"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

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Kansas State Preview, 2021-22


Kansas State Wildcats

December 8, Manhattan, KS, 8:00 pm

Head Coach: Bruce Weber (483-285 overall, 170-130 at Kansas State)

Three-Year NET Average: 99.7

Three-Year Kenpom Average: 85.7

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 96

Mike McGuirl is 0-2 against Marquette in his career

Photo from Kansas State Sports

Projected Starters: PG Nijel Pack (6'0" So), SG Mike McGuirl (6'2" Sr), SF Mark Smith (6'5" Sr), PF Ismael Massoud (6'8" Jr), C Davion Bradford (7'0" So)

Kansas State fans looking for ammunition to part ways with Bruce Weber got more of it last season. The warning signs were there early as they lost to UNLV and Division II Fort Hays State and barely beat UMKC, UW-Milwaukee, and Nebraska-Omaha, but it was punctuated by a 13-game losing streak to start 2021. That was largely down to four true freshmen in the rotation and while the results were disappointing, the grown the of the class remains a reason for optimism, though Weber has gone just 7-29 in Big 12 play since their 2019 Big 12 title season and will be feeling the heat if they finish near the bottom of the league again as they are projected this season.

Mike McGuirl is the only player returning from the K-State teams that Marquette swept in their 2018/2019 home-and-home series. He's a heady veteran who finally found his footing with Nijel Pack late in the season as they did finish the season 4-1 in games played together down the stretch with the only loss a tight contest against eventual National Champions Baylor. Pack is a quick lead guard that is lethal from deep and has a tight handle. On the wings, Mark Smith (Missouri) and Ismael Massoud (Wake Forest) are experienced wings that can stretch the floor and allow Weber to put four shooters around big man Davion Bradford. Off the bench, Weber will bring transfer point guard Markquis Nowell (Little Rock) and a pair of sophomore wings, Selton Miguel and Luke Kasubke, to provide depth.

Weber made a definite shift last year that will likely continue into 2021-22. He went away from the two bigs he typically plays and went to playing four-out surrounding big man Bradford. What really stood out about that change was how it impacted the defense. The smaller Wildcats played faster, were able to limit opponent three-point opportunities, thus driving down their eFG% defense and increasing their ability to turn opponents over. They also shot better from two, better from three, and drew fouls at a higher rate. With a deeper team that has the added experience of Smith and Massoud on the wings, expect the four-out look to continue.

It has to be noted that three-point percentage defense is considered to be largely down to luck rather than skill, and during that stretch K-State's opponents shot 26.2% from three as opposed to 38.8% before, but the defensive improvement and overall team improvement would've been reflected regardless. With an extra year of experience for last year's freshmen, a deeper team through the transfer window, and the momentum of last season, this Wildcat team should be better than they were last year. In many ways, banking on defense and surrounding a big man with shooters and wings will lead to K-State looking like a slower-paced version of this year's Marquette team. This should be a tight contest that will likely be decided based on whose shots are falling that night.

Marquette Connection: The 2018-19 Marquette team had come up short in early opportunities against Indiana and Kansas, so when #12 Kansas State came to town, it was a massive opportunity to get on the right side of a big game. Early on, the Wildcats took a 19-15 lead, but then it was Markus Howard's time to shine. He scored all the points in a 12-1 run. In the second half, Howard took note of the Wildcats getting in foul trouble and went at Dean Wade and Makol Mawien, fouling both of them out. When the dust settled, Howard had scored 45 points, the most ever by a Marquette player in a home game, and Marquette came out with the 83-71 win. It would be the first of three home victories over the #12 team in the country in the month of December (Wisconsin and Buffalo both came in ranked #12) and when Marquette won at the Octagon the following year, it was the first sweep of a high-major home-and-home series since sweeping Big 12's Iowa State more than 20 years earlier in 1996 and 1997.

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