Kansas State Wildcats

Is K-State Basketball Actually Improving Under Jerome Tang?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament East Regional-Michigan State vs Kansas State

It has been a disappointing basketball season for the K-State men’s team. They fell to 15-11 overall and 5-8 in the Big 12 conference after a 62-56 loss to the Texas Longhorns on Monday night. The Wildcats have lost seven of their last eight games after starting the conference season with a 4-1 record. This week, I am focusing on the man in charge, Jerome Tang.

Coach Tang has done a great job marketing himself and the program since his arrival in Manhattan a year and a half ago. Taking his team to the Elite 8 in his first year on the job made him a hero to many. Tang is almost always positive and expresses his religious beliefs often. It is honestly quite refreshing in today’s day and age. He is seen as a man of great character and a great leader among the K-State students for his “Hang With Tang” social media segments and his celebrations in the stands after big victories. He is a cult hero to many, but does that make him immune to criticism? From what I have seen on social media, the mob will come after you if you are critical of Tang. Tang has built a strong support system and has been brilliant in doing it, but how long will it continue if the losses continue to pile up?

 

The losses of Nae’Qwan Tomlin (dismissal) and Ques Glover (injury) early in the season have definitely hurt the team. Tang supporters point that out quite often. Tang is not to blame for losing either player, but can and should he be immune to criticism for the team’s lackluster play recently? Let’s be honest. If Bruce Weber was coaching this team right now, the media and fans on social media would be destroying him. And justifiably so. Tang’s supporters also note that help is coming next season when four-star guard David Castillo joins the roster. That is great, but as far as I can tell, he is the only one to commit to the Wildcats for next year. Can one player make that much of a difference in wins and losses? K-State basketball will need more help than one great player can provide.

This season is probably not salvageable at this point. The team looks lost and, as a unit, continues to play recklessly and turn the ball over. Tang started off his postgame press conference after the loss on Monday with a quote that I found quite curious…

“I see a team that’s getting better, like guys who have grit and the resilience about them. And they keep improving.”

 

I watch every game. My last thought about this team is that they are getting better or improving. To back up my eye test, I decided to dive into the statistics to see if I could find if and how much they are improving in any category. As my sample size, I took statistics from the first five conference games, where the Wildcats had a record of four wins and one loss, and the last five conference games, where they recorded one win and four losses.

In their first five conference games the Wildcats shot 122/262 from the floor, or 46.5%. The last five games? They shot 121/282 from the floor, or 42.9%. They are shooting it almost four percent worse from the floor now than when they started the conference season.

Three-point shooting? Are they improving from deep?

  • Three-point shooting during their first five conference games: 40/111 (36%)
  • Three-point shooting during their last five conference games: 30/107 (28%)

They are shooting much worse now from three-point range as a unit.

Free throw shooting? Are they getting better from the line?

  • Free throw shooting during their first five conference games: 71/91 (78%)
  • Free throw shooting during their last five conference games: 69/90 (77%)

A little worse, but it is a negligible difference.

 

Rebounding? Surely, they are getting better there, right?

  • Rebounding during their first five conference games: 174 (34.8 per game)
  • Rebounding during their last five conference games: 187 (37.4 per game)

Rebounding has gotten a bit better, but is three more rebounds a game enough of a difference for Tang to say he is seeing a lot of improvement? I would have never noticed it until I did a deep dive into the numbers.

Assists?

  • Assists during their first five conference games: 77 (15.4 per game)
  • Assists during their last five conference games: 57 (11.4 per game)

The Wildcats are obviously not sharing the ball as much as they were earlier in the season. I am not quite sure what to attribute this to, other than it may be tougher competition.

What about the turnover issue? Has that been fixed or improved?

  • Turnovers during their first five conference games: 77 (15.4 per game)
  • Turnovers during their last five conference games: 74 (14.8 per game)

Another negligible improvement. In my opinion, the turnover issue is killing this team. However, it is interesting to note that they were turning the ball over at the same rate early in the conference season and still started 4-1.

Scoring?

  • Points during their first five conference games: 355 (71 per game)
  • Points during their last five conference games: 341 (68.2 per game)

They are scoring less, likely because of their declining field goal percentage as a team.

Team defense?

  • Opponents points during their first five conference games: 309 (61.8 per game)
  • Opponents points during their last five conference games: 354 (70.8 per game)

They were beating opponents 71-68 on average in the first five conference games, skewed by a 25-point win against UCF, and have lost by an average of 71-68 in their last five games.

So where is this team actually “getting better” and “improving?”

Honestly, I don’t see it.

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