Know Your Unholy Rival: Kansas State

Eight days from now, we could be talking about Mizzou's 3-0 start to conference play ... or we could be talking about Mizzou's 0-3 start to conference play.  It could go either way, as Mizzou starts with a very good team at home, then two decent but beatable teams on the road.  It all begins tomorrow with one of the more intriguing matchups you'll find -- Mike Anderson's flying Tigers versus Frank Martin's physical Wildcats.

KSU: 13-1

KSU Opp
Points Per Minute
2.09 1.69
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.16 0.94
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.44 1.23
2-PT FG% 52.6% 44.5%
3-PT FG% 36.9% 32.9%
FT% 65.0% 71.0%
True Shooting % 57.5% 51.5%
KSU Opp
Assists/Gm 16.4 11.9
Steals/Gm 7.4 7.1
Turnovers/Gm 15.2 17.9
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.56 1.06
KSU Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds 178 178
Offensive Rebounds 219 168
Difference +41 -10


Ken Pomeroy Stats

KSU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks
KSU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 14 8 Push
Effective FG% 46 18 MU
Turnover % 197 1 MU big
Off. Reb. % 4 271 KSU big
FTA/FGA 1 158 KSU big
MU Offense vs KSU Defense Ranks
MU Offense KSU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 35 37 Push
Effective FG% 28 64 MU
Turnover % 62 19 KSU
Off. Reb. % 90 170 MU
FTA/FGA 293 278 Push


So if you count the "big" advantages (which are when there's a rankings difference of 100 or more) as two points and the regular advantages as one (15 spots or less is considered "push"), you've got a 4-3 advantage for KSU when they're on offense and a 2-1 advantage for MU when they're on offense.  Statistically, this could not be a more evenly-matched game.

Oh, and FYI: these two teams play at almost exactly the same pace, so get ready for an up-and-down affair.

Where the Powerkats are weakest

  1. They Foul Too Much.  Clearly, they are an extremely physical team.  That could result in interesting home-road splits for KSU in conference play.  In Manhattan, in front of a raucous crowd, they could physically blitz their opponents.  On the road, they could commit 38 fouls.  They've only played one true road game (against UNLV), and the fouls were even in that one, but we'll see.  They do foul a lot, and it will be interesting to see how Mizzou handles the physicality -- they're one of the worst teams in the country in terms of getting to the line, but KSU might do them some favors.
  2. They Turn the Ball Over Too Much.  The backcourt of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente is one of the scariest backcourts in the country -- they play right on the brink of being out of control, but sometimes they cross the line.  Case in point: last year's two MU-KSU games.  In Manhattan, they committed 9 turnovers but had 7 assists and shot 13-for-22 (59.1%; 6-for-11 from 3-point range) and scored a combined 33 points.  In Columbia, they scored 41 (much of it after MU had gone up 32), but shot only 14-for-31 (45.2%; 6-for-16 from 3-point range ... started 1-for-11), had only 5 assists and 8 turnovers.  They were absolutely terrible while Mizzou built a huge lead, then they almost bombed their way right back into the game.  The common denominator, of course, is that they turned the ball over a ton in both games, as they will likely do again tomorrow.

Where the Fightin' Frank Martins are best

  1. They Get to the Line.  They are ranked #1 in the country in Free Throw Attempts Per Field Goal Attempts, meaning they're fearless and physical, and depending on how the game is called, they could get Mizzou into severe foul trouble, potentially in the frontcourt, where they are deeper than Mizzou.  For the most part, Clemente hangs around on the perimeter (he's taken almost as many 3-pointers as 2-pointers), but Pullen drives a ton, and the interior guys are bangers.  Jamar Samuels, who is barely bigger than Laurence Bowers at 6'7, 215, has taken 84 field goal attempts ... and 89 free throws.  That's insane.  He shoots just 55% from the line, but still.
  2. They Crash the Boards.  They are only an average defensive rebounding team, but they are just about the best offensive rebounding team in the country.  And it's a team-wide thing.  Their top guys grab about as many boards as Laurence Bowers (0.11 offensive boards per minute) and Keith Ramsey (0.10), but while that's pretty much all Mizzou has (nobody else is higher than 0.05), KSU's loaded:

    Curtis Kelly 0.13 offensive boards per minute (at almost exactly the same pace)
    Luis Colon 0.13
    Dominique Sutton 0.11
    Jordan Henriquez 0.09
    Wally Judge 0.09
    Victor Ojeleye 0.09
    Chris Merriewether 0.08
    Jamar Samuels 0.07

    Clearly this is part of the Frank Martin philosophy, and while it could lead to quick breaks for Mizzou if they grab defensive boards (if everybody's flying toward the glass, only Clemente is left going the other way) ... well, how many defensive boards are they going to grab?  It's going to need to be a pretty high percentage.

KSU's Season to Date

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    #33 Xavier (71-56)
    at #52 UNLV (95-80)
    vs #58 Dayton (83-75)
    vs #82 Alabama (87-74)
    #96 Washington State (86-69)
    vs #146 IUPUI (70-57)
    #151 Cleveland State (85-56)
    #169 Loyola-IL (92-54)
    vs #187 Boston U. (80-70)
    #207 UA-Pine Bluff (90-76)
    #271 South Dakota (91-69)
    #307 Western Illinois (82-50)
    Fort Hays State (83-76)
  • Losses
    vs #31 Ole Miss (74-86)

K-State has had a sneaky-tough schedule.  You roll down the list of the opponents, and you really see no "elite" names (except maybe Xavier), but then you realize that they've already played six games against Ken Pomeroy's top 100 (Mizzou has played five), and their best win (against #33 Xavier) is better than Mizzou's best win (against #39 Old Dominion).  They have been tested, and aside from a loss to Ole Miss and a near-disastrous 7-point win over Fort Hays State, they've passed, losing only once and winning only two games by single digits.

