Big 12 M5: 10.14.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 14th, 2013

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  1. A big part of Iowa State‘s rise under Fred Hoiberg has come from the Cyclones’ ability to trump expectations and get the most out of its talent. After ISU outperformed predictions in the last two seasons, the league’s coaches are done sleeping on them.  Big 12 coaches pegged Iowa State to finish fourth in Thursday’s preseason poll after being tabbed eighth in 2011 and 2012. The Cyclones enter this season hoping to do something they haven’t done since 1997: make the NCAA Tournament for a third straight time. With the transfers that made up the core of Hoiberg’s teams the last two seasons now graduated, the vast majority of ISU’s roster will consist of players “The Mayor” recruited out of high school. Fourth place in the conference is definitely a reasonable goal for Iowa State this season, and it’s not difficult to see them finishing ahead of preseason third-place pick Baylor if things break just right.
  2. Yahoo! Sports‘ Jeff Eisenberg compiled a list of 10 freshmen capable of making big impacts in 2013-14 and you’ll never guess which Kansas newcomer topped the list (OK, you probably will). It’s worth noting that no other Big 12 freshman cracked Eisenberg’s rankings, but we like to think of that as a testament to just how good the freshman class is nationwide. Still, just because they didn’t make the list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on other young Big 12 rising talents like Joel EmbiidAllerik FreemanElijah Macon, Wayne Selden and Ishmail Wainwright. Still, Andrew Wiggins is the gem of the league’s incoming class and is just another reason why we can’t wait for the opening tip.
  3. It was announced late last week that two Big 12 teams, Kansas and Kansas State, will hold open scrimmages for their fans. The Jayhawks will open the Allen Fieldhouse doors this Saturday, giving fans who were shut out of “Late Night In The Phog” earlier this month a second chance to see the 2013-14 squad. Kansas State, which didn’t hold a late night event of its own, will also host an open scrimmage on Saturday. The Wildcats aren’t quite looking at a full-on rebuild, but losing Angel Rodriguez, Jordan Henriquez and Rodney McGruder will hurt the defending co-Big 12 champions. Still, with the official start of practice coming earlier this season, the wait until the first regular season games lengthens so public practices are a great opportunity for teams to inject some extra anticipation into their devoted fan bases.
  4. If all goes according to plan this season for Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Travis Ford (and even if it doesn’t), Oklahoma State will need to rebuild in a hurry to stay in the conversation atop the Big 12 moving forward. The Cowboys took one step toward that goal on Saturday when they received a verbal commitment from recruit Mitch Solomon, a 6’9″ power forward who is considered the best 2014 prospect in Oklahoma. Solomon, along with shooting guard commitment Jared Terrell, gives the Cowboys a very solid foundation from which to reload. In 2014, we’d expect Le’Bryan Nash, Michael Cobbins and Phil Forte to be the leaders, allowing the incoming freshmen to be eased into supporting roles and gradually move up from there.
  5. Late last week, UNLV announced that it will partner with Kansas for a home-and-home series beginning in Lawrence in the 2014-15 season, with a return trip to Las Vegas planned for the 2016-17 campaign. Neither Dave Rice nor Bill Self have ever been shy about assembling tough non-conference schedules, so while we aren’t too surprised at this development, we’re nevertheless thrilled to pencil in a pair of must-watch games for the future. The Runnin’ Rebels have more to gain from ambitious scheduling than the Jayhawks due to the difference in competition their respective leagues provide, although Kansas will benefit as well. It’s also worth noting that a trip to Las Vegas gives the Jayhawk coaching staff a convenient opportunity to check out some of the recruits at nearby Findlay Prep, which churns out blue-chip prospects on an annual basis. We’re still waiting on the announcement of that annual Kansas-Missouri series, by the way…
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Assessing the Season: Kansas State Wildcats

Posted by dnspewak on March 28th, 2013

As the season winds down and the Big 12 teams continue to find themselves eliminated from the postseason, we’re taking a look back at the 2012-13 campaign on a team-by-team basis. Next up: Kansas State. 

