"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Kansas State Preview

Kansas State Wildcats
December 1, fiserv.forum

Coach: Bruce Weber (125-80 at Kansas State, 438-235 overall)
3-Year RPI Average: 66.3
3-Year kenpom Average: 42.3
2018-19 T-Rank Projection: 25
Projected Starters: PG Kamau Stokes (6'0" Sr), SG Barry Brown (6'3" Sr), SF Cartier Diarra (6'4" So), PF Xavier Sneed (6'5" Jr), C Dean Wade (6'10" Sr)

Ever since Bill Self arrived in Lawrence, the season starts with a small handful of teams that dream of prying the Big 12 title from the Jayhawks. This year, Kansas State is at the top of that list. Expectations are high in Manhattan as Bruce Weber returns everyone from a team that went to the Elite 8. This looks like the best team Weber has had since he took the KSU job. Brown considered the NBA but came back & along with Wade gives the Wildcats two legitimate all-conference players. Not only that, but everyone else in the league lost significant pieces, so KSU could benefit from a down Big 12, similar to how Marquette fans are hoping a down Big East might make a rise up the standings a bit smoother.

However, when you dig into KSU's resume last year, there are some warts. Their only non-conference wins of note were over Georgia & Vanderbilt teams that didn't make the NIT. They did win 10 games in the Big 12, but went 0-7 against the true heavyweights at the top (Kansas, West Virginia, Texas Tech). And their Elite 8 appearance was aided by playing a 16-seed in the second round and narrowly escaping a woeful shooting Kentucky team. While the Wildcats return a lot, the heights they reached last year were a bit of a fluke & those expecting this to be a top-10 to 15 team may need to temper expectations a bit.

Offensively, this Kansas State team likes to spread the floor. Brown is the team leader on a group that can put four guards on the floor to open up driving lanes & dump it in to Wade. It helps that the big man is a 44% shooter from distance to stretch defenses. Weber's teams are patient on offense. With so many guards, they will keep moving the ball for the best shot. Despite being guard-oriented, this is not a team of multiple three-point threats. Expect the Wildcats to get most of their points inside the arc. Defensively, the Wildcats play stout man-to-man defense that thrives on creating turnovers. Their Achilles' Heel is rebounding, though they hope to see that change with the addition of JUCO transfer Austin Trice. If Trice can keep the defensive glass clean, KSU could meet their lofty expectations.

One interesting note about a team coming off an Elite 8 is that not all fans in Manhattan are happy with Weber's job. Some were hoping he wouldn't make the NCAA Tournament last year in hopes he'd be fired. It will be interesting to see which camp is proven right this season -- the pro-Weber camp that thinks they can compete for a Big 12 title or the anti-Weber camp that was disappointed in an Elite 8 run that secured his job for the near-future.

Marquette Connection: Marquette fans fondly remember the 1977 Championship season, but younger fans may not know how close Al McGuire's run came to ending in the Sweet 16 against Kansas State. The Wildcats won the Big 8 Regular Season & Tournament titles & led Marquette 36-28 at the half. The Warriors battled back, using their size to wear down the smaller Wildcats. Marquette lead 67-64 with less than a minute to play when the Wildcats' 6'5" center Darryl Winston tipped in a miss & simultaneously drew a foul on 6'10" Bo Ellis, seemingly indicating a bucket-and-one opportunity that would allow the Wildcats to tie it at the line. However, due to the NCAA rule at the time, tipped shots were not considered controlled shots. The ref waved off the basket & Winston went to the line. He drew KSU to within a point at 67-66. Marquette was then able to run out the clock & march on to the Elite 8 & ultimately the National Championship. After the season ended, the NCAA Rules Committee overturned that rule. The new "Winston Rule" meant fouls on a made tip-in would result in an and-one opportunity.

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