Know Your Vengeance, Part II: Kansas State Wildcats

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I'm going to miss previewing Kansas State. There might not be another team in the country with as strong an identity as Frank Martin's Wildcats. They turn the ball over like crazy, they foul like crazy, they can't hit free throws, they are incredibly streaky (good and bad) from the floor, and despite playing at a reasonably high pace, they don't actually score very much -- in only one of their six wins since the first Missouri game have they scored more than 69 points. Their possessions don't start until they've missed their first shot, and if they need a bucket, they don't necessarily know who to go to with the ball. BUT...

...they are incredible on the offensive glass, they draw fouls like crazy, they force even more turnovers than they commit, and they use their fantastic length to disrupt every shot you take. Looking at the nine primary categories (actually, 18 considering offense and defense) on Ken Pomeroy's team profiles -- Eff. FG%, Turnover %, Off. Reb. %, FTA/FGA, 3PT%, 2PT%, FT%, Block % and Steal % -- KSU ranks better than 50th in seven and 195th or worse in seven. Their strengths are wonderfully strong, and their weaknesses are woefully weak. And if you're going to beat them, as they say, you better pack a lunch.

Kansas State Wildcats (18-8)
Since Last Time


KSU
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
65.2
Points Per Minute
1.68
1.59
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.03
0.97
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.21
1.31
2-PT FG% 46.6%
45.9%
3-PT FG% 31.9%
33.5%
FT% 67.6%
74.5%
True Shooting % 51.5%
53.9%




KSU Opp.
Assists/Gm 13.3
11.5
Steals/Gm 5.9
8.2
Turnovers/Gm 15.5
16.5
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.24
1.19




KSU Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 12.5
10.9
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 15.0
9.5
Difference +2.5
-1.4

All of these strengths and weaknesses end up in a bit of a wash of a box score. Their BCI cancels out with their opponents', as do their shooting numbers. In the end, their games are determined by a) who gets hot from the field for the longer period of time, and b) whether KSU's opponent can compete on the glass. At Mizzou Arena, Mizzou should be able to win Battle (A) and at least come closer to splitting on Battle (B), but it's not a given.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

KSU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

KSU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 79
61
Push
Effective FG% 198
187
Push
Turnover % 254
58
MU Big
Off. Reb. % 4
134
KSU Big
FTA/FGA 24
11
Push
MU Offense vs KSU Defense Ranks

MU Offense KSU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 1
14
Push
Effective FG% 3
20
Push
Turnover % 5
18
Push
Off. Reb. % 224
201
KSU
FTA/FGA 115
306
MU Big

Where the Wildcats are weakest

I guess this is already well-covered territory, but KSU ranks 254th in Off. TO%, 252nd in Off. Steal%, 274th in Off. FT%, and 227th in Off. 3PT%. Few major conference teams commit more fouls than the Wildcats, and despite their offensive rebounding prowess, they really aren't very good on the defensive glass (pulling a Steve Moore and going for too many blocks, maybe?). Opponents commit a lot of turnovers because of sticky defense, but few are actually steals, meaning few result in actual transition opportunities. Also: they aren't very experienced. Of the ten players in their rotation, three are freshmen and two are sophomores; and perhaps most importantly, primary ball-handler Angel Rodriguez is a freshman.

Where they are best

With KSU, it always starts on the offensive glass. In Frank Martin's five years as KSU head coach, the Wildcats have ranks second, first, sixth, fifth and fourth in the country in Off. Reb. %. They are scrappy and long, and while they will commit plenty of fouls while going for the rebound, they are going to maul you and wear you down in the process.

That isn't KSU's only strength, however. They are 78th in Assists Per Field Goal Made, which suggests that, once they get into a rhythm (as they did when these two teams met last month), they are a pretty strong passing team. But most of their other strengths come on the defensive side of the ball. They rank 34th in both Def. 2PT% and Def. 3PT% and 44th in Block %, and they are in the Top 20 for overall Eff. FG%. They often foul guards, which could be a problem against Missouri, but they will force officials to call a certain type of game and get away with whatever they can.