Final Record: 27-8 (14-4)

The Expectations: Frank Martin’s bizarre decision to take a job at South Carolina left the Wildcats searching for a suitable replacement. They settled on former Illinois coach Bruce Weber, who’d just been fired in Champaign. He was an intriguing coach because of his success at Southern Illinois and, of course, that Final Four run at Illinois and subsequent NCAA Tournament berths, but his tenure with the Fighting Illini ended on bad terms. In a way, though, he seemed like a perfect fit for Kansas State because of his similar intensity to Martin. He doesn’t appear as mentally insane on the sideline, but he’s a fiery defensive teacher and it was clear that the transition wouldn’t be difficult on that end. Once several Kansas State players announced they’d stay and play for Weber, it looked like he had a nice roster that could compete. Rodney McGruder was primed for a big senior year. There was a lot of size, a number of good guards and a rising star in Angel Rodriguez. If Kansas State could learn Weber’s patented motion offense and stick with the same defensive intensity it had under Martin, maybe Weber could win a lot of games. But there was no guarantee.

Bruce Weber Had a Nice First Season (photo credit: Getty Images).

Bruce Weber Had a Nice First Season (photo credit: Getty Images).

The Actual Result: The best-case scenario occurred in Manhattan. During the first two months of the season, KSU stayed in the background by beating up on bad teams and failing to win neutral-site games against Michigan and Gonzaga (in Seattle). Nobody knew what to think of the Wildcats — that is, until they beat Florida in Kansas City. Game on. From there, Weber’s team took off. There were some initial growing pains offensively, but from a defensive and rebounding standpoint, there were few teams better in America. Kansas State lost only six games during the regular season, four of which (Kansas twice, Michigan and Gonzaga) came against teams who’d been ranked No. 1 at some point this season. The other two came against Oklahoma State and Iowa State, both of whom wound up in the NCAA Tournament as well. Kansas State technically shared the Big 12 title, but it lost both regular season games to the Jayhawks and then fell to them again in the Big 12 title game. Nobody can take that shared title away from the Wildcats, though, and the 14-4 record is proof they had a really, really good season. But Weber even admitted after the Big 12 Tournament that beating Kansas is the next logical step. The La Salle mishap in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament last Friday will overshadow this team’s many accomplishments, but there shouldn’t be many complaints. It’s just difficult to see the winningest senior class in Kansas State history fall flat like that.

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Rushed Reactions: #12 La Salle 63, #4 Kansas State 61

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 22nd, 2013

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Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #4 Kansas State and #12 La Salle in Kansas City. 

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Explorers hang on after furious Kansas State comeback. La Salle hit their first three-pointer to start the game and used a balanced attack to race out to a 15-4 lead six minutes into the game. Kansas State’s offense eventually got out of neutral, but the Explorers had an answer seemingly every time and went into the locker room with a 44-26 lead. So what changed at the break?  After an ineffective first half, Thomas Gipson was pulled out of the lineup and replaced with Jordan Henriquez, a more active big man than the bulkier Gipson. Henriquez made an instant impact, collecting offensive rebounds, freeing Rodney McGruder and Shane Southwell with screens and going up strong whenever he had the ball close to the hoop. On defense, he was just as controlling, swatting shots and forcing La Salle to change angles mid-drive, and the Wildcats erased the Explorers’ 18-point lead in 13 minutes. The Wildcats led late in the game until … 

    Jerrell Wright did a little bit of everything for La Salle Friday afternoon. (AP)

    Jerrell Wright did a little bit of everything for La Salle Friday afternoon. (AP)

  2. The Wildcats unraveled in the final thirty seconds. While going up for a rebound, Henriquez committed a tough but decisive foul, going over Jerrell Wright’s back. Wright calmly buried both free throw attempts in front of a hostile backdrop to retake the lead, and Henriquez missed a close look on the next possession. After fouling again, Wright hit one of two free throws to give Kansas State one last shot. La Salle forced Angel Rodriguez to drive awkwardly along the baseline and missed the close look, though Weber tried to call timeout.
  3. Contrary to the halftime deficit, Kansas State showed signs of life late in the first half. The Wildcats had a disappointing first half, but Weber’s team did score 15 points in the final 7:30 in the first half, led by Shane Southwell’s sharp outside shooting. Getting stops was the issue, as Ramon Galloway, Sam Mills and Jerrell Wright kept answering. Fortunately, that late offensive efficiency carried the wave in the second half, but to say that a comeback came out of nowhere would be to lose sight of the fact that it could have easily been a much steeper mountain to climb for Kansas State.

