Thursday, November 14, 2013
Can Kansas State get offense going?
By Eamonn Brennan
This could be a long season for Kansas State.
If that seems like too bold a proclamation for Nov. 14, well, I agree. We're just two games in where the Wildcats are concerned, and for as revealing and as important as two games can feel, it is not exactly a sample size on which to base sweeping, dismissive judgments. Things can seem much different in even a week. If you start overreacting to every game this early, you'll have the longest season of all.
With that said, there is some cause for concern, chief among it Kansas State's 60-58 home-opening loss to Northern Colorado.
The Bears were 13-18 in 2012-13. They allowed 1.09 points per possession last season, 305th-best in the country. They lost games last season to UC-Riverside, Southern Utah, Idaho State and Montana State. They returned five starters, which is either a reason to think they're a bit better or proof they are what we thought they were. I'd go with the latter, but it doesn't matter: There is no way to spin a 0.89 points-per-trip performance at home against Northern Colorado positively.
This season was always going to be an uphill battle for Bruce Weber and his staff. The Wildcats were excellent in 2012-13, Weber's first, because much of Frank Martin's talent remained and much of it fit Weber's style perfectly. The Wildcats defended hard, ran good motion offense and bullied the offensive glass (their 2012-13 offensive rebounding percentage: 38.5), and were it not for that pesky, Sweet 16-bound La Salle, they looked capable of making a deep tournament run.
There is little such luxury this season. Star guard Rodney McGruder graduated. Point guard Angel Rodriguez transferred to Miami. New faces dominate, and the offense, K-State's sneaky strength a season ago, has suffered accordingly. Thomas Gipson, KSU's rebound magnet of a forward, was missing Friday; his return should help in the days to come.
Sunday's opponent, Long Beach State, doesn't look like the 25-win team of two years ago either. And Kansas State's offense was slightly better (71 points in 65 possessions) against Oral Roberts on Wednesday. But the 49ers do have as much experience in big-time road nonconference games as any program in the country these days, and if the Wildcats stall out again, it's not hard to envision K-State dropping to 1-2 in three home games. Keep an eye out for the Wildcats.