Category Archives: K-State Basketball

A _FAN’s Look at K-State Basketball History, Expectations, and Bruce Weber

Reactionary posting. Disappointment. Back tracking. Moving on.

I suppose all of those would be fair ways to characterize where I’ve been and where I’m going with this post. A few days ago I compared Bruce Weber to Asbury and Wooldridge. While I still have some of the same concerns, I don’t think I was being completely fair to Weber, and much of what I was saying was venting and frustration mixed with an attempt at analysis. Granted, I still have and will continue to do plenty of analysis, my excel file has grown to 7 or 8 sheets on Weber’s tenure. But what I really needed was perspective, so I sat down and tried to take a real look at the history or K-State basketball over the last quarter of a century, which is the K-State basketball I know. I remember a snow storm cancelling a trip to watch K-State and KU match up in Ahearn in the mid-80s and I cried when I found out we weren’t going. Sadly another opportunity never arose and I never saw a game in the old building nor did I watch Jack Hartman coach a game. The following is my attempt to piece together a narrative of K-State basketball as I’ve seen it unfold. Granted, there are plenty of my presuppositions mixed in, but for the most part I tried to be real with what K-State basketball has been for 26 years, how expectations have come and gone, and whether or not K-State fans are “accepting mediocrity” or looking for something else.

There has been a lot of talk lately about “accepting mediocrity” with the recent hire of Bruce Weber expected to send K-State basketball back to the days of Asbury and Wooldridge, some of it coming from myself. I’ve outlined my concerns with the Weber hire (and there are plenty), but I also believe we’re dealing with revisionist history if we equate this hire to the late 90s and early 00s of K-State basketball. This was really the only era where K-State basketball and the administration of K-State “accepted mediocrity”, IMO the rest of the time K-State has probably “accepted competiveness”, but I think that is much different than “accepting mediocrity”. In reality, only once in the last 25 years has K-State went beyond simply “accepting competitiveness”. The Weber hire wasn’t a great one and certainly wasn’t a splash, but it is much more about seeking to simply be competitive than it is about sending K-State basketball back to the days of Jim Wooldridge.

To get a good grasp of the dark days of K-State basketball we have to really look at each hire that occurred after Hartman retired. Hartman was the last great long time coach for K-State basketball and the last coach to bring K-State league championships. His retirement and the hires that occurred afterward ushered in the new era of K-State basketball, an era which has seen K-State rotate coaches (or coaching staffs) in 4-6 year increments.

Its easy to look back on Lon Kruger now, both seeing his overall career and his short run at K-State, and think this was a homerun hire. While it turned out that way, at the time hiring Kruger was essentially hiring a slightly better version of Tim Jankovich. Kruger had a great career at K-State, then worked for several years as an assistant at Kansas State before a mediocre start as a head coach at Texas-Pan American. In 4 years there Kruger went 52-59 there and was then hired to replace Hartman after he retired. Kruger was the type of hire that many K-State fans now dread, hiring a K-State connection, and really was no more of a guarantee than any hire that came after him until Huggins. Kruger essentially set the standard for the modern K-State basketball fan; upper half league finishes, NCAA tournaments, and one excellent season where K-State was in the discussion for the league title and made an Elite 8 run. Kruger also ushered in the era of K-State basketball of relying much more on the JUCO jackpot than high school players. For the next dozen or so years K-State basketball would live and die with JUCO players, the best seasons coming when coaches managed to bring in a couple JUCOs that were good enough, but never really building a program with a solid foundation of high school talent. Many expected Kruger to be the next Harman, but due to several different circumstances he took off for a mediocre SEC program.

