Kansas State’s Real Work Begins This Weekend

Posted by Drew Andrews on December 29th, 2016

Kansas State will begin conference play against a reeling Texas team on Friday night in Manhattan, and it’s about time. Head coach Bruce Weber should be commended for getting to the start of Big 12 play with only a one-point loss to Maryland on the Wildcats’ resume, but his team has played the fifth-worst schedule of 351 Division I college basketball teams, according to KenPom. The offenses that Kansas State has faced ranks second-worst in the nation. With the Longhorns coming to Bramlage Coliseum as the only Big 12 offense ranked outside of the top 75 nationally, it is safe to say that the Wildcats’ schedule is about to get much more difficult.

Bruce Weber Doesn't Yet Know What He's Got This Season (USA Today Images)

Bruce Weber Doesn’t Yet Know What He’s Got This Season (USA Today Images)

What has worked for the Wildcats this season is that they have been equally effective on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Ranked 41st and 29th, respectively, in offensive and defensive efficiency, Weber’s team has shot very well from three-point range (38.8% 3FG) and smothered teams inside the arc (38.9% 2FG defense). Given the weak schedule, it’s difficult to know if these statistics are sustainable, but last year’s team by contrast was one of the worst in the country from beyond the arc (30.0% 3FG). The addition of freshman wing Xavier Sneed (38.8% 3FG) and the maturation of sophomores like Kamau Stokes (40.7% 3FG) and Dean Wade (40.7% 3FG) has led to a more balanced offense. No Wildcat shot better than 34 percent from three-point range a season ago; this season, four players have double-figure makes and are shooting above that mark.

On the defensive end of the floor, Kansas State is forcing turnovers and protecting the paint, but how much of that derives from the schedule must be considered. Still, defense has typically been Weber’s calling card as a head coach — the Wildcats have ranked among the top 30 nationally in three of the last five seasons — but it is the offense where his variability lies. Spanning a 15-year KenPom era career at Southern Illinois, Illinois and Kansas State, Weber is six-for-six in NCAA Tournament appearances during years his teams sport a top 50 offense. Because of its weak non-conference schedule, Kansas State currently ranks 70th in the RPI, well outside of normal position for an at-large bid come March. That means that a .500 record in the Big 12 may not be enough this season unless it also includes a win or two against Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia. Given the warm seat that Weber is already sitting on, have six conference games ever meant so much for a coach of an 11-1 team?

Drew Andrews (3 Posts)

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