1) Kansas State had a great season, with their lone loss to an unranked team coming against Iowa State. Were fans happy with the season and was it a success?
The ultimate result of the regular season was considered a huge success, especially after the slow start to the season while the players were still learning Bruce Weber’s motion offense and Chris Lowery’s new defensive system. Sure, we would have liked to beat KU at home or in the conference tournament, and the loss at Oklahoma State was disappointing after taking a nine-point lead in the second half, but those are fairly minor quibbles.
In conference play, K-State was consistent enough to avoid a loss to a clearly inferior program, with its only two losses to lower-ranked teams coming on the road against the Cowboys and Cyclones.
2) What kind of style do the Wildcats play?
On offense, K-State runs the motion offense that Weber has previously installed at Southern Illinois and Illinois. The Wildcats are not an uptempo team, averaging only 62.4 possessions during Big 12 play. Only cellar-dwelling TCU was slower. They mostly rely on senior wing Rodney McGruder for scoring. McGruder is a difficult matchup because he can knock down the outside shot (34% 3FG) and he can put the ball on the floor and either hit a midrange jumper or get to the hoop. Shane Southwell is the team’s best shooter from deep, hitting 42.7%.
On a given night, Angel Rodriguez, Martavious Irving and Will Spradling are also deep-shooting threats. K-State does not rely heavily on its post game, but sophomore Thomas Gipson has shown the ability to do some damage against smaller teams. Senior center Jordan Henriquez is inconsistent in the extreme, but has provided some offense on lob passes from Rodriguez this year.
Defensively, K-State’s numbers are not especially impressive. The Wildcats generally play small with the 6’6″ Southwell at PF, which can cause matchup and defensive rebounding issues. The Wildcats defend the three-point arc fairly well, but their posts are prone to foul trouble, particularly against teams with effective threats down low (see, e.g., KU).
3) In 2010, K-State made the Elite Eight, but were bounced in the third round the other times. What kind of team is this?
It’s hard to tell. The numbers say this team doesn’t make it to the second weekend. But this team improved noticeably during and after semester break, which would indicate it was around then that they finally started to understand Weber’s motion offense. As an aside, this was a major change from K-State’s offense under Frank Martin, which was basically a combination of living off offensive rebounds through a chuck-and-chase philosophy and getting to the line by attacking the basket off the dribble. This team is much more dependent on motion to find good looks and then knocking down jump shots.
Back to your question, despite the noticeable improvement, the statistical measures still take into account blowout losses to Michigan and Gonzaga, as well as a string of unimpressive victories over weak competition in November and early December. With the right matchups, this team is probably capable of another run to the Elite Eight. Unfortunately, to get there we’ll likely have to go through Wisconsin and Gonzaga, both of which have the one thing we don’t have an answer for: effective post players.
4) La Salle is made up primarily of quick guards, how is K State constructed?
K-State is mostly guard-oriented, too, but doesn’t possess a ton of quickness. Angel Rodriguez was one of the better point guards in Big 12 play. He’s neither the quickest nor the fastest defender, but he rarely gets beat off the dribble and has good hands. Martavious Irving is our best on-ball defender, and will likely see a lot of playing time against a guard-oriented team.
Will Spradling is a liability in man defense, but helps and rotates pretty well and is generally a decent three-point shooter. Against La Salle, K-State will probably avoid their biggest matchup problem, which occurs when they’re forced to put Southwell on a true post. And with Gipson and Henriquez inside, the Wildcats should have a size advantage that they will try to exploit.
5) Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriquez are clearly the two scorers, who else should La Salle fans be worried about?
Southwell has been the most consistent shooter for this team. If he has a height or quickness advantage against La Salle’s defender, he should be able to get some looks. And K-State should be able to exploit the Explorers’ lack of size by going into Gipson and Henriquez to get some points in the paint, as well as a few offensive rebounds.
Joe Fedorowicz started writing for Philahoops in 2010, covering La Salle. Since then, he has moved to also managing the technical side of the site and led the redesign process that spurted PhilahoopsW and PhilahoopsHigh. An IT specialist in Bala Cynwyd, Fedorowicz also runs a website design company that can be found here.