Also: they are 43rd in Bench Minutes and 70th in Effective Height, two categories in which Mizzou obviously struggles.

KSU's Season Since Last Time

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    No. 8 Missouri, 75-59
    at No. 16 Baylor, 57-56
    No. 26 Texas, 84-80
    at No. 91 Oklahoma State, 66-58
    No. 111 Texas A&M, 64-53
    No. 241 Texas Tech, 65-46
    at No. 241 Texas Tech, 69-47
  • Losses
    No. 4 Kansas, 53-59
    No. 16 Baylor, 73-75
    at No. 26 Texas, 64-75
    at No. 34 Iowa State, 70-72
    No. 109 Oklahoma, 60-63
    at No. 109 Oklahoma, 73-82

For most of Big 12 play, KSU's toughest opponent has been itself. They are 2-2 versus Top 25 teams, 1-2 versus teams ranked 26-50, and 2-2 versus teams ranked 51-115. If they can find their offensive rhythm, they are a stout, stout team. But they just don't sometimes. They fell apart offensively versus both Texas (they blew a solid lead) and Kansas (their defense kept them in the game, and their offense could never score when it had to); you just never know who is going to be on for KSU, if anybody. They are probably going to be a 7-11 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and I would say they have just about equal odds of either bowing out in the Round of 64 or knocking off a high seed in the Round of 32.

KSU Player Stats Since Last Time

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Rodney McGruder (6'4, 205, Jr.)
17.1
0.51
33.5 MPG, 16.3 PPG (47% 2PT, 40% 3PT, 83% FT), 5.5 RPG (2.5 OFF), 1.4 APG, 1.8 TOPG
Jamar Samuels (6'7, 230, Sr.)
8.6
0.34
25.2 MPG, 8.5 PPG (42% 2PT, 35% 3PT, 66% FT), 5.8 RPG (2.9 OFF), 1.2 APG, 2.2 TOPG, 3.8 PFPG
Will Spradling (6'2, 180, So.)
7.0
0.22
32.2 MPG, 9.1 PPG (31% 2PT, 27% 3PT, 85% FT), 2.5 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.5 TOPG, 3.0 PFPG
Angel Rodriguez (5'11, 180, Fr.)
6.5
0.30
21.9 MPG, 8.7 PPG (48% 2PT, 29% 3PT), 3.4 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 3.3 TOPG, 3.0 PFPG
Thomas Gipson (6'7, 275, Fr.)
6.4
0.42
15.3 MPG, 6.2 PPG (59% 2PT, 59% FT), 3.8 RPG (1.6 OFF), 1.2 TOPG, 2.5 PFPG
Jordan Henriquez (6'11, 250, Jr.)
5.3
0.33
15.9 MPG, 4.5 PPG (47% 2PT, 56% FT), 3.7 RPG (1.1 OFF), 1.7 BPG, 1.0 TOPG
Martavious Irving (6'1, 210, Jr.)
5.2
0.29
17.7 MPG, 5.2 PPG (49% 2PT, 47% 3PT, 82% FT), 1.8 RPG, 1.2 APG
Adrian Diaz (6'10, 225, Fr.)
4.3
0.29
15.0 MPG, 4.3 PPG (50% 2PT, 41% FT), 3.9 RPG (2.5 OFF), 1.4 TOPG
Shane Southwell (6'6, 210, So.)
2.9
0.19
15.5 MPG, 2.8 PPG (42% 2PT, 15% 3PT), 1.8 APG, 1.4 RPG, 1.2 TOPG
Victor Ojeleye (6'6, 225, Sr.)
1.2
0.13
9.4 MPG, 1.6 PPG (50% 2PT), 2.4 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.

