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Four Things That Might Prevent K-State from Winning the Big 12

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Kansas State

With six teams in the top 17 of the Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, the Big 12 is again proving to be the premier college basketball league. Before last night’s loss to Iowa State, K-State was the highest-ranked Big 12 team at number five in the poll. Can you believe it? The team picked to finish dead last in the Big 12 this season rose to number five in the country.

The roster that Jerome Tang put together, led by point guard Marquis Nowell and forward Keyontae Johnson, has been surprisingly impressive this season. Despite the loss to the Cyclones, the Wildcats remain tied for first place (6-2) in the conference standings with Iowa State and Texas. Is a conference championship in the cards for K-State? They have as good of a shot as any of the other contenders, but the upcoming schedule is, in a word, brutal. Here is the remaining conference schedule for the Wildcats:

 
  • January 31st at No. 9 Kansas
  • February 4th vs. No. 10
  • Texas February 7th vs. No. 11 TCU
  • February 11th at Texas Tech
  • February 14th at Oklahoma
  • February 18th vs. No. 12 Iowa State
  • February 21st vs. No. 17 Baylor
  • February 25th at Oklahoma State
  • March 1st vs. Oklahoma
  • March 4th at West Virginia

What sticks out to me about the upcoming gauntlet is that every unranked team on the schedule is a road game. Every home game, sans Oklahoma, is against a team ranked in the top 17 in the country. There aren’t any easy games left. If I had to guess, I see K-State going 2-3 in their remaining road games and 4-1 at home, finishing with a 12-6 conference record. That would solidly put them in the NCAA tournament and likely as a pretty high seed. All things considered, this would be a spectacular first season for Jerome Tang.

If K-State can shore some things up, the conference championship is attainable. This team has room for improvement, and if they want to contend down the stretch, they’ll have to play better. Here are the four main issues that might prevent K-State from winning the Big 12.

 

1.) Free throw shooting

Free throw shooting was an issue last night against Iowa State. The Wildcats were 17 of 25 from the line (68%). Normally, they shoot 77% on free throws. If they would have made a few more free throws in the game, they might have won. Add their 14 turnovers to the mix, and it’s a small miracle that they only lost by four points.

2.) Defense

Another interesting statistic I noticed is that, in conference games, K-State has the top offense in the league (81.9 points per game) and the worst defense (giving up 79.1 points per game.) If K-State can step up and play better defense, it will help them win more games down the stretch. Even though they are giving up a lot of points, they are doing well guarding beyond the arc, with the top “opponent three-point field goal percentage” in the league at 26.5%. Defense inside the arc appears to be the main issue.

 

3.) Rebounding

Rebounding margin is also a problem for K-State. The Wildcats are 9th in the league in rebounding margin at minus three. This statistic means they are getting outrebounded on average by three rebounds per game. Getting forward David N’Guessan healthy and back on the court can only help with the rebounding issues.

4.) Turnovers

Turnovers have been a constant negative theme for K-State this season. They are 8th in the league in turnover margin at minus .88 per game. The Wildcats need to take better care of the ball if they want to stay in contention. Take care of these issues and K-State will likely be conference champions. If not, 12-6 is much more likely.

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