction.
Protect the Lane
This isn’t a team that shoots well from 3, and that’s not a bad thing. They’re not an underdog beholden on mercurial 3 point shooting to win. They haven’t shot over 30% from deep in a game this tournament, and find themselves in the Elite 8. They like to grind away inside, but do so while starting 4 guards around Goldin. They spread the floor, use Goldin to set picks and relentlessly drive to the basket. Kansas State has to be prepared to cut off 3 or 4 dribble drives a possession, because FAU will drive the ball until they run out of time on the shot clock.
FAU on Defense
Their effective field goal percentage on defense is 45.7%, good for 13th in the nation. They smother teams inside the arc, giving up 44% from 2 (11th), and get out to shooters. They only allow teams to shoot 31% from 3. They held Memphis to 65, a run and gun FDU team to 70, and then held the Vols to 55 points in the Sweet 16.
It’s a simple formula for FAU on defense. They play disciplined man to man defense. What impresses me the most is their ability to stay in front of perimeter players and guard their own man. Most man-to-man teams rely on help defense, because they can’t stay in front. That puts them into rotation, and Markquis thrives on defensive chaos. That ankle needs to be good, because he won’t be able to get into the paint with ease like he did against the Spartans. He’s still going to get into the lane, but he’s going to have to work to get a piece of the paint today.
One small wrinkle they utilize is picking up the opposing point guard full court. They’re going to try and make Markquis work to bring the ball up.
Their ability to individually defend makes getting open shots difficult. They make you take contested shots, and generally harass you the entire 40 minutes. Luckily for the ‘Cats, Nowell and Johnson are two of the better contested shot makers that I’ve seen this year.
They’ll need to be on their game tonight.
Kansas State - 77
FAU - 72
Kansas State will have 2 of the best 3 players on the floor with Nowell and Johnson. They might have 3 of the best 4, depending on how Tomlin plays. That hasn’t phased them so far, but they haven’t faced a team with such a diverse attack like the ‘Cats.
FAU is a tough team, but they’re about to run into tougher team with better scorers. I’ve got the ‘Cats from the Little Apple cutting down the nets in the Big Apple. See y’all next week for a Final 4 preview.