Star of the Game: Jerrell Wright – 21 points, 6-of-6 FG, 9-0f-10 FT, eight rebounds, zero turnovers. Wright gave Kansas State’s defense headaches throughout the first half, playing a vital important in the Explorers’ hot start. Though Wright isn’t immune to criticism in dissecting the Wildcats’ comeback, he’s also deserving of plenty of credit for hitting three crucial free throws in a hostile environment to propel La Salle to a third game later this weekend. Credit also goes to Jordan Henriquez, whose double-double in the losing effort gave Kansas State every chance it needed.

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Big 12 M5: President’s Day Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 18th, 2013

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  1. Bedlam is back! For the first time since Blake Griffin and James Anderson took the floor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State was must-see television over the weekend. Not only are we headed for a photo finish for the Big 12 title, the conference Player of the Year race will be just as interesting. As usual, Marcus Smart did Marcus Smart things Saturday afternoon, scoring a career-high 28 points to go along with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. The Cowboys are playing their best basketball at the right time. Also, how big will Wednesday’s game vs. Kansas be?
  2. Kansas State got its fifth win in the last six games with a blowout win over Baylor on Saturday. Sure the usual suspects did their job for the Wildcats but it was a seven-foot senior who had his best game of the season. Jordan Henriquez posted 10 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked five shots but it isn’t his first time lighting up the Bears inside. In last year’s Big 12 Tournament, the big Wildcat dropped 22 points, 14 rebounds and blocked four more shots in a loss. K-State still has to make a return trip to Waco in two weeks so I’d count on Henriquez to make an impact if they were to win that one.
  3. So the first game back for Myck Kabongo and he helps Texas to a come-from-behind, double-overtime win against Iowa State. How was he against Kansas? How about 2-of-10 shooting, zero assists, three turnovers and a 26-point loss. But it wasn’t entirely his fault. Both teams turned the ball over 14 times plus Kansas only held a three-rebound edge on the glass. The problem is that Texas only made 12 shots for entire game including 19 missed three-pointers. Forward Ioannis Papapetrou summed it up best after the game: “It is just different playing at home.” You’re telling me.
  4. Despite everything that’s happened, West Virginia finds itself at 6-6 in Big 12 play. Of course I’ll point out that their six wins have come via season sweeps of Texas, Texas Tech and TCU, but even that is a surprise because WVU is not a good basketball team. The Mountaineers’ final third of conference play will come against teams that are firmly in the NCAA Tournament conversation or fighting for their Tournament lives. What if they had the audacity to run the table and win a game or two in the Big 12 Tournament? It likely won’t happen but it would make for some compelling TV on Selection Sunday.
  5. February has become the month of the Harlem Shake and the Kansas basketball team has released its own version of the viral video. (For the record, the dance featured in the video is not the actual Harlem Shake dance. The real dance was conceptualized in the early 1980s.) The video features a cameo from the very serious Bill Self but I’ll venture to say his appearance has nothing on Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.
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Rushed Reactions: Kansas State 67, #8 Florida 61

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 22nd, 2012

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Brian Goodman is an RTC editor. He filed this report from the Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic in Kansas City, where Kansas State held off Florida for an important non-conference win.

Five Key Takeaways.

