It was a tough loss for the K-State Wildcats on Wednesday night, 78 to 67 to Iowa State, in Ames, Iowa. I did not expect K-State to win the game going into it, but they were competitive with the Cyclones despite getting into an early deficit. The game was tied with a little over four minutes remaining, but Iowa State went on a 17-6 run to end the game. The loss drops K-State to 4-2 in the Big 12, half a game behind league-leading Texas Tech.
Can K-State keep pace with the top teams in the Big 12 and become a contender to win the Big 12? I am of the belief that the Wildcats’ hot start in Big 12 play is a bit of a mirage and mostly schedule-driven. They did beat Baylor when they were ranked in the top 10, but for some odd reason, Jerome Tang is 3-0 against his former boss Scott Drew, so I’m not quite sure what to make of that. Their other conference victories have come against teams ranked at or near the bottom of the league in UCF, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia. Three of the next four games are against ranked teams. Houston, Oklahoma, and Kansas are all ranked in the top 11 in the country. Sandwiched between Oklahoma and Kansas is a game on the road against Oklahoma State. K-State could very easily have a 5-5 or 4-6 conference record after these four games.
K-State has been inconsistent most of the season, and they have been frustrating to watch much of the time. They don’t really have a consistent scorer as they did with Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell last season. Arthur Kaluma has been great for the most part and has carried the team on his back during the conference season. Someone else needs to step up consistently in order for this team to find success the rest of the way. As a team, they do some things well and some other things not so well. I’m not sure if they can improve much on what they don’t do so well because I haven’t seen much improvement in those areas since the beginning of the season. To make the NCAA tournament, they will have to find ways to improve.
I looked at the current conference statistics to get a little better feel about where this team ranks compared to their peers in the Big 12. Here is what they do well and what they need to improve upon. I am using their statistics in conference games.
What they do well:
- Team Defense
K-State is 3rd in the Big 12, giving up 64.5 points per game.
- Team Field Goal Percentage
K-State is 4th in the Big 12, shooting 46.3% from the field. I was a little surprised they were ranked this highly in this category.
- Opponent field goal percentage
K-State is 2nd in the Big 12 in opponent field goal percentage, holding their opponents to 37.3% shooting from the field.
- Opponent three-point percentage
K-State leads the Big 12, holding opponents to 26.9% from three-point range.
- Team Free Throw Percentage
K-State is 2nd in the Big 12 from the free throw line, shooting 75.4%. Tylor Perry is a big reason why, as he is shooting 86.7% from the line.
- Blocked shots
K-State is 3rd in the Big 12 with five blocked shots per game.
K-State is 4th in the Big 12 with 15 assists per game.
K-State is 5th in the Big 12 with 7.5 steals per game.
Wow, that’s quite a list of what they are doing well. Here is what they need to improve upon:
- Turnover Margin
K-State is 11th in the Big 12, turning the ball over 2.67 times more than their opponent per game.
- Assist/Turnover Ratio
K-State is also 11th in the Big 12, with almost one more turnover to assist every game.
- Rebound Margin
K-State is 11th in the Big 12 in rebound margin, getting outrebounded by one rebound per game on average.
Honestly, those three categories are the most concerning areas for K-State. They will have to solve their turnover problem and rebound the ball a bit better in order to find success and stay at or near the top of the standings in the Big 12. Sophomore forward Jerrell Colbert has played well off the bench lately and has gotten some solid minutes. Perhaps he can help in the rebounding area and give K-State a strong option in relief of Will McNair and David N’Guessan. Turnovers are the area that I’m not sure they can easily fix, but perhaps this will get better as the season goes on. We will have to see.
After looking at the numbers, I am much more optimistic about K-State’s chances to stay near the top of the Big 12 going forward, as long as they can take care of the ball better and get a few more rebounds here and there. Of course, beating Houston on Saturday would go a long way to cementing their spot as a contender to win the league.