Analyzing the Big 12 Early Season Tournaments: Kansas State EditionPosted by dnspewak on October 9th, 2012
We’re just four days away from the official opening to the 2012-13 college basketball season as schools will be able to start officially practicing Friday night. Before then, though, we’re going to take a look at the various pre-conference tournaments that have become synonymous with the first month of college basketball. Nearly every Big 12 school is competing in one of those tournaments this season and we’ll take time each day this week to preview each bracket, from Hawaii to Puerto Rico to New York City. On Tuesday we took a look at Texas and Kansas. Today, it’s Kansas State and new head coach Bruce Weber.
NIT Season-Tip Off
Dates: November 12-13, November 21, November 23
Location: Campus sites and Madison Square Garden
Major Teams: Michigan, Cleveland State, Pittsburgh, Lehigh, Robert Morris, Kansas State, North Texas, Virginia, Delaware
There’s no acclimation period for Bruce Weber at Kansas State. No rebuilding project, no waiting game, and, most importantly, no excuses for the Wildcats not to reach Madison Square Garden in the NIT Season Tip-Off this November. Weber, whose Illinois program slowly crumbled and led to his eventual dismissal, found a terrific gig in Manhattan and inherits an experienced roster capable of immediate results. That’s both a blessing and a burden. With an All-Big 12 wing in Rodney McGruder, strong guards, good depth and a defensive mentality already instilled by Frank Martin, it would be a colossal disappointment not to reach at least the semifinals. That’s a tough expectation, though, since Tony Mitchell and North Texas presumably await the Wildcats after an opening round game against Lamar. Kansas State would play this “Midwest Championship” at Bramlage Coliseum, but the Mean Green have the best player on the floor and seem primed for a big year after underachieving a bit with its young talent a year ago.
If Kansas State can slip by North Texas, it’s not necessarily an underdog compared to the rest of the PNIT field. At the top of the bracket, Michigan will play the role of the heavy favorite, thanks to that star-laden backcourt and return of Trey Burke. The top-seeded Wolverines could potentially face Pittsburgh in the semifinals, a program looking to rebound from an unprecedented down season on the shoulders of Tray Woodall and notable transfer Trey Zeigler. At the bottom of the bracket, second-seeded Virginia’s defense should be light years ahead of everybody else, but Tony Bennett’s team may struggle to find its offensive identity in November after losing Mike Scott. That could be one heck of a drag-it-out slugfest between KSU and Virginia in the semifinals at the Garden.
So that’s the presumable “Final Four” in the NIT Season Tip-Off: Michigan, Pittsburgh, Kansas State and Virginia. It’d be silly not to mention the rest of the field, however, especially considering this tournament has a precedent of upsets and still uses a traditional elimination format. If you don’t win early, you don’t play at the Garden. Old-fashioned and fair, just the way we like it. The Wildcats probably face the toughest task at any of the campus sites with North Texas, but that’s arguable considering Pittsburgh could either face Lehigh or Robert Morris in the quarterfinals at the Pete, both teams picked to finish near the top of their respective leagues. We’ve seen what Lehigh can do on a major stage, but it’s easy to overlook the 26 games RMU won a year ago with just one senior on the team. Elsewhere in the bracket, there are all sorts of interesting programs, ranging from a perennial winner like Cleveland State to an improving CAA program in Delaware to reigning 20-game winners in Penn and Fairfield.
From a Big 12 perspective, however, this tournament represents Kansas State’s first chance to prove itself on the national scene. It will first need to prove it can handle an NBA forward in Tony Mitchell, and it will then need to prove it can take care of business in the semifinals and finals against elite but beatable competition. If a Michigan/Kansas State final materializes, there’s no reason this team shouldn’t be able to put on a show in New York City.
Players to Watch:
- Trey Burke, Point Guard, Michigan
- Rodney McGruder, Wing, Kansas State
- Joe Harris, Guard, Virginia
- C.J. McCollum, Guard, Lehigh
- Tony Mitchell, North Texas
Championship Prediction: Michigan 67, Kansas State 62