  • Kansas State Scores Crucial Non-Conference Win: Nabbing an important non-conference victory on Saturday was important for Kansas State, which came up short against Michigan and Gonzaga earlier this season. As time passed, Saturday’s game became even more crucial for the Wildcats’ Tournament resume as the Big 12 has revealed itself to be lacking in marquee competition beyond the top tier. Though the calendar hasn’t yet turned to 2013, Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber acknowledged the dwindling number of opportunities his team had as a significant part of his team’s preparation. Saturday’s outcome may be for naught if the Wildcats struggle in league play as the team continues to embrace Weber’s system and evolve, but credit is due to Kansas State in the moment for capitalizing on the opportunity and realizing the impact tonight’s game could have come Selection Sunday.
k-state florida

K-State Got a Huge Win Over Florida Tonight

  • Wildcats, Led By Henriquez, Dominate On Defense: The main discussion point entering Saturday’s game was how Kansas State’s stout defense would fare against the versatile, potent Florida attack. The Wildcats’ muscle turned out to be the difference in KSU’s victory, with forward Jordan Henriquez swatting five shots and altering several others in 18 terrific minutes off the bench. Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling hassled the Gators’ three-point shooters into a season-worst 26.3% performance beyond the arc, accentuated by Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton’s combined 1-of-9 mark from deep. The Gators clawed back from a double-digit halftime deficit, but made just two shots over an eight-minute stretch, buying time for Kansas State to climb ahead for good. Patric Young’s double-double (19 points and 10 rebounds) may look good on a stat sheet, but it would be remiss to not acknowledge that a handful of Young’s points came after the game had been decided and Kansas State focused its defensive effort on the perimeter to prevent a late comeback. Read the rest of this entry »
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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.”

Kansas State Has Been The Most Consistently Outstanding Offensive Rebounding Team in the Country For The Past Six Years (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

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.

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Big 12 Team Preview #4: Kansas State Wildcats

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 9th, 2012

This week, we’re bringing you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Kansas State at the #4 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 22-11, 10-8
  • Key contributors lost: Jamar Samuels
  • Head coach: Bruce Weber, 1st season
  • Projected finish: 4th

Bruce Weber is an amazing example of a coach falling up. (AP)

Let’s remind ourselves how we got to this point.

March 8: Illinois loses its final game of the season, a 64-61 loss to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini finished the year 17-15 after starting off 15-3. By this time, Bruce Weber’s postgame press conferences were depressing to watch and listen to. He put everything in his job and even his opponents knew that, but you could sense his time in Champaign was coming to a close. The next day, Weber was relieved of his duties as head basketball coach of the University of Illinois. Fast forward to the 17th, amidst the madness of March, Kansas State lost in the third round to one-seeded Syracuse 75-59. They were without Jamar Samuels that day because he accepted an inpermissible benefit. Because their season was over, they were down but since they had a lot coming back next season, it wasn’t that bad.

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Big 12 M5: 10.29.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 29th, 2012

  1. Looks like Fred Hoiberg’s not finished taking Division I transfers. Former USC point guard Mo Jones announced this weekend that he will transfer to Iowa State, and he’ll gain eligibility next fall after sitting out 2012-13. Jones had no choice but to leave the Trojans after the school found him academically ineligible and coach Kevin O’Neill dismissed him from the team. He could have improved his grades and then re-applied to the university, but he’ll instead make a major impact in Ames with his superb defensive skills and quickness. Jones, who led an atrocious USC team in scoring a year ago, took almost all of his team’s shots and had to do it all with little to no help. He’s still a very effective point guard, though, and he played an important role on the Trojans’ NCAA Tournament team as a freshman in 2010-11. Hoiberg and the Cyclones are lucky to add another transfer of this quality.
  2. Kansas may have a chance to develop its frontcourt depth early in the season now that forward Kevin Young has broken a bone in his hand. Young had surgery and will miss a few weeks, including both exhibitions and the season opener on November 9. Coach Bill Self said that he should be available for the showdown with Michigan State the following week, though. Until then, the injury could mean big minutes for freshman Perry Ellis, as well as an extra chance for Jamari Traylor and others to prove themselves and fight for more playing time down the road.
  3. Jeff Withey may be a block machine for Kansas, but it’s easy to overlook a fellow center just down the road in Manhattan. Jordan Henriquez’s defensive skills are underrated on a Big 12 and national level, but he’s quietly becoming a centerpiece for Kansas State in coach Bruce Weber’s first season. He’s also a writer’s dream, the kind of guy who will say anything to anybody. Weber even calls him the “Mayor of Manhattan,” to which Henriquez objects: “I think there is a mayor of Manhattan, correct, so I don’t want him to think I’m taking his title because I sure don’t want to have the job he does.” Well said, Mr. Henriquez.
  4. Oklahoma State is not an easy team to project this season, and that’s because it’s hard to tell just how good Le’Bryan Nash will be. On a team depleted by injuries and roster losses a year ago, Nash fought through a few difficult stretches but generally improved as the season progressed. Now, as a sophomore, that learning curve won’t be an excuse anymore. With Marcus Smart now taking the pressure off in the backcourt, Nash might be the key to this team’s success in 2012-13.
  5. We’re a little late on this, but it’s too priceless not to mention. When all of the league coaches gathered at Big 12 Media Day, they looked like a collection of white-collar businessmen and lawyers attempting to secure a deal with a corporation or prosecute a criminal in a jury trial. We’re talking fancy suits, hundred-dollar ties, that sort of thing. Except for one guy. See if you can spot who was a little, well, underdressed at Big 12 Media Day.
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The Most Ridiculous Top 100 Player Ranking You’ve Ever Seen: Big 12 Style

