Thrice as Nice: Three Reasons Why the Wildcats Will Win (or Won’t)

28 Feb

While predictions aren’t my favorite form of journalism, they certainly aren’t unheard of. I don’t pretend to know who is going to win this evening, but here are three factors that favor each team going into tonight’s game. Feel free to take them into consideration for your pre-game discussions with friends and foes alike.

“We Own Texas” – Why the Wildcats Will Win

1) In the same way that Texas has nearly always found a way to beat Nebraska, K-State often pulls out the upset over the Longhorns. Whether that’s psychological or just coincidental in recent years, it’s definitely been a trend. Either way, the Wildcats aren’t going to be walking into this game intimidated. They’re on a four-game winning streak that included two top-25 teams.

As head coach Frank Martin said, this team has been through every possible emotion over the course of this season. It’s been rattled by all sorts of surprises, but players say the locker room is more united than ever. Bottom line: I’ve got to think K-State’s confidence gives the team an edge here.

2) The Wildcats’ senior point guard is averaging almost 30 points per game since the epic victory over Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum, but he is not the only offensive weapon for K-State. Sophomore Rodney McGruder has been Mr. Consistent (apologies if that is already a title for someone else) and leads the team in rebounding as a guard.

Losing forwards Wally Judge and Freddy Asprilla necessitated a change in the offense, and that change has worked well so far. As assistant coach Brad Underwood explained it, instead of attacking the rim with a big guy parked in the paint, the Wildcats are doing it by drawing defenders out away from the basket and then sending players cutting toward the hoop. Statistical evidence of success? “Our assist numbers are through the roof … That means that there’s ball movement, players cutting, players playing together,” Martin said. Bottom line: The Wildcats have a chance because their new offense allows better ball movement.

3) Hustle and work ethic have not really been an issue for this team – mainly because Martin yanks from the lineup anyone who is slacking off. I’m sure the Longhorns have plenty of desire as well, but right now, the Wildcats need this win more. There was talk of them not even getting into the NCAA tournament, where Texas has been in first place in the Big 12 all season long. K-State has to have a win to bolster their resume for good seeds in the Big 12 tournament and NCAA tournament. If the Wildcats can stay in the game, where it comes down to who wants it more, I think they have the advantage.

“Don’t Mess with Texas” – Why the Wildcats Won’t Win

1) Martin said Texas is the most physical team on the Wildcats’ schedule. Depending on what area of the court that physicality takes place, it could be difficult for K-State to contend with some of the bigger bodies on the Longhorns’ roster. If it comes down to banging and bruising in the paint, that scenario favors Texas. Really, K-State only has three forwards – Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels, and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts. (Victor Ojeleye hasn’t played much recently, and Nino Williams is out after some concussions early on this season.) Because of that limited supply of big guys, the Wildcats don’t have many fouls to give, and mentally it’s tougher to be aggressive when you know it’ll be hard for your team to replace you if you foul out or have to go to the bench.

2) After K-State played Kansas in Lawrence, right after the Jayhawks had lost to Texas, Martin joked that he asked Bill Self to stop losing before K-State played the Jayhawks because the Wildcats always seem to encounter “the pissed-off version” of the team. Now, Texas is in a situation similar to what Kansas was at that point: had been dominant thus far, had lost to a team it could have beaten, and was returning to its home court. Martin said this season that he’d rather play teams when they’re “fat and comfortable” than when they’re on a bit of a skid. So, although this applies to K-State some too, the redemption factor goes to Texas.

3) The game is in Austin. It’s as simple as that. The Wildcats have struggled on the road this season, as eight of the team’s nine losses have come outside the friendly confines of Bramlage Coliseum. While giving a home court advantage to the home team seems ridiculously redundant, I think it’s appropriate to mention considering K-State’s away-from-home troubles over the last few months.

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