Altman was the early late 80s/early 90s version of a really good recruiter. He brought Mitch Richmond to K-State, but the belief was that his connections in JUCO basketball would continue to bring in the top JUCO players, and before the prep school era there was a lot of talent there. This hire featured K-State’s first hiring mistake (in complete hindsight) as Eddie Sutton had recently been fired at Kentucky and wanted the job. K-State went with the safer hire and the rest is history. Altman had 2 JUCO head coaching jobs before his package deal hire as an assistant, spent one year as head coach at Marshall, then was hired when Kruger left for Florida. While Altman brought in solid JUCO talent he wasn’t able to bring that talent together well enough over his 4 year stint to keep K-State basketball up to the expectations that Kruger had set, though he did have one pretty good season keyed by a great JUCO point guard. Altman’s league record was terrible and his pair of NITs and one NCAA appearance weren’t enough. While he wasn’t technically fired, the writing was on the wall and he took the Creighton job before he could be let go. Altman had made some changes in focus during his 4 years though, and had a solid high school class coming when he left. Mark Young didn’t live up to his hype, but he was likely K-State’s best high school recruit since Rolando Blackman and would arguably be the best until Huggins landed Beasley and Walker. At that point K-State was far from “accepting mediocrity”, but in 4 to 5 years that mentality would arrive.

Asbury was K-State’s version of hiring the mid-major up and comer. He had a very good run at Pepperdine with 3 NCAAs and 2 NITs in 6 years while winning 68% of his games. At the time it was viewed by K-Staters as a very good hire, maybe slightly below homerun status. This hire featured another hindsight hiring mistake, as reportedly K-State was on the verge of hiring Tubby Smith who had just taken Tulsa to the NCAA tournament, but he chose to stay at Tulsa and K-State turned to Asbury. Once again Asbury used a couple really good JUCO players to get K-State to another NCAA tournament in his 2nd year, but that run was surrounded by 2 losing seasons. The K-State administration (and fans) remained patient as it appeared Asbury was building the program with a different focus, solid high school talent (including good local players) mixed with a few good transfers. IMO this is when “accepting mediocrity” for K-State basketball really began as Asbury put together two winning seasons, but both featured mediocre 7-9 league records led by an inability to win league road games. Following consecutive NIT first round exits, most of the talent base that Asbury built was gone and Asbury brought K-State one of the worst seasons K-State had seen since the 40s. Asbury was never disliked by most for not attempting to build a competitive program, his first 4 or so seasons he tried to do that, but he really initiated the “you can’t recruit to Manhattan” mentality and by his last couple of seasons he essentially quit trying. This mentality along with the rise of K-State football through the mid to late 90s contributed to a culture of “accepting mediocrity” that surrounded the K-State basketball program and the next hire only served to hammer that mentality home.

Jim Wooldridge’s hire was a head scratcher to most K-State fans at the time. Wooldridge had a successful division 2 run as a head coach at Central Missouri State and took what is now Texas State to the NCAA tournament after 3 years, but then he had an extremely mediocre run at Louisiana Tech before spending a couple years as an assistant with the Chicago Bulls. Those two years with the Bulls essentially earned Wooldridge the job as it was largely Tex Winter’s recommendation that convinced K-State to give him a chance. Wooldridge tried Asbury’s formula for building K-State basketball, starting by recruiting largely JUCO players and then going to the high school route. In spite of recruiting well in both areas on paper, Wooldridge could not put together any success on the floor and had only one winning season in 6 years at Kansas State with no postseason appearances. The apathy in most of the K-State fan base, again with K-State’s continued success in football contributing, led to extreme patience and half full arenas throughout his tenure. This was the height of “accepting mediocrity” for K-State basketball, both from the administration and from the fans.

This is the beginning of what led K-State basketball back to being competitive and the return of raised expectations. It was only at this point that K-State decided to end the “accepting of mediocrity” that had led to the previous 7-8 years of terrible basketball and in fact for the first time went beyond “accepting competitiveness”. Yes, there was bad basketball in the years following Kruger leading up to that point, but I don’t think it was because K-State accepted mediocrity as much as it was K-State making hiring mistakes. Neither of those hiring mistakes (Altman, Asbury) were terrible at the time, they just didn’t work out, though Asbury was kept too long. Then the terrible hire (Wooldridge) was made, and that has burned K-State fans badly.