Posted by dnspewak on October 17th, 2012

CBS Sports made an ambitious attempt earlier this month at ranking the top 100 players in college basketball, a fun but mostly impossible task good for heated debate and preseason discussion. At the risk of seeming unoriginal, it gave us the bright idea at this microsite to attempt something similar — a top 100 list of Big 12 players, which essentially spans almost every single player on all 10 rosters. Before you proceed, please understand this list is simply for fun. It’s not intended to be taken completely seriously, but it’s supposed to offer a guideline for the talent in this league from top to bottom. Direct all complaints to Danny Spewak (@dspewak), the genius who decided to write this. I’m looking forward to the criticism. 

1.    Pierre Jackson, Baylor (PG): The preseason Big 12 Player of the Year was, inexplicably, not a unanimous choice on the all-conference team, which is almost as bizarre as his coach not starting him until Big 12 play a year ago.

2.    Jeff Withey, Kansas (C): Considered replacing Jeff Withey with FakeJeffWithey at this spot because the latter has more Twitter followers.

3.    Rodney McGruder, Kansas State (G): If he ever finds himself nostalgic for a Frank Martin tirade, at least he’ll have this to look forward to during his senior year.

4.    Myck Kabongo, Texas (PG): Had his family not chosen to mis-spell his first name, he’d probably be number one on the list.

5.    Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State (G): I’ve never seen him play, but I’ve read more than enough sappy articles about his intangibles to know he’s a Smart pick in the top five.

6.    Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State (G): Travis Ford just read the past two selections and had a heart attack.

7.   Isaiah Austin, Baylor (C): Unlike the Kabongos, the Austin family spelled its son’s first name correctly, something Isiah Thomas cannot brag about.

8.   Sam Grooms, Oklahoma (PG): Averaged more assists per game than Pierre Jackson, but since he doesn’t score much, he’s obviously a bad basketball player.

 9.  Aaric Murray, West Virginia (C): It won’t get you cool points to know he’s a good player now because he doesn’t play for La Salle anymore.

10.  Will Clyburn, Iowa State (F): Everybody wants him to be Royce White, but he doesn’t have a Mohawk, so that really won’t work.

Someone Decided The Big 12 Pre-Season POY Wasn’t Good Enough to Be First Team All-Big 12.

11. Rico Gathers, Baylor (F): The mere thought of lifting weights with this guy scares me.

12.  Ben McLemore, Kansas (G): His Rivals.com profile has as many stars (4) as the IKU constellation (I had to Google that).

13.  Jordan Henriquez, Kansas State (C): Averaged about two-and-a-half blocks per game, but he should play with a handicap because of his 7’6’’ wingspan.