KSU Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Jacob Pullen (6'0, 200, Jr.) 18.6 0.65 28.7 MPG, 20.1 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 2.5 TOPG
Curtis Kelly (6'8, 250, Jr.) 13.5 0.56 23.9 MPG, 11.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.6 APG, 2.7 TOPG
Denis Clemente (6'1, 175, Sr.) 12.0 0.37 32.3 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 4.2 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.5 TOPG
Jamar Samuels (6'7, 215, So.) 11.5 0.49 23.4 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 2.4 TOPG
Dominique Sutton (6'5, 210, Jr.) 9.5 0.41 23.3 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.6 TOPG
Rodney McGruder (6'4, 205, Fr.) 5.9 0.52 11.5 MPG, 4.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG
Luis Colon (6'10, 265, Sr.) 4.8 0.35 13.6 MPG, 3.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.2 APG
Jordan Henriquez (7'0, 245, Fr.) 3.6 0.30 11.9 MPG, 3.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.1 BPG
Wally Judge (6'9, 248, Fr.) 3.2 0.24 13.6 MPG, 4.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.1 TOPG
Martavious Irving (6'1, 209, Fr.) 2.9 0.26 11.1 MPG, 3.1 PPG, 1.2 APG
Victor Ojeleye (6'8, 225, So.) 1.1 0.15 7.7 MPG, 1.8 PPG, 1.6 RPG
Nick Russell (6'4, 200, Fr.) 0.8 0.09 8.6 MPG, 1.9 PPG, 1.4 RPG
Chris Merriewether (6'3, 210, Sr.) 0.2 0.02 9.5 MPG, 0.5 PPG, 1.6 RPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls.  It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • You certainly recognize the names at the top.  While this team has some strong depth with Luis Colon's return (he missed the first nine games due to an "off the court" issue) -- they now have 13 guys averaging at least seven minutes per game, though I'm not sure how that's actually possible), they will go as far as Pullen and Clemente will take them.  Strangely, though, Clemente has been distinctly average to above-average this year, while Pullen has exploded.  Thanks to his physical play, Pullen is averaging over 20 PPG by both shooting extremely well (45.8% from 3-point range) and getting to the line an inordinate amount of time for a guard -- 0.54 FTA/FGA.  As means of comparison, J.T. Tiller averages 0.42 FTA/FGA.
  • We've gotten to know Luis Colon over the years -- he's seemingly been at KSU for about 16 years, he's huge, and he would almost definitely be the crazy guy in a fight -- and we've heard a lot about heralded freshman Wally Judge, but the best big man on the team is Curtis Kelly, Frank Martin's star offensive rebounder and a strong shooter (60% from the field, 67% from the line).
  • I've got to say, as much as I've read about Judge this year, I was surprised to see his numbers this low -- he's only averaged 14 MPG, and in comparison to some of KSU's other bigs, he hasn't done just a ton with those minutes.  Not that they've needed much from him.  He does give KSU a whopping four guys at 245 pounds or bigger, which, needless to say, creates a matchup problem for Mizzou.

Keys to the Game

  1. The Zebras.  I hate to say it, but with both teams toeing the line between fouling and not fouling, this game could be decided quite a bit by what the officials determine is or isn't a foul, both on the perimeter and on the inside.  I fear that this could easily turn into one of those 45+ foul games, which would be a shame because it would negate a lot of the speed and flow these two teams could create.  And honestly, I don't know what would help Mizzou more -- a "let them play" style of calls or a more ticky-tack style.  Depends on what they're letting go and where.  Swallowing the whistles in the backcourt could help Mizzou, while doing so on the inside could significantly help KSU as they crash the boards.  We'll see.  I hate that Key #1 isn't directly controlled by either MU or KSU, but I guess it is what it is.  Either way, you have to hope that Mizzou gets a little home-cooking.

  2. Who Gets Hot?  Pullen and Clemente have taken a combined 171 3-pointers this year (impressive, since the team has only taken 255), and if either one of them starts to feel it from long range, look out.  Meanwhile, you could say the exact same thing about Kim English and Marcus Denmon, who have combined for 166 attempts of their own.  Both teams play solid perimeter defense -- Mizzou is 9th in 3PT% allowed, while KSU is a respectable 95th -- but with shooters this crazy (and sometimes unhindered by conscience), you really can't predict in advance who might or might not get hot.  Whoever wins this 2-on-2 game of HORSE garners a significant advantage, though I'll say that Mizzou needs to win it more because they don't rebound as well.  Speaking of...

  3. R-E-B-O-U-N-D.  Both teams play good FG% defense -- Mizzou is 18th, KSU 64th -- so both teams will likely have plenty of offensive rebounding opportunities.  We're in an interesting position here, as both teams' offensive rebounding rankings are higher than the other's defensive rebounding rankings, meaning neither team is great on the defensive glass.  KSU's offensive rebounding advantage is greater than MU's, but they'll probably miss more shots too (then again, they'll probably take fewer shots if they're turning the ball over a lot).  Clearly whoever wins the Expected Offensive Rebounds battle will find themselves at an advantage.

Prediction

If this matchup truly is as even as it looks, then I say home-court advantage makes the difference.  Never bet against a streak, and Mizzou's got the second-longest home winning streak in the country.  Mizzou 81, K-State 76.

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