Weiser changed the culture by hiring Bob Huggins. Huggins changed the culture by truly raising expectations… “why settle for second when first is available.” Huggins took the talent he inherited and made it competitive getting K-State to the verge of the NCAA tournament. While Huggins’ stay was very short, he impacted K-State basketball (and the fan base) in great ways. Though he didn’t take K-State beyond being competitive (or even back to the NCAA tournament), he at least brought K-State basketball back to that point for the first time in over a decade. But most importantly Huggins brought talent, what it really takes to win big in college basketball, and the desire to keep that talent while he departed brought Frank Martin.

The Martin hire was really the only choice, but it was a huge risk. And it was a risk intended to simply keep K-State basketball competitive by keeping Beasley and Walker. Most people thought that if he could keep the talent around with any skills as a coach he would at least bring K-State back to the NCAA tournament. There were very few that legitimately believed K-State would make a run to win the league, but that wasn’t the expectation. Frank lived up to that original expectation and then took it even further. Despite losing Beasley and Walker after only one season, he built off his early success and brought K-State basketball back to Kruger levels of success; upper half league finishes, NCAA tournaments, and one excellent season where K-State was in the discussion for the league title and made an Elite 8 run. While K-State fans hoped for a championship of some sort, this became the actual level of expectation for most fans. What Frank really added, despite not being a consistent title contender, was that he made K-State basketball a national program because he became a star. Frank’s program wasn’t without its frustrations; player defections, average recruiting, and mind boggling stretches of poor basketball seemed to happen each season. But Frank always found a way to turn it around, get K-State to the tournament, and win a game. Despite points in the season where many fans were on the verge of turning, in the end this was what K-State fans wanted and Frank was loved. K-State fans showed this love for competitive basketball by investing heavily in the program, leading to the construction of a multi-million dollar practice facility.

Martin’s departure for a lesser program brought great frustration to K-State fans. The Jamar situation only contributed to negative feelings toward the administration. It seemed that the K-State administration cared little for winning basketball and then they only made things worse. I don’t think K-State fans expected to get another Frank, but most enjoyed being a national program with a national face, and the candidates that many fans chose to champion reflected that. Whether it was a current head coach like Mack or Pastner, a major assistant like Antigua or Wojo, or a Huggins-like choice like Pearl, K-State fans at least wanted someone with personality; a creative hire that could help keep K-State national. Currie didn’t provide that.

Currie’s hire was a safe one. He wanted a coach with experience, preferably at the major college level, and he got one. The problem was that coach had just been fired. That coach was not only not like Frank, he was nearly the exact opposite, and definitely not the type of coach that becomes a national star. Weber was a longtime major conference assistant, had mid major success, and took a program in great shape to new heights by playing for a national title. The problem is after that the program stagnated, mainly because he didn’t recruit to the level of his predecessor initially. He wasn’t terrible after his initial success, he still brought postseason appearances, but he never got the program back to the national stage. More importantly, after he finally seemed to get the recruiting problems corrected, he took a team with plenty of Top 100 level talent and lost them. After a great start, his season and ultimately his career at Illinois fell apart.

In spite of all that, I think it’s a stretch to compare this hire to Jim Wooldridge and “accepting mediocrity”. Weber certainly isn’t reaching to the standard that Huggins brought, but I also don’t think he’s hire that’s comparable to any of the post-Hartman hires. It’s a different type of hire and the biggest question is whether Weber can learn from the mistakes he made at Illinois and avoid the bad seasons that he mixed with competitive ones. IMHO it’s still a hire that “accepts competiveness”, but definitely doesn’t bring the standard Huggins brought. Even though reality shows this is really what K-State fans expect, and even though Frank never had K-State as a consistent league title contender , Weber’s uninspiring qualities and recent past cause significant concern among many fans. For many those concerns have boiled over and that angst is what we’ve seen here at goemaw.com for the past week.

