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Get to Know a Marquette Basketball Opponent: Kansas State University

Coming off their best win of the season, the Wildcats host Marquette in Manhattan.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Allstate Kickoff Classic - Stanford v Kansas State
K-State’s mascot continues to be terrifyingly weird.
Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Name: Kansas State University

Location: Manhattan, Kansas, aka “The Little Apple”

Are you being funny with “The Little Apple?” Nooope. Go check out the city’s official website which has their official logo in the upper left corner. It’s a red logo and has a little leaf on the top. 100% looks like an apple.

Founded: 1863, shouts to the Morrill Act.

Enrollment: 20,229 this Fall

School Colors: Officially only “Royal Purple,” but athletics adds the generic “white” to the mix.

Why Are You Notifying Us Of This: K-State used to have a campus tradition where if you were a freshman not wearing your beanie cap around campus, the varsity athletes could “paddle” you. This started around 1912 and continued into the 1940s. There is a non-zero chance that World War II Marine Corps vet enrolled after his service was finished and caused the end of this tradition. Anyway, this legalized and sanctioned assault by one student upon another is proudly rebroadcast on the K-State alumni association website. Very cool, K-State alumni.

In More Fun Tradition News: Nichols Gym burned to the ground in 1968, causing the K-State band to lose most of their instruments and sheet music. No, this is fun, where are you going. Anyway, the band director at the time had some sheet music at home for them to play at an upcoming basketball game, and that included Wabash Cannonball. Now it’s a whole thing.

Nickname: Wildcats

Why “Wildcats?” There is a long history of mascots for Kansas State, and it ends with Wildcats but doesn’t even remotely start there. At one point, nicknamed the Aggies, then the Labradors, then football coach John Bender named them the Wildcats in 1915, then renamed the Aggies in 1917, then renamed the Wildcats in 1920 after a Bobcat in the Manhattan Zoo.

The horrifying costumed Mascot named Willie was introduced in 1947, which is and always was essentially just a human person with a cat mascot head-on and the uniform of the participating team.

It isn’t clear if in the lore of “Willie the Wildcat” if “Willie” is supposed to be a Wildcat...or a person dressed as a Wildcat fan but either way. No Bueno.

Potential Alternative Nickname: The “PowerCat” is the modern identity of the design of the Wildcat used in logos and imaging. It’s more menacing than the cartoon-based original Wildcat.

Notable Alumni: Earl Woods, father of PGA legend Tiger Woods; Peter Tsai, Inventor of the N95 mask; Eric Stonestreet best known as Cam on Modern Family; Virgil Miller, academy award winner and special effects pioneer; Frank Marshall Davis, poet, journalist, and newspaper editor; Jerry Wexler, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame producer; actress Kirstie Alley; and Leanne Caret, President & CEO of Boeing.

Last Season: 9-20, 4-14 in the Big 12 thanks to a 3-1 run in their last four games. Their first and last win of the conference schedule came against the Iowa State team that went 0-18.

Final KenPom.com 2020-21 Ranking: #147

Final T-Rank 2020-21 Ranking: #142

This Season: 5-2 and coming off of a really good win over Wichita State, 65-59.

Current KenPom.com Ranking: #62

Current T-Rank Ranking: #84

Returning Stats Leaders

Points: Nijel Pack, 10.0 PPG
Rebounds: Davion Bradford, 4.3 RPG
Assists: Nijel Pack, 3.8 APG

Current Stats Leaders

Points: Nijel Pack, 15.8 PPG
Rebounds: Mark Smith, 7.8 RPG
Assists: Marquis Nowell, 3.1 APG

Bigs? K-State has a fair number of guys who can fill the role of Big in any lineup but isn’t a by-nature a big/heavy team. Kaposi Ezeagu is a 6’10 center who starts but only averages about 16 minutes a night. In those minutes, though, he’s been very effective as the team’s third-leading scorer. Ismael Massoud also starts and, at 6’9, is more of a power forward but plays the five in most lineups. Add in sophomore Davion Bradford, who’s a true 7-footer, and freshman Logan Landers; suddenly, you have a lot of guys who can be a sizable presence.

Massoud is the only one who plays considerable minutes, who plays a hair over 27 a night. In contrast, Ezeagu, Bradford, and Landers all play more role-player minutes. But they do have some depth there.

Shooters? The start and end of the shooting game are based on the guard play from Nijel Pack and Marquis Nowell. Pack averages a trio of 3-pointers made per game and does so very efficiently, shooting 48% from deep this season. Nowell isn’t as efficient but can undoubtedly shoot it with confidence, making a third of his attempts from deep this season to rank as the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer.

From there, K-State has a group of guys who can shoot it but are not focal points to the offense. Ismael Massoud is a classic stretch four who desperately wants to add that deep shot to his game but shoots a hair under 27% from three on 3.7 attempts per game. Luke Kasubke, Mark Smith, Mike McGuirl, and Selton Miguel all have a shooter touch but don’t do so at a high enough volume to be considered “shooters.” Save for maybe Kasubke as 60% of his total shots come from deep with three field-goal attempts per game, so there isn’t really another title to give him beyond bench shooter.

What To Watch For: K-State is very meh at best on offense but they make their name on their defense, especially in defending the “modern” game. They run teams off the perimeter and challenge shots better than anyone. To this point in the season, there really hasn’t been a team better than the Wildcats at defending the three, allowing opponents to shoot just 23.5% from deep; and are 10th best in the country on defense in terms of effective field goal percentage against. They defend shots well, force turnovers at a higher than average rate, and play a slow/methodical style that limits transition baskets.

The only thing they don’t do well on the defensive end is protect at the basket at the rim. KSU is 270th in the nation in block rate and tends to allow a lot of fouls in that zone. Paint touches and finishing are vital to creating offensive output against Bruce Weber’s team.

K-State comes into this game as four-point home favorites and is probably riding high after their first big win of the season (on the road against the Shockers) after losses to Illinois and Arkansas.

After being picked to finish second last in the Big 12, ahead of only the now ranked Iowa State, the Wildcats have played above expectations but only have the one signature win. Their other four wins have come against standard issue buy game competition. They will now look to parlay their success into more above expectations outcomes.

Head Coach: Bruce Weber is now in his 10th season at K-State. He has 488 career wins and 175 of them while with the Wildcats.

All-Time Series: K-State leads 7-5. Marquette has won their last two meetings, winning 73-65 in December 2019 and 83-71 in December 2018.

Hey, what happened in that 2018 game?