Last night was a train wreck, and we don’t mean the sort you watch in horrified awe from a nearby parking lot. We mean the kind where you’re actually on the train. Our intrepid reporter Eric Rubottom was on the scene at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas for Arizona State’s 92-90 win over K-State, and he has thoughts.
He’s not the only one. In fact, everyone seems to have opinions about last night’s defeat. Some of them are good; some aren’t so much.
One aspect we wanted to touch on, however, was the assertion by some Wildcat fans that the absurd differential in free throw attempts (44 for the Sun Devils, NINE for K-State) wasn’t actually why the Cats lost the game, but rather a symptom of why they lost.
Simply put: nonsense.
Yes, K-State attempted 32 threes on the night, which is a lot! But Arizona State pulled up and fired 18 times themselves. K-State shot 14 more threes, which... is a lot, but let’s take a look at what that really meant.
Let’s assume K-State tried to drive the basket those 14 times instead, which is the core of the argument some folks were making last night -- the foul discrepancy was because K-State wasn’t pushing the lane.
The first impact of that is the seven threes K-State wouldn’t have made if you assume the same shooting percentage. Take 21 points off the total. Now, you may be thinking you get 16 points back on the made two-point attempts, but you don’t... because the entire premise behind the long-range attempts being responsible for the foul discrepancy sort of requires that some of those drives result in fouls on Arizona State.
And not all those fouls would have resulted in free throw attempts, because K-State didn’t get into the bonus last night until halfway to Christmas.
So let’s assume half of those drives end up in fouls on the Sun Devils. Give K-State back eight points on the made drives to the basket, and go ahead and assume four of the seven fouls committed there were shooting fouls, resulting in eight free throw attempts. At 78%, that’s another six points. That leaves three non-shooting fouls, and depending on when exactly they happened K-State’s lucky to get three points out of them.
That’s 17 points, rather than the 21 the Cats scored bombing from range, and that’s a six-point loss rather than two.
All of this, of course, is predicated on the premise that the impact of the fouls called on K-State didn’t help advise the offensive game plan in the final ten minutes. Makol Mawien and Xavier Sneed had already fouled out. Dean Wade and Barry Brown were sitting on four fouls for most of that time frame.
Who, exactly, were you hoping would drive the lane late in the game? Barry Brown finally did on the last possession, because it didn’t matter if he got called for a charge at that point.
The offense was not the problem last night. The offense took what Arizona State was giving it: open shots from range. The Sun Devils were defending the paint and letting the Wildcats bomb, and exactly half of K-State’s points came from beyond the arc. Sure, you’re not going to shoot 47% from three all the time, but when you’ve got open looks it’s a lot easier.
The problem was the foul discrepancy — not in and of itself, but in terms of the impact that discrepancy had on what K-State was able to do. The team was crippled for the final ten minutes of the game. The five starters finished with a combined 21 fouls and two guys sitting on the bench.
And they still almost managed to pull a win out of their nethers.
Lord knows your benevolent despot is not a fan of the guy in charge, and there were things he could have done last night which might have turned the game into a win. But let’s give the team credit for hanging in there against the sort of insurmountable odds that result from trying to play 5-on-8 basketball and coming a layup short of overtime, huh?
Andy Samuelson of the Wichita Eagle recaps the game, and if you’re wondering who the heck that is he’s a former writer for the Eagle who’s now based in Las Vegas. He’s also a KU and WSU alum, so get your swings in now. We also have recaps from Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic, who gushes over Kodi Justice, and Josiah Destin from our sister site House of Sparky weighs in as well.
Also from our colleagues, Joel D at SB Nation’s Xavier site Banners on the Parkway recaps the Musketeers’ 83-64 win over George Washington, who will be K-State’s opponent tonight at 7pm CT. That game will follow the Continental Tire Las Vegas Shootout championship game at 4:30pm, in which Xavier will take on the Sun Devils.
We will of course have all the material you need early in the afternoon for tonight’s game, as well as another game today; the K-State women are also in Las Vegas to take on fifth-ranked UCLA at 3:15pm.
Ken Corbitt writes about Alex Barnes and his struggles this season, which turn out to be injury-related. It’s going to be a terrible shame if a great kid with talent like Barnes possesses ends up with a what-if career due to injuries.
Kellis Robinett previews Farmageddon in all its glory.
Three items from the Des Moines Register, a paper located in a city that doesn’t exist (unlike Night Vale, which is totally a real place). Randy Peterson is actually right about something as he expresses the view that Bill Snyder should just leave hiring his replacement to Gene Taylor and stay out of it, and explains why a Cyclone win Saturday would be pretty special. He’s not wrong, at least if you’re not a Wildcat, and even then if the bad guys win tomorrow most of us will be giving them a well-deserved round of appreciative applause. Also, Tommy Birch explores this year’s totemic icon for the Cyclones, a shovel with the words “Move the Rock” written upon the blade.
Finally, Berry Tramel at the Oklahoman utters the words nobody can quite believe: he’s picking Iowa State for his Big 12 upset special. No, the unbelievable part isn’t that he’s picking them. It’s that it’s an upset -- but it is. K-State is somehow favored by 2½.