14.  Elijah Johnson, Kansas (G): His first name is not mis-spelled, it’s just cool.

15.  Steven Pledger, Oklahoma (G): He scores the basketball.

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Texas Sneaks Into USA Today Poll; Kansas State Nowhere to be Found

Posted by dnspewak on October 17th, 2012

The preseason USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ poll released today slotted Kansas and Baylor at #7 and #18, respectively, unsurprising selections for the presumable top two contenders this season in the Big 12 Conference. We’ve got no argument there. The discussion begins with the final team in the Top 25: Texas. The Longhorns are the third and final Big 12 squad in the rankings, sneaking into the polls in a tie with Florida State’s 61 votes. For as much criticism as Rick Barnes takes for not elevating his program to another level — criticism we’ve actually worked hard to debunk at RTC’s Big 12 microsite time and time again — there’s no doubting his track record, and there’s no doubting an eligible Myck Kabongo could justify a spot in the Top 25. There’s a danger with ranking this Texas team, however. Kabongo’s a stud, sure, but this team is remaking itself after the loss of J’Covan Brown. It will rely almost exclusively on freshmen and sophomores, and it will bank on a big performance from freshman Cameron Ridely, the four-star center who will change the way the Longhorns play in the frontcourt. You’ve also got to remember that this was not a terrific Texas team a year ago, even though you need to credit Barnes for finding a way to qualify for the NCAA Tournament amidst a lot of youth and inconsistent play from Kabongo.

It’s Not a Travesty Texas Made The Top-25, But Where’s Kansas State

This is a good Texas squad. It defends, it has more size than a year ago and it has one of the nation’s fastest and most talented point guards in Kabongo. But we’d actually be more inclined to use that final top 25 spot on Kansas State, which received just 13 votes in today’s poll. That’s somewhat surprising, considering this team actually finished a game above Texas in 2011-12, advanced further in the NCAA Tournament and brings back its stud leading scorer in Rodney McGruder. Bruce Weber’s rocky finish at Illinois is cause for concern, but he’s a proven coach to an extent and seems like a solid replacement for Frank Martin in Manhattan. This team has a significant edge in experience over Texas and it is probably one of the league’s top defensive squads. There’s no Kabongo on this roster, but Will Spradling, Angel Rodriguez and a handful of other guards in this deep backcourt are more than capable. Plus, Jordan Henriquez might be the most underrated defensive center in the nation. “On paper” — and, remember, that term means essentially nothing in sports — Kansas State looks like a better bet in the top 25.

We’re arguing about polls here, though. They are meaningless — interesting, but meaningless. So while Kansas State may seem like a better choice right now, by the time December rolls around, that might not be the case. Another team could emerge, too: No other team besides Kansas, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State or Oklahoma State received votes in this poll. There’s no Iowa State or West Virginia, both of which qualified for the NCAAs a year ago, but that could easily change depending on what happens this winter. The rankings are fluid, and we’ll surely have another debate when the Associated Press releases its preseason poll in the next couple of weeks. Can’t wait!

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Big 12 Summer Update: Kansas State Wildcats

Posted by dnspewak on July 16th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writers Danny Spewak (@dspewak) and Jeremy Pfingsten (@jeremylp21) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — Danny’s update on Kansas State. 

Kansas State Wildcats

2011-12 Record: 22-11, 10-8

Last March, I watched my first Frank Martin practice at the Sprint Center as Kansas State prepared to face Baylor in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. When I arrived in the middle of drills, Martin disappointed me. I wanted to see that nightmarish glare and personality I’d seen on television so many times, but he hadn’t cursed, screamed or even raised his voice yet. That lasted all of about 10 minutes. Almost on queue, Martin lashed out like the madman we all knew and loved, directing his anger not at one particular player but at the entire team in general. It was vintage Frank Martin. This summer, though, all of those returning Wildcats who dealt with Martin’s contentious personality will have a major transition to make. Martin mysteriously and unexpectedly left for a job at South Carolina, leaving KSU’s identity as a rough, tough, aggressive program in shambles. It’s now up to Bruce Weber to continue that culture by implementing his own style of play during the offseason. A highly successful coach at Southern Illinois and during the early part of his tenure at Illinois, Weber’s main challenge is convincing a talented group of returners he’s the right man for the job after his Illini program fell apart under him at the end of his tenure.

