NCAA Basketball: South Carolina Upstate at Kansas State

I get it.  With all the excitement of the 11-1 football team, you may not have realized there’s been another game in town.  It’s hard to follow two sports at once1… especially when one of them is a team so special that you wake up in the middle of the night contemplating schemes to maximize the ability of Arthur Brown and company to contain a very good Oregon defense.  But in the midst of all the excitement you’re probably going to flip on ESPN2 on Saturday night and find the Cats in a battle with #14 Gonzaga2.  So just to catch up, here are a few of the story lines you may have missed…

  • Who will be the leader of this team?  Rodney McGruder is the obvious choice.  He’s the most skilled player on the team and will lead the team in scoring this year, but is really the man?  The Big XII recognized him as the player of the week this week, but he didn’t even earn our Hart Man of the Week.  That went to Angel Rodriguez.  Like Denis to Jake in 2010 the leader and glue holding this team together isn’t who outsiders would expect.
  • Will JO stand up and be JO?  Jordan Henriquez has been absent from the starting lineup.  While some players, like Nino Williams, seem to be excelling under Bruce in ways they didn’t under Frank, is Jordan going to be the exception3?
  • Will Bruce shout obscenities on live tv? Ok, this isn’t really drama.  He’s not Frank. He’s coaching, not screaming.  He’s got fire. He’s shown it in practices, and he was even ejected from a game in Brazil.  But don’t expect it to be very apparently.  His fire will be calculated.  While Frank often didn’t seem to have a reason for anything, Bruce won’t do anything without a reason4.
  • Which Will Spradling will play this year? After a freshman season that shocked everyone with how hard he played, and how well he could shoot, his sophomore season left some of that to be desired.  He fought some injuries throughout the year, and by many accounts was just as injured mentally under Frank.  He hasn’t bounced back in quite the way we’d hoped so far this season, but is classic Will just around the corner5?
  • Will we ever be able to shoot? When we get to Seattle on Saturday we’ll be facing a Gonzaga team that ranks 1st in the nation in field goal percentage.  Us?  As I write this we’re sitting at 243rd. You didn’t know there were that many basketball teams, did you6?  As Weber continues to teach the motion offense it’ll get better.  The guys are actually moving the ball well, and getting into position, but the concentration to do so has taken from the ability to make shots.  Expect this to get better7, but we’re just not going to be a pure skill team.  This team was built for something that Weber isn’t coaching.  We’re officially in transition time.
  • Will we beat kU?  That’s the question, isn’t it?  As long as I’ve been a K-Stater, at this point in the season that’s what it seems to be about.  kU is good, but they’re down.  Of course, they were last year too, and made it to the title game. If we stay where we are, then no.  We’re not going to beat anyone good.  But if we keep improving – and Bruce Weber is the type of coach that will keep this team improving – then by the time we play anything’s possible.
  • So what’s that mean for the Big XII / NCAA Tournament? Good news… the Big XII sucks right now.  When’s the last time you saw only 2 teams ranked?  And no others are even receiving votes! Everyone has a lot of room for improvement.  The tourney spots are going to go to the teams that improve between now and the end of conference season.  So does the team with a lot of experience, but under a new coach do that?  Old dogs, and new tricks… we shall see.
  1. It’s not, I’m just trying to make you feel better. []
  2. Remember when this announcement was exciting and not terrifying?  K-State plays 3 good schools in the non-con.  Michigan, Gonzaga, and Florida are all legit Final Four contenders. []
  3. He’s gotten stronger as the year has gone on the last two years. Let’s hope that’s the case again this year. []
  4. All the things that drove us nuts about Frank were also the things we loved about him. It’s certainly funny turning it back around. []
  5. He’s playing pretty damn hard, though. []
  6. There are currently 347 Division 1 basketball programs []
  7. It can’t get much worse []

About The Author

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Mike is a '00 graduate of Kansas State University and holds season tickets for Football and Men's & Women's Basketball. He lives in Kansas City, but stays loyal to his Chicago sports (Bulls & Bears & Hawks & Sox). He's a social media marketer by day and dreams in purple at night.

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