So, it’s the basketball team that was picked above Iowa State by the Big 12 coaches. Plenty of people were surprised at the ranking, but there’s a reason why they’re a team that nobody should sleep on in Bruce Weber’s third season.
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Four seniors have graduated from the program, and two of them are a significant loss. Out goes Shane Southwell and Will Spradling, two senior guards that gave the team a lot of depth at that position and started in 56 games combined — Spradling started in all 33 games.
However, they do return Marcus Foster, Thomas Gipson, and Wesley Iwundu, who all were normal starters. Gipson and Iwundu control the frontcourt and were responsible for the majority of the team’s rebounding. Gipson finished with 202 total rebounds and Iwundu was second on the team with 139. Foster led the team with 15.5 points per game.
What goes is the quarterbacking of the team. While Foster had just as many assists as Southwell (84), Southwell turned the ball over 24 less times (73 to 49). Spradling had an even better ratio with a team-high 95 assists to 34 turnovers.
Looking at the newcomers
Dec 9, 2012; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Maine Black Bears guard Justin Edwards (14) moves the ball past Florida State Seminoles guard Terry Whisnant (31) during the first half of the game at Donald L. Tucker Center. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
The outgoing players are why I’m not as high personally on Kansas State like other people, but they have a bunch of great talent coming in. Stephen Hurt is a JUCO transfer that will make this team tremendously talented inside. Gipson and Iwundu are five inches shorter than Hurt, who towers at an even 7 foot.
During his time at Northwest Florida State College, Hurt averaged 8.2 points and 4.8 points per game. He hit 51.5 percent of his shots (44.4 percent from downtown) and is 80.2 percent from the free throw line.
Other transfers who redshirted last year are Justin Edwards from Maine and Brandon Bolden from Georgetown. Edwards averaged 16.7 points per game (best in the American East) during his sophomore year at Maine. Bolden played in just five minutes during his lone season with Georgetown.
The talented 2014 recruiting class includes 4-star power forward Malek Harris and 3-star shooting guard Tre Harris. Both of them are from Illinois, but aren’t related.
Mar 13, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward Georges Niang (31) shoots as Kansas State Wildcats forward D.J. Johnson (50) defends during the first half in the second round of the Big 12 Conference college basketball tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
After an interesting game at Long Beach State, Kansas State will head to Hawai’i to play in the Maui Invitational, one of college basketball’s prestigious fall tournaments. Other notables on the non-conference slate includes a road game at Tennessee and a neutral site game against former Big 12 foe Texas A&M at Wichita for the Wichita Wildcat Classic.
The toughest part of the Big 12 schedule is from February 7th onward. Three straight games from that date are: Texas at home, at West Virginia, and Oklahoma at home. There’s a breather with a road game at TCU and a home date against Baylor, but then there’s Kansas and Iowa State that will visit Manhattan back-to-back, then the regular season ends at Texas.
Against Iowa State
The Cyclones went 2-1 against KSU last year, but all three were close affairs. ISU won the first meeting in Ames 81-75, but then lost the second meeting in Manhattan, 80-73. Iowa State got the rubber match in the Big 12 tournament, defeating them in the quarterfinal 91-85.
This year, the two scheduled meetings are January 20th in Ames at 6:00 PM Central time on ESPN2. The second meeting in Manhattan is February 28th at a time to be announced later and it will be on either ESPN or ESPN2.
Kansas State could have a really great season, and they could pile on the victories early. The Maui Invitational will give them an early measuring stick to see how they match up with some other good teams in the nation. Outside of road games against Oklahoma and Iowa State, most of January is pretty easy when it comes to the conference schedule layout. From January 31st at Kansas onward, though, it’s brutal with Kansas and Texas twice, at West Virginia, and ISU and OU one more time.
The Wildcats will make the NCAA tournament with ease, but they’ll phase out of Big 12 regular season contention as February rolls on.