March 14, 2012

Get to know your bracket: Kansas State

If Syracuse is to get passed UNC-Asheville on Thursday they will play the winner of Kansas State and Southern Mississippi. To take a closer look at Kansas State talked with Publisher Tim Fitzgerald.

When you think of Kansas State one would immediately think of Frank Martin and how successful he has been as a head coach. Besides having a solid coach Fitzgerald talked about the other strengths this squad has.

"This team has a lot of depth, particularly along the front line. Frank Martin's teams are known for being physical and are aggressive on the offensive boards. K-State plays a pressuring style of man-to-man defense that when its good can limit great teams to poor shooting. In a three-game stretch against Kansas, Baylor and Missouri (a two seed, a three and a two), the Wildcats held those teams below 40 percent shooting, winning at both Baylor and Missouri. Of interest to Syracuse fans, is that K-State is usually very good against zone defenses, and is the only team to have consistently forced Baylor out of its zone. In addition, 7-foot center Jordan Henriquez has finally erupted into a low-post defensive presence as a shot blocker."

With strengths comes weaknesses and Kansas States does have a few.

"K-State doesn't rebound defensively as well as Martin would prefer, and its pressure defense can sometimes give up dribble penetration when the defense doesn't properly rotate. This is a fairly young team, particularly in the backcourt. Starting guards sophomore Will Spradling and freshman Angel Rodriguez are both natural point guards, but neither is particularly quick footed
Big 12 play. McGruder has hit 45 percent of his 3-point shots in Big 12 games, McGruder is also one of this team's better defenders."

A lot of teams heading into the Tournament could be on nice win steaks or playing well overall, but for Kansas State it has been up and down and both can be turnover prone."

In order of Kansas State to advance in this tournament and play to their full potential the X-factor will be one player.

"Six-foot-seven senior forward Jamar Samuels (10.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is an enigma, but when he's good, K-State is typically very good. There are few average performances for Samuels, who can be dominant or disappear in any given game."

If Kansas State can get Jamar Samuels going to compliment their top player it could be a nice combo.

"Six-foot-four junior small forward Rodney McGruder (5.3 rpg) averages 15.4 points this season, but has averaged 17.4 points in but is at his best when he puts the ball on the floor and gets into the lane to shoot his trademark floater.

"This team is impossible to predict. They were swept this season by Oklahoma, which finished eighth in the conference. However, they also handed Missouri two of its four losses this season. Further showing the strange nature of this team is that the Wildcats finished 10-8 in Big 12 play, going 5-4 both on the road and at home. They won back-to-back games at Baylor and Missouri, and then came home to lose to Iowa State. More than most any team, this K-State team is about matchups. It can quite literally beat or lose to anyone based on how the two teams fit together."

What will they need to do to have an extended stay in the NCAA Tournament?

"Turnovers are a huge key for this team. K-State is capable of playing with anyone in the country when it isn't turning over the ball, but because of its sometimes shaky guard play, the turnovers tend to be the type that leads to quick, easy points for the opposition. When freshman Rodriguez is good at the point, this team clicks. Also, K-State is still waiting for Spradling to shoot himself out of an extended 3-point funk.

If both Syracuse and Kansas State do advance to play on Saturday what can Syracuse expect?

"K-State, led by McGruder, is capable of shooting the ball extremely well from 3-point range, but also the Wildcats can get inside a zone and score. Both Samuels and Henriquez can score inside, but are capable of extending their jump shots to the outside. This team also needs to play Martin's signature physical defense, and the nature of less more loosely called games in the tournament seems to benefit his teams. However, big physical teams can derail this team."

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