  • Highest Usage%: Rodriguez (27%), McGruder (25%), Samuels (21%), Gipson (21%)
  • Highest Floor%: Gipson (43%), Irving (40%), McGruder (39%), Rodriguez (35%)
  • Highest %Pass: Southwell (69%), Rodriguez (59%), Spradling (53%), Irving (53%)
  • Highest %Shoot: McGruder (50%), Henriquez (38%), Samuels (36%), Gipson (35%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Henriquez (21%), Gipson (20%), Diaz (20%), Samuels (15%)
  • Highest %T/O: Diaz (13%), Samuels (11%), Gipson (11%), Henriquez (11%)
  • In terms of overall box score contribution, this has become a one-man team. Rodney McGruder has been outstanding in conference play, averaging more from an AdjGS perspective than the No. 2 and No. 3 players combined. Of KSU's primary 3-point shooters, he is the only one making over 30%. He presents an interesting matchup with Mizzou, especially if Matt Pressey is still limited from his rolled ankle. He had fallen into a bit of a slump -- 9.8 PPG on 32% shooting over five games -- but he looked great against Baylor: 15 points on 6-11 shooting, 3-6 on 3-pointers.
  • McGruder is the scorer, but KSU's offensive possessions are mostly dictated by Rodriguez, for better or worse. His Usage Rate (i.e. the number of possessions he decides) is off the charts, in part because of turnovers. He has averaged 9.4 FG attempts per game over the last seven games, however, and the results have been, to say the least, sporadic. He scored a combined 30 points on 13-for-25 shooting against Texas and Baylor, and he scored a combined seven points on 2-for-14 shooting against Texas Tech and Kansas. He had five assists and one turnover against Iowa State, and he had a combined 11 assists and 23 turnovers in the last five games. He is a freshman, and as one would expect, that leads to quite the standard deviation. It should be mentioned, though, that he has actually been quite stellar on the road. In KSU's last five conference road games, here is his stat line: 24.6 MPG, 12.0 PPG (55% 2PT, 40% 3PT, 59% FT), 4.0 APG, 3.4 RPG, 2.0 SPG. He has also averaged 3.4 fouls and 3.4 turnovers, but he still hasn't really shown himself to be cowed in road environments. That bodes well for KSU's future.
  • Just as sporadic as Rodriguez's contributions: those of Jordan Henriquez. He landed in Frank Martin's dog house and was suspended for a game a month ago, and in the six games surrounding the suspension, he averaged just 8.3 minutes, 2.0 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. In his last four games, however, he has averaged 22.0 minutes, 4.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. He was fantastic against Baylor: 25 minutes, nine points, seven rebounds and three blocks. He is still horrid from the free throw line, and his offensive game consists mostly of putbacks, but when he is focused, he is exactly the type of player who can do damage to Mizzou's thin front court. He proved this the last time these teams played with 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.

Keys to the Game

  1. The Glass. Obviously. Against K-State, the glass is always the No. 1 key to the game. If you can either neutralize KSU on the offensive glass or punish them for their own lapses on the defensive glass, you have gone a long way toward negating their biggest advantage. Easier said than done, of course.

  2. Keep It Up On The Perimeter. KSU is not an amazing 3-point shooting team, but they are streaky. If guys like Will Spradling or Rodriguez knock down a couple of open looks early, they could keep it up. Meanwhile, Mizzou has played fantastic perimeter defense over the last three games -- Baylor shot 24% on 3-pointers, Oklahoma State shot 29% over the first 32 minutes (before Keiton Page got hot against the backups), and Texas A&M shot 29%. One of Missouri's biggest weaknesses has become a recent strength, and if KSU turns into Bad KSU from long range, their odds of scoring enough points to win are minimal.

  3. Attack. KSU fouls more than almost any major conference team in the country; meanwhile, they defend the 3-point line pretty well. It would not behoove Missouri to settle for jumpers. With the way Mizzou shoots free throws -- Marcus Denmon is making 89.8% of his freebies, Mike Dixon 89.2%, Phil Pressey 77.2%, Kim English 73.7% -- and the way KSU's guards tend to commit fouls (Spradling and Rodriguez combine to average 6.0 fouls per game), it would make sense for Missouri to attack and drive as much as possible, even if it results in some blocked shots.

Prediction

Ken Pomeroy's projections say Mizzou wins, 75-66, and every time I disagree with the projections, they are almost dead-on correct. As I've said before, though, Mizzou doesn't tend to win many home games by 5-10 points -- if it's nine points, it's just as likely to be 12-13. So we'll go with something in the neighborhood of Mizzou 72, Kansas State 60.

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