Is Kansas State the Best Offensive Rebounding Team in the Country?Posted by IRenko on December 10th, 2012
I. Renko is a DC-based correspondent for Rush the Court. You can follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops. He filed this report after Saturday’s game between Kansas State and George Washington.
Kansas State improved to 7-1 on the season on Saturday, in a thrilling 65-62 win over George Washington that was not decided until Dwayne Smith missed a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer. The Wildcats overcame a poor shooting performance, in which they shot 35.7% from the field and 56.3% from the free throw line. So how did they win? The way they’ve been doing it for the past six years: by dominating the offensive glass. “If you told me we were going to hold them to 35% shooting, I thought we could win the game, but the killer was offensive rebounds,” GW head coach Mike Lonergan explained afterwards. “We just gave them too many second chance opportunities.”
The Wildcats set the tone early, scoring their first six points on second chance put-backs by forward Nino Williams. They would go on to rebound almost as many of their misses as George Washington did, posting a remarkable 49% offensive rebounding percentage. In fact, the Wildcats actually had more offensive than defensive rebounds in the game — 24 to 22. As a result, they had 17 more field goal attempts than George Washington, an edge that mitigated their poor shooting. If you keep throwing the ball up, sooner or later it’s gonna go in. And the Wildcats’ rebounding performance was not the result of a weak opponent. In the eight games they played before Saturday, the Colonials had not allowed an opponent to rebound more than a third of their misses.
After the game, first-year head coach Bruce Weber pointed to offensive rebounding as the difference-maker and surmised that his team is “one of the leaders in the country” in that area. Not only are they one of the leaders this season — ranked sixth out of 345 Division I teams — offensive rebounding has become the most distinctive and impressive feature of Kansas State’s program during the course of its half-decade resurgence. Since 2008, Kansas State has been ranked in the top 10 in the country in offensive rebounding every year, the only D-I team to accomplish that feat. Indeed, they’ve never been ranked lower than sixth, and only once during this remarkable run did K-State rebound less than 40 percent of their misses.
Simply put, the Wildcats have been the best, most consistently excellent offensive rebounding team in the country over the past six years. What makes them such a force on the offensive glass? First, as Weber explained after the game, the players he inherited are very good at sealing their man and establishing position: “They’ve learned how to position their body to get inside, especially on the weak side, they do a great job.” Second, rebounding is a team effort. In Saturday’s game, 6’4″ wing Rodney McGruder led the team with six offensive boards. McGruder follows in the footsteps of 6’5″ Dominique Sutton who also had a penchant for attacking the glass from the perimeter.
Third, as Weber explained, “we come at you with a lot of different bigs, four or five bigs, just keep rotating, so you wear people down.” This year’s team, in particular, has tremendous frontcourt depth and size, with five frontcourt players averaging more than 12 minutes per game, each of whom has an offensive rebounding percentage in excess of 10 percent. That includes 6’7″ forward Thomas Gipson and 6’11″ center Jordan Henriquez, who were top 100 offensive rebounders last year, but it also runs the gamut from the stocky Williams (6’5″, 220 lbs.) to the long and lean Adrian Diaz (6’10″, 230 lbs.). Finally, this relentless frontcourt benefits from point guard Angel Rodriguez’ considerable ability to attack the basket. Rodriguez doesn’t always convert on his drives, but even when he misses, he draws so many defenders that he opens the weak side for the Wildcats’ big men to clean up. This happened on numerous occasions against George Washington.
“I’ll tell you one thing,” Weber added, “I’d like to make some shots so we don’t have so many offensive opportunities.” And indeed, as good as they are on the glass, the Wildcats have a long way to go on offense, as their effective field goal percentage for the year is just 43.9 percent — 292nd in Division I. But in the meantime, Weber and the Kansas State faithful can rest assured that even on weak shooting nights, the Wildcats’ prowess on the offensive glass will keep them in the game.