The Bears welcome the Wildcats of Kansas State to the Ferrell Center this Saturday. The game is a rematch from earlier in the year, one that saw the Bears escape Manhattan, Kansas with a tough win, 75-73. So what have these two teams been up to since then? Well the Bears have went on to beat every team they have played (Outside the top 6, did I forget to mention that???) while the Wildcats have sputtered along quite a bit.
The Wildcats were ranked #18, and just had two losses to West Virgina (who the Bears had beaten) and Kansas a week earlier. Since that 12-2 start, Kansas State is just 5-6 with losses to Baylor, Iowa State, Texas, Kansas again, and twice to Oklahoma (2 of their 3 wins on the year). Needless to say, the Wildcats have not been very steady.
|Rank and Records||K-State||
|Strength of Schedule||#69||#8|
|RPI Top 50||4-6||8-4|
Below the jump, lets take a look back at the first game over a month ago, a look at who the Wildcats are now, the 5 keys to the game, and my prediction!
The First Meeting - January 10th, 2012, Bears win 75-73
Let's rewind the tape at look at the first game the Bears and Wildcats had back in early January:
As you can see, this was a very close game throughout. The Wildcats pushed their lead to 9 and 10 points a few times, but the Bears fought back every time. Tied at 65-65 and 71-71, this game could have easily gone either way. Leading the Bears in this game was Perry Jones III, with a very efficient 17 points and 8 rebounds. The Bears had 4 scorers in double figured for a balanced attack. Pierre Jackson also continued his run as a 6th man of the year candidate with 11 assists and 10 points.
The Wildcats on the other hand were the Rodney McGruder show. He scored 30 points on just 14 shots, and carried the Wildcats for the entire game. He was only one of two players to score in double figures for the Wildcats, and played his best game of the season to that point. The Bears shot well enough as a team to overcome McGruder, held onto the ball, and hung tough enough on the glass.
The Wildcats attacked the basket hard, earning 8 more free throw attempts causing the Bears to get whistled for 10 more fouls. Most Bear fans will remember this game for some interesting calls. Funny enough, there were no free throws for the first 12 minutes of this game. Let's take a look at the Free Throws attempted throughout the first match up.
The big difference in the free throws came in the last 10 minutes of the game. At that point, the Wildcats held just a 10-9 advantage, but over those last ten minutes shot 13 free throws compared to 4 for the Bears (2 of those coming on an intentional foul with 20 seconds left and the Wildcats trailing by 2). Ah the comforts of home and its rewards.
Who are these Wildcats now?
The cats are still led by Rodney McGruder, who is their leading scorer with 14.5 points per game. They also have 2 other players averaging over 10 points per game in Will Spradling and Jamar Samuels. The Wildcats go 8 deep in their rotation all averaging over 17 minutes per game, and only Spradling and McGruder well over 25 minutes per game.
They have dropped to a 7 man rotation the last few games with Martavious Irving falling from an over 20 minute per game guy to just 10 total minutes the last two games. This is a deep and balanced team. They are also one of the taller teams we play in the Big 12, with Jordan Henriquez being a legit 6-11, 250. He is a big center, and played very well against us in the first matchup (5-9, 12 points, 4 rebounds, 27 minutes). He had his most minutes and most points against the Bears. They also play 6-7 Jamar Samuels, who seems to play much bigger.
K-State is always a tough team under their head coach, Frank Martin. He is in his 5th season of leading the Wildcats, and have really made them into a solid defensive team every year. The thing that comes and goes with his teams though is scoring. They are middle of the pack in the Big 12 in scoring, scoring margin, Field Goal Shooting %, and 8th in 3-poing shooting % (just 31%).
5 keys to the Game
1. Make the Wildcats take long shots.
As stated above, the Wildcats are not a very good shooting team, shooting just 41.3% in conference overall and 31% from behind the arc. Their best shooter is Will Spradling shooting just 36.4% on 110 attempts. That is 10 more than Pierre Jackson, yet he has made 4 less.
That is the BEST they have.Rodney McGruder has attempted 97, making just 34%, and Angel Rodriguez has shot 75 on just 30.7% shooting. No one else is over 30% or shot more than 41 attempts.
Needless to say, pack in that zone and make them take more than the 16.6 attempts they have averaged per game in conference. If they shoot 20 or more, I will feel pretty good. This is one of those games where I hope a few early ones go in and they keep jacking them up and missing. I call this the Vince Carter defense. You hope he makes an early jump shot and falls in love.
2. Stay even on the glass
K-State is a league high +5.1 rebounds per game (while the Bears are +3.6). They also lead the Big 12 in offensive rebounds with over 15.23 per game. They miss a lot of shots, but get a ton back on offense. The Bears need to keep Samuels and McGruder off the boards for 2nd chance points. Samuels leads the Big 12 with 3 per game, while McGruder averages 2.54 per game, the best mark by a non power forward or center.
If the Bears can hold the Wildcats to 8-10 offensive rebounds, I will be very happy.
3. Keep those assists flowing
The Bears ball movement was so good against Iowa State, I would feel greedy asking for another 24 assists. But is 20 okay? I feel good about that number for some reason. I don't care who they come from, even though I loved seeing Perry Jones III act as a facilitator from the top of the key and Quincy Miller find people off of post opportunities down low.
4. Active hands
I always like to look at steals as a barometer of activity in a zone defense. The Bears have been up and down in regards to steals. If the Bears can get to 8 steals, that will show a little activity in the zone defense, and also allow the Bears to get some fastbreak points.
5. Bench points
Every team is better when they are getting some production from their bench, and the Bears are no different. With 18 points from their bench against Iowa State (12 from Anthony Jones, 6 from Gary Franklin), the Bears punished the Iowa State reserves. 18 might be a bit high for this game, but if the Bears can get 12, I feel pretty good about a win.
With the Bears two point win in Manhattan already on the board, it is hard to not like the Bears in this game. Kansas State has struggled since that game, especially on the road. The Bears are coming off their best win in conference, and maybe their best overall performance. Bears win 72-62.