Bruce Weber Will Have to Find a New Color For His Tie at Kansas State

Summer Orientation: The most important “Summer Orientation” in Manhattan has to do with Weber and his staff. Shortly after accepting the head coaching job, Weber assembled a familiar crew of assistants. Most notably, he hired Chris Lowery, an old buddy of his from SIU who just lost his job with the Salukis after a downturn in the once-proud program (which Weber helped build). The two coached together at both Illinois and Southern Illinois, but Lowery’s not the only Saluki working on staff this summer. Brad Korn, the director of basketball operations, was a main contributor at forward under both Weber and Matt Painter (who took over in 2003-04) at SIU. And speaking of former players, full-time assistant Chester Frazier started for three years under Weber at Illinois. Weber also hired Alvin Brooks III, who had been working at Sam Houston State, to round out his staff.

Right away, Weber hit the recruiting trail and found Darrell Johnson and Michael Orris. Both have already made their way to campus, according to the Kansas City Star. As late spring signees, neither player is necessarily considered a traditional blue-chip recruit, but they both had several offers from other power-conference schools and immediately establish regional recruiting ties for Weber’s staff. Orris is from Chicago, and Johnson is from St. Louis, two areas Weber and Lowery could continue to hit hard in the future. Orris, a 6’2” point guard, had signed to play with Weber at Illinois before switching his commitment. The 6’8” Johnson, on the other hand, decided to sign at KSU in April.

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Rushed Reaction: #8 Kansas State 70, #9 Southern Miss 64

Posted by JPriz on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Kansas State wins with experience. Kansas State has been here before, and it showed. They didn’t panic when they let Southern Miss back in the game twice. After Jordan Henriquez went to the bench with his fourth foul with more than six minutes left, they slowed it down, got the ball inside, and either scored on close shots or got to the line several possessions in a row. They shot 26-34 from the line, blocked 7 shots, and forced bad shots for Southern Miss at the end.
  2. Batman and Robin came up big. Rodney McGruder had 30 points on 69% from the field as well as 4 steals. Jordan Henriquez came up with 15 points, 9 boards, and 6 blocks to completely stuff the stat sheet today. With him in the game, Southern Miss didn’t have a chance to get the ball inside.
  3. Southern Miss’ bench kept them in the game. It is not often where you can say that your bench outscored your starters, but that was the case today for Southern Miss. Not only did Southern Miss outscore Kansas State’s bench 35-9, but they outscored their own starters 35-29. In the end it wasn’t enough to beat Kansas State, but without their depth, the game would have been a blow out.

Star of the Game. Rodney McGruder, Kansas State. McGruder not only led all scorers today with 30, but he carried Kansas State on his back from start to finish. It is safe to say that he had gotten in foul trouble, or struggled to make shots, that Southern Miss would be advancing, and not Kansas State. It was so obvious how dominant he was, that even the Southern Miss band was calling him the one man show every time he shot  free throws. If the stat line of 11-16 from the field, 2-5 from 3-point, and 6-8 from the line doesn’t read efficiently dominant, I am not sure what does.

Sights and Sounds. Even though the Consol Energy Center is where the Pittsburgh Penguins play hockey, you couldn’t have figured that out today. The Southern Miss band proved to me that not only can college kids play great music, but they can talk trash with the best of them although they may have crossed the line with some of their chants (like the one at Angel Rodriguez, which if true definitely did). The Southern Miss band started doing that during warmups if you can believe it.

What’s Next? Kansas State will take on the winner of Syracuse/UNC Asheville on Saturday. Frank Martin will need to give his guys some kind of pep talk because I wasn’t that impressed with Kansas State today. If someone figures out a way to shut down McGruder, they are in for a world of hurt. Kansas State needs more guys to step up, and they will need to do a more consistent job of playing lock down defense throughout the game, whoever they play.

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