None of this is to say you have to “accept competitiveness” as your standard. But I think before getting too worked up about the current state of K-State basketball you have to try to really look back at the last 26 years of K-State basketball and assess how often K-State has truly “accepted mediocrity”. If you truly feel that “burning it down”, “don’t pay, don’t go”, and hoping for Weber to fail is the best option, go for it. I think it’s misguided and reactionary and highly unlikely to achieve what people want (getting rid of Currie), but no one is saying you can’t try that route. I really don’t think this movement will be more than a blip on Schulz and Currie’s radar in the short term. However, I realize venues like this are for those types of discussion. I don’t think Currie and Weber will be the end of K-State basketball. K-State basketball, even in down times and when fans stayed away from the OOD, has always been bigger than individuals. It has also been bigger than the good times and personalities like Huggins and Frank. K-State basketball goes on and I will continue to be a fan. There are legitimate concerns about the criteria that Currie used in this search and the spin he’s put on several things, but at the end of the day I don’t think he’s out to destroy K-State basketball as we know it. People will say that “I’m part of the problem” or even call me a tuck, but I honestly can’t imagine doing anything different than continuing to be a K-State fan, even if I have concerns with administration or the coach.

So in the end, I will give Bruce Weber a chance.

Syracuse: How Much Does Melo Matter?

The Cats led 76-74 and appeared to be on their way to their 5th Final 4. After finishing the season 18-8 and 10-4 in the Big 8 to finish 2nd, K-State made their way to the final of the 1975 East Regional with wins over Penn and Boston College. It seemed the legend of junior guard Chuckie Williams would only grow after this 30 point performance to help K-State advance to San Diego. However, it wasn’t meant to be; Syracuse hit the game tying shot with 5 seconds left and went on to win in overtime 95-87 to make their first Final 4. A young Syracuse grad by the name of Jim Boeheim was an assistant on that staff and would take over the program 2 years later, the rest for Syracuse basketball is history.

That all occurred less than a month before I was born. 2 years ago K-State nearly met a depleted Syracuse squad in another regional final, but Butler changed all of those plans and we all remember what happened in Salt Lake City. Now the Cats will get that opportunity against a Syracuse squad without their leading bigman; sometimes its difficult to measure the impact of one player looking at the box score. I won’t attempt to duplicate what Luke Winn has already done in breaking down the impact of Fab Melo on Syracuse’s defense, but its clear the impact is significant. Still, Syracuse has plenty of quality players with 4 Top 50 HS players as main contributors on their roster and 6 from the Top 100. Besides Melo, several are likely future NBA players, but it doesn’t necessarily appear that they look to be lottery picks like Syracuse has had 3 of in the last several years.

Offense

Similar to Frank Martin, Boeheim is most known for his defensive philosophy and offensively he allows some freedom for his players. Against K-State’s man defense, expect Syracuse to run some version of a traditional motion offense, especially trying to get shots for their main scorers Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, and Brandon Triche. The Orange rely on good guard play and similar to Southern Miss put a premium on protecting the basketball, finishing the year as one of the Top 10 teams nationally in turnover % at only 15.9%. In only Big East games they were even better at 15.5%, but in their 21 games against kenpom Top 100 teams they averaged 16.3%. They only had 7 games all season at 20% or worse in TO%, but they were at 25% in 2 of their final 3 games, including their loss to Cincinnati in the Big East Tournament. The Orange were also a very good offensive rebounding team, finishing in the Top 50 at 36.5%, but slipped to 33.5% in Big East play and 34.0% against kenpom Top 100 teams. Losing Melo could be a key here, because he was by far their best offensive rebounder. The Orange are also a solid shooting team, finishing the year at 51.9% eFG%, but again in Big East play that number slipped to 50.3% and against Top 100 competition 48.8%. They don’t get to the FT line a lot, finishing at only 31.8% in FT rate and 31.9% against Top 100 teams. This all leads to a pretty efficient offense at 1.16 PPP, but again that number slips against tougher competition. In Big East play it falls to 1.09 PPP and against Top 100 teams to 1.06 PPP. Regardless, K-State will still have its handful guarding Syracuse’s athletic guards and talented swing man Kris Joseph. Syracuse doesn’t rely on the 3 PT shot a ton, withonly 31.3% of their shots coming from 3 (#203 nationally) and they shoot it pretty average at 34.5%. They have 4 guys that have attempted at least 100 on the year, with Joseph, Triche, and Waiters being their biggest threats, all hitting between 35-37%. On 2PT shots they made a respectable 52.0% and 69.1% from the FT line.

