But despair not Cyclone fans. It could be worse. We could have been ranked #3 in the country to start the season and overwhelming favorites to win the Big 12, but failed to live up to the hype and played inconsistent basketball, which included a stint where our two best players served embarrassing suspensions and our only McDonald’s All-American decided to quit the team. Oh yeah, we could also have a demonstrative jackass losing his shit on the sidelines for 40 minutes every night as well.
Enter in Kansas State, a team that has been a colossal letdown and one season removed from an Elite Eight appearance, is in jeopardy of missing out on the tournament altogether (Jacob Pullen might want to reconsider his stance on playing in the NIT).
About Kansas State
EMAW is what the folks in Manhattan, Kansas say (Every Man A Wildcat), but up to this point in the season, a more appropriate moniker might be AAOTWM? (Are Any Of These Wildcats Men). The leadership of senior stars Pullen and Curtis Kelly has been called into question more than once during this rocky season, but it has been the lack of a dynamic point guard that has been the Wildcats’ biggest concern. In the absence of Denis Clemente, who was deported…err…graduated, Frank Martin’s team not only lost a floor general, but lost its greatest on court leader. Pullen is still averaging 18 points a game, but is only shooting 32.6% from 3PT range and 41% overall, as he’s not getting the same looks he got a season ago. Kelly has also suffered. Coming off a strong junior season and near dominant play during that Elite Eight run, much was expected from Kelly. His numbers have dipped to 10.1 PPG (11.5 last year) and 4.9 REB (6.2 last year). In the effort to offset the loss of Clemente, the point guard play has improved of late with the emergence of freshman Will Spradling, but that’s like having Bill Snyder retire and putting your team in the hands of Ron Prince.
Impact Player: Kansas State
Pullen and Kelly are the obvious focal points, but sophomore G Rodney McGruder is putting together a quietly solid season. McGruder is second on the team in scoring (11.3) and at 6’4", is leading the Wildcats in rebounding (6.5). McGruder is a versatile scorer that is athletic enough to finish in the paint, but is also K-State’s most consistent 3PT threat (40.8%). He’s also a tough defender that will likely draw the assignment of shutting down ISU’s 3PT assassin, Scott Christopherson.
Keys to Victory
Control the glass: K-State attacks the boards very well and in games they’ve won this season, have had plenty of second chance opportunities.
Start hot: ISU has been spotting opponents double digit leads right out of the gate in each of its past four contests. The Cyclones have come out with some intensity and control the game
Sack up: ISU has conceivably given away 3-4 great opportunities to come away with a win in their eight league games, but this team can’t roll over. There’s pride on the line and post season play is still a possibility.
Impact Player: Iowa State
The whole team needs to step up, coaching staff included. If ISU is going to win another league game, it’s going to take a complete program effort.
-> ISU did battle KSU tough last season, earning a split. The Cyclones lost to #10 K-State 79-75 in Ames on February 6, 2010, but a month later ISU scored their first victory over a top five team since 2005 when they beat #5 K-State 85-82 on March 6, 2010 in overtime to end regular season play.
-> Scott Christopherson had only made three of his last 18 3PT attempts prior to knocking down 4-8 Tuesday in Boulder.
-> Iowa State hasn’t beaten Kansas State at home since a 72-70 victory on 1/7/2006.
To state the obvious, it would be nice to have Godfrey available. With sophomore F Wally Judge quitting the K-State team, we’ll just call it a wash though. If ISU is going to win this game (spoiler alert: You’ve read this upcoming line in about 10 of these previews), they’re going to have to knock down their shots from outside and play inspired defense. When Iowa State wins, plain and simple, that’s what they do. When one of those areas lacks, Iowa State usually loses. If Jamie Vanderbeken is still feeling the affects of the flu, it could be another long day for the Cyclones. Couple that with the fact that this team has been woefully bad on the defensive end in their last five contests, and things aren’t looking good. K-State gets after it defensively which could spell a cold shooting outing for Iowa State. Like Red talking about Andy getting raped by Boggs and "the sisters" in Shawshank Redemption, I’d like to tell you Iowa State fought the good fight. I’d like to tell you that…
Kansas State 66 Iowa State 58