PSA before the article. I’m going to this game. I’m very excited, since I live in Kansas City and don’t have that many opportunities to see Marquette in person. Life’s tough when you’re one of the 10 Marquette graduates who didn’t settle Wisconsin or Chicago. So if you happen to be going to the game and have any desire to meet a world renowned blogger, my autograph session will start at 5:00 PM outside the gates.
Name: Kansas State University
Location: Manhattan, Kansas
Aw, That’s Cute. They Named Themselves After Something Important. Yes, and that leads into an admission about myself. I grew up in Kansas-
Wait That’s Your Admission? No, you interrupted me.
I grew up in Kansas and thought that the New York borough named Manhattan was named after Manhattan, Kansas and “The Big Apple” was a play on the original name “The Little Apple”. I have no idea why I thought this other than the self-centered nature of the childhood mindset.
What’s The 29th Word In The 10th Paragraph On The School’s Wikipedia Page? Elevate.
Enrollment: 21,719, a giant number to the average Kansan
Fun Fact: Manhattan is the largest town in the Flint Hills.
What Are The Flint Hills? A stretch of mildly interesting hills that stretch from Central Kansas to Northern Oklahoma?
Why Are They Significant? Whenever a group from Eastern Kansas decides to drive to Colorado, the first thought is how mind-numbingly boring the drive will be, since Kansas is almost completely flat with no major cities. There is always one overly optimistic person in that group who will say something along the lines of, “The Flint Hills are pretty, though.” That person sucks.
Okay? Whatever. I’ll just give a fun facts about other things in Kansas. Pizza Hut was formed in Wichita. The geographic center of the contiguous 48 states is in Smith County. We serve cinnamon rolls whenever we have chili for dinner and no one knows why but it tastes good.
Christ alive, Even The Mascots Are Boring. You’re being a real dick about this, you know.
You’re Not Helping Yourself Here. Fine. The campus is nice. There’s a farm on site for the Ag students to learn about cows or some shit (or, I suppose, cow shit, actually) so there’s really good meat and dairy products all around. Their Fake Patty’s Day is also top notch and I’ve had nothing but great memories in Aggieville.
Notable Alumni: Me! Almost. I thought about transferring there freshman year from homesickness. Made the right choice.
There’s also the brother of former president Dwight D Eishenhow, Milton S Eisenhower, Cheers actress Kirstie Alley, Utah Jazz announcer Craig Bolerjack, Breakin’ and Breain’ 2: Electric Boogaloo star Lucinda Dickey, comedian Eddie Griffin, Kansas City Chiefs radio announcer Mitch Holthus, Kansas City Royals broadcaster and play-by-play announcer of the 2004 Marquette-Arizona matchup (don’t ask how I know that) Steve Physioc, Modern Family actor and recent partial owner of the Kansas City Royals Eric Stonestreet, president of Cargill Warren Staley, former governor of Kansas Sam Brownback, father of Tiger Woods Earl Woods, current Oklahoma men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger, Jacob “Fear the Beard” Pullen, Michael Beasley, former NFL quaterback Josh Freeman (I saw him at a bar a couple months ago. It was kinda sad.), and my childhood idol and Short King Darren Sproles.
Last Season: Finished the regular season 25-8, earning a 4 seed in the NCAA tournament which they immediately ruined by losing to UC Irvine by six.
Final 2018-19 KenPom.com Ranking: #20
This Season: 4-2, with the two losses coming in consecutive games in the Fort Myers Tipoff to Pittsburgh and Bradley, which is coached by former Marquette player Brian Wardle.
Current 2019-20 KenPom Ranking: #75
Points: Xavier Sneed, 14.5 ppg
Rebounds: Xavier Sneed, 5.8 rpg
Assists: Cartier Diarra, 6.8 apg
No. Last year’s team should’ve been a title contender instead of a one-dimensional rock fight. Dean Wade could have been one of the best big men the Big 12 has seen since Kevin Durant and he spent 4 years being criminally underutilized. Instead he took a trio of incredibly gifted two-way guards in Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Xavier Sneed and forced them all to compete for who could take the most contested mid-range twos in isolation. His failure to develop that group into a powerhouse is completely masked by their Elite Eight run as an 8 seed in 2018 that wouldn’t have happened without the historic UMBC defeat over Virginia, and they STILL only beat the Retrievers by 7 in the second round.
So What About This Team?
This year is the exact same story but with almost all of those players gone. The Wildcats do boast an incredible defense hell-bent on getting as many live ball turnovers as possible. The problem is that Weber’s lack of offensive gameplan is exacerbated by having one legitimate scoring threat on the team in Xavier Sneed. As a team, they’re not even hitting 1 point per possession in transition opportunities so far, which is about as much of a guaranteed bucket as you can ask for. It’s still their best form of offense, so taking care of the ball will be paramount for the Golden Eagles.
The Wildcats force the majority of their turnovers on the ball handler in pick and roll situations. Their guards do a phenomenal job at staying in front of their man in driving opportunities. If the ball handler commits to driving to the lane and can’t get past his man, the ball is very likely to be heading the other way in a hurry. With the added test of having to face a preseason All American, they will likely hedge hard on Markus Howard with Makol Mawien, who is quick for his size. Howard was able to take advantage of this similar strategy in last year’s contest by drawing fouls on all his drive attempts and scaring the defenders to give him space to shoot. That strategy will likely stay consistent this year.
The roadmap of “hope for fouls” isn’t the most sustainable method of success, especially on the road in college basketball, but it might be the team’s best hope at getting a steady stream of points. It might not matter, though, considering just how bad K-State’s offense is. Points will need to be cherished in the way Kansans cherish the world record for hosting the world’s largest ball of twine. It wouldn’t be completely shocking if neither team hits 50 points with the loser not even reaching 40. If you have Saturday evening plans and are thinking of skipping them to see your favorite team play a tough road non-conference game, I might suggest checking the progress of this one on your phone. Just this once. I’ll be at the Octagon of Doom cheering loud enough in your stead.