Defense

Of course most basketball fans know that Boeheim’s claim to fame is his 2-3 zone, and this year features one the the best defenses he’s ever had. This older article from Fran Fraschella does a great job explaining Boeheim’sphilosophy and some of his rotations. The Orange finished with the best defense in the Big East, limiting teams to .89 PPP on the season and .94 in league games and against Top 100 opponents. All of this while having one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation, allowing an offensive rebounding % of 38.9% on the season, ranking #341 of #345 teams. In Big East play that number slips to 39.9% and against Top 100 teams 40.3%. And all of that was with Melo’s 3.4 defensive boards per game, though his defensive rebounding % was 4th on the team. However, Syracuse counters that by being very good at forcing turnovers, making it tough for opponents to make shots, and not fouling often. Their turnover % of 25.2% ranks #6 nationally, they finished at 23.6% to lead the Big East, and they forced turnovers at a rate of 24.8% against Top 100 competition. Their defensive style is to really pressure the perimeter in the half court at the top of Boeheim’s 2-3 zone with their long group of guards ranging from 6-2 to 6-5. They force steals at rate of 14.5% which was #3 nationally. They also force you into tough shots and contested 3s, allowing opponents to shoot only 44.0% eFG% against them. That drops to 43.5% in Big East games and 45.6% against Top 100 teams. Their block % of 19.8% was #2 nationally and their 2PT% allowed was only 42.9%. Of course the key to that was Melo and his 12.9% block % individually, one of the Top 15 marks nationally. Syracuse also doesn’t foul a lot out of their zone, with a FT rate given up of only 29.8%, and 31.4% in Big East play. As Winn’s article explains, the biggest factor in Melo’s absence will be on the defensive end, especially in the middle of the 2-3 zone.

Guards/Perimeter (starters in bold)

Rotation: Joseph is Syracuse’s only player (and only real option at the SF spot) that has averaged over 70% minutes played on the season, averaging 79% for the season and 87% over the final 9 games. Jardine, Triche, and Waiters form a 3 guard rotation at the 2 guard spots (including the top of the 2-3 zone) with all averaging between 56-60% minutes on the season. The final 9 games Jardine and Waiters took on a larger role, averaging nearly 70% each while Triche’s role was reduced slightly to 56%. Carter-Williams is a talented FR who was a Top 25 recruit, but his minutes are only 20.3% for the season and an even more reduced 11% over the last 9 games.

#11  6-2 #190 SR PG Scoop Jardine - Jardine gives Syracuse a heady SR PG who averaged 4.7 assists per game for a rate of 35.4%. Jardine also averaged 8.3 points per game, but with an offensive rating of only 104.3 and eFG% of 53.7. He shot 34.9% on 86 3PT attempts and 54.5% on 143 2PT attempts. Jardine has Syracuse’s largest individual TO% of 24.3% and has a little bit of Gottlieb in him as he shot only 49.1% from the FT line. Jardine is also Syracuse’s worst defensive guard (read Winn’s article), though he averaged a decent steal % of 3.5%.

#20 6-4 #205 JR G Brandon Triche- Triche scored 9.3 PPG and shot slightly better than Jardine from 3, hitting 35.1% on 111 attempts. He had a better offensive rating at 111, but worse eFG% of 48.8%. Triche averaged 2.7 assists per game for a rate of 21.8%, and turned it over at a rate of 15.7%. He was Syracuse’s best FT shooter at 80.6%, thought he didn’t get there often. Defensively, Triche is similar to Jardine and Winn’s article considered him to be slightly better.

#32 6-7 210 SR SF Kris Joseph - Joseph was the star of this Syracuse team, leading in scoring at 13.8 PPG. However, he was not a high volume shooter, at only 23% of shots taken when he played. His offensive rating was a solid 113 and his eFG% was 50%. He led the team with 138 3PT attempts and hit 36.2% while shooting 47.2% on 216 2PT shots. His 39% was one of Syracuses’ top FT rates for perimeter players and he hit 73.9% of his FT attempts. Joseph is the player Boeheim has on the floor the most and is the key to the Orange offense, especially down the stretch of the season when he played nearly 90% of the minutes, but he had 4 games out of his final 6 with an offensive rating below 90. He was a solid defensive player, usually on their left bottom wing spot of the 2-3, averaging 3.4 defensive boards (11.5% DR%) though his steal% (2.7%) and block% (2.0%) numbers are below average.

#3 6-4 215 SO G Dion Waiters – Waiters is perhaps playing the best of any of Syracuse’s guards going into the tournament and averaged 12.6 PPG on the season. His offensive rating of 115 was the best of any perimeter player while his assist numbers were nearly identical to Triche’s. He finished with an eFG% of 54% while shooting 36.5% from 3 on 104 attempts and 53.7% on 2PT shots on 216 attempts. Waiters was Syracuse’s best perimeter defender as well, with a steal rate of 4.8%.

#12 6-5 #176 FR G Michael Carter-Williams – Carter Williams only played in 3 of the final 7 games for Syracuse, but still showed some talent. He was the leading 3PT shooter at 38.9%, but only took 18 attempts while his assist rate was 33.8%, 2nd only to Jardine’s. Its unlikely he plays a lot against us, but we must be mindful of what he can bring.

Posts

Rotation: It will be really interesting to see how Boeheim handles his posts without Melo. While Melo only averaged 57.6% minutes on the season, that increased significantly over the final 9 games when he averaged 79.5% minutes. Fair increased his minutes slightly over the last 9 games going from 66.3% for the season to 75.%. Southerland actually played slightly less down the stretch, going from 39.4% minutes to 33.4%. However, he did play 53% over the last 4 games. That leaves the 2 guys that will take on the most increased role without Melo; Christmas and Keita. Christmas starts regularly, but in more of a Louis Colon mode averaging only 25.6% minutes on the season and only 7.4% over the final 9 games. Keita averaged 27.2% on the year and 17.5% over the last 9 games.

Melo did miss 3 games in the middle of the Big East season, also for academic issues. During those games Fair’s minutes actually dropped to 57.5%, Southerland increased to 55.8% minutes, Keita played 52.5%, and Christmas played 45%. Again, Winn highlighted some of the issues this caused for the Syracuse defense in his article. I would guess that Fair and Southerland will play more minutes, though I’m not sure how effective either can be in the middle of the zone. Boeheim will have a game to work out some of the rotations again, but playing NC-Asheville (who doesn’t start a player taller than 6-5) will be a lot different than playing K-State. Fair and Christmas are listed here as the starters because that’s how Syracuse started the 3 games when Melo was out earlier in the year.

#5 6-8 #203 SO PF CJ Fair - Without Melo, Fair becomes the best post player for the Orange. He wasn’t near the presence Melo is on defense, but he was a better offensive player. Fair averaged 8.6 PPG, the best of any post player (including Melo), while shooting an eFG% of 48% (48.8% on 2PT shots) and was a very good rebounder. He averaged 2.0 offensive boards per game (8.7% OR%) and 3.5 defensive boards per game (14.3% DR%). His block % was only 2.3%, though he played one of the bottom wing spots in the 2-3 zone, usually on their right side. He has attempted 22 3PT shots on the year, but only made 27.3%.

#25 6-9 #222 FR PF Rakeem Christmas- Christmas split time with Keita rotating into Melo’s spot in the middle of the Syracuse zone. He averaged only 1.7 defensive boards and 0.7 blocks, but his rates were solid because of his limited minutes at 17.9% (DR%) and 7.6% (B%). Offensively he averaged 2.5 PPG and 0.9 offensive boards (10.6% OR%) with an offensive rating of only 103 and eFG% of 55%. In the 3 games without Melo, Christmas played 45% of the minutes and averaged 2.0 PPG, 4.7 rebounds, 2.0 offensive boards, and 1.7 blocks. Christmas led the team in FT rate at 43.3% but only had 26 attempts, hitting 61.5%. Again, Christmas played very little down the stretch with only 7.4% of the minutes played in the final 9 games.

#43 6-8 #210 JR PF James Southerland – Southerland rotated in at the PF spot with Fair, some at the SF spot with Joseph and averaged 6.6 PPG with an offensive rating of 118 and eFG% of 53%. He averaged 2.1 defensive boards (14.3% DR%), but again below average steal% and block% numbers of 2.5% and 6.7% respectively. Southerland was a threat from the perimeter as he attempts 100 threes, making 31.0%.

#12 6-10 #213 SO C Baye Moussa Keita – Keita split time with Christmas as Melo’s back-up with 27.3% minutes played on the year. Like Christmas, his minutes were even fewer late in the year at 17.5% over the final 9 games, plus he only played a total of 14 minutes the last 5 games. Keita averaged 2.2 PPG for the season, but hit 75% of the shots he took. He finished at .9 offensive boards (9.3%), 1.4 defensive boards (12.7%), and a block % of 8.7%.

Outlook

Melo is a big loss to the Syracuse defense, but they still are a very good team. The length they have all over the floor will still cause K-State plenty of problems and hopefully the Cats don’t fall into the trap many teams do against Syracuse and just try to shoot over the zone. Teams on average take 36.1% of their shots from behind the arc against Syracuse, but only hit 30.6%. It is encouraging to know that K-State has traditionally attacked Baylor’s 2-3 very well, but of course Drew’s 2-3 has never been mistaken for the quality product Beoheim puts on the floor. If K-State does a good job rotating JO, Samuels, and McGruder to the FT line area and attacking the middle to force Syracuse’s inexperienced bigs to defend the rim they could have success. K-State still needs to get some perimeter shots up, but those must come from inside-out looks. And Rodriguez, Spradling, and Irving must handle the ball well against the long, aggressive guards on top of the 2-3, especially not allowing easy uncontested shots off of turnovers on the perimeter. It will be important for JO to continue his offensive success in this game because he has the length and athleticism to match Syracuse’s bigs. Of course, K-State must hit the offensive boards hard and exploit the biggest weakness Syracuse has shown all season; this is a game that Samuels could be very big for K-State if he is active and attacks smartly to draw fouls.

On defense Syracuse’s guards will cause problems for K-State. Joseph will be a tough match-up as well, but McGruder has shown that he can guard big swing players. Of course that leaves Rodriguez, Spradling, and Irving to handle Jardine, Triche, and Waiters. It will be tough to keep all 3 in front of the defense all night and it will be important for Rodriguez to stay out of foul trouble so he can stay on the floor. JO protecting the rim will be very important and him being able to guard the two more inexperienced Syracuse bigs will help. That leaves Samuels guarding Fair or Southerland, and hopefully he can take advantage of the fact that neither is great at drawing fouls. A big stat to watch will be keeping Syracuse off of the offensive glass, something K-State did very poorly in the Big 12 tournament against Baylor’s length.

After watching Syracuse’s narrow win over NC-Asheville, I noticed several things. 1st, Christmas and Keita were decent, but they aren’t Melo. They combined for a decent 10 points, 8 boards, and 2 blocks, but neither is a great defender and Asheville’s lack of size really didn’t show how K-State can exploit this. Also, Asheville shot 23 shots from behind the arc for 47% of their total shots taken; K-State will not win that way. Finally Syracuse beat Asheville on both the offensive glass and FT rate, K-State can’t expect to give up 42% and 43% in those 2 areas and win. Plus, Syracuse had their scare today, I expect them to play better on Saturday.

Syracuse has the experience in Jardine, Joseph, and Triche on the perimeter to overcome a major loss in Melo. In the NCAA tournament the key to the first weekend is often the play of your perimeter players, so it will likely come down to Rodriguez, Spradling, McGruder, and Irving. With JO’s play of late, I expect the Cats to at least match, if not surpass, the production of the Syracuse bigs. They key to the game will be whether or not the guards can protect the ball adequately and not give Syracuse easy points while also hitting enough perimeter shots to extend the zone and open up driving lanes as well as the middle without Melo’s presence to protect the rim. I’m counting on our guards to do enough and the Syracuse defense to really suffer without Melo in the middle.

Cats 65 – Orange 63

Discuss on the board: http://goemaw.com/forum/index.php?topic=19974.0

Southern Miss: Reunited with Eustachy

I vividly remember Larry Eustachy’s final trip to Manhattan. His Iowa State team was sitting at 5-10 in the Big 12 while Wooly’s Cats were 3-12. Late in the game after K-State already had the game at hand, a foul was called on a young Marques Hayden. Wooly began to rip into the youngster from afar, I’m sure hoping to help his player avoid careless fouls in the future and already preparing for what would hopefully be a breakthrough season the following year. Eustachy heard Wooly and yelled down from the other end of the scorers’ table, “Jim, leave him alone. These refs have been terrible all night, the kid didn’t foul anyone.” Wooly smiled, shook his head, and calmed down. The Cats went on to win 74 to 63. In 5 days K-State lost in what will forever be known as the “Pasco Fiasco”. Less than 2 months later a paper in Des Moines published pictures of Eustachy partying with Missouri students after a loss in Columbia and reported that he also attended several parties in Manhattan after the loss to K-State. Another week later Eustachy resigned.

A lot has changed since that March of 9 years ago, both for K-State basketball and for Larry Eustachy. Eustachy has already met Frank Martin once, a 74-55 win for K-State in Sprint Center in December of 2008 featuring a dominant performance by Louis Colon. Eustachy has continued to slowly build Southern Miss basketball, now getting them to their first NCAA tournament game since 1991, while Frank has continued his success at K-State with his 3rd straight NCAA trip. Southern Miss is a fairly slow paced team at 64.9 possessions per game and their strength is on offense, but they manage to be pretty efficient without being a very good shooting team. Defensively they are pretty average, with their main strength being not allowing offensive boards. Southern Miss played in a lot of close games on the season and managed to win most of them. 5 games went to OT or double OT and they were 3-2 in those games while 15 games had a margin of 5 points or less, where Southern miss finished 11-4.

Offense

Southern Miss wins games by playing a junkyard style of basketball, but one that places a high value on protecting possessions, finishing with a Top 50 efficiency of nearly 1.1 points per possession. Their strength is not turning the ball over; they rank in the Top 15 nationally with a TO% of only 16.3%. They are also a very good offensive rebounding team with an OR% of 35.9%, and they get to the foul line often with a FT rate of 40.3%. When you look at how they performed against the better teams on their schedule (Top 150 kenpom, 22 games) they maintain averages within 1% of all of those key numbers. Where Southern Miss really struggles is shooting the ball; finishing the year with a eFG% of only 46.3%. Even worse, they only hit 43.3% of their 2 PT shots on the year, ranking #313 in the nation. They shoot a respectable 35.6% from 3, but less than 1/3 of their FGAs are from beyond the arc. They also have assists on only 45.4% of their made shots, again one of the worst marks in basketball. In their last 10 games Southern Miss finished 5-5 and their offense really struggled with an average eFG% of only 45%. They were outshot by their opponents in 9 of those 10 games.

Only 2 players on Southern Miss’ roster are listed as forwards, and both are 6-6. They have 2 players listed at 6-7 and 6-10, but both are listed as guards. Because of their poor shooting and their lack of reliance on 3PT shooting, a large amount of Southern Miss’ point production comes from made FTs; 24.3% of their total points scored for one of the Top 10 marks nationally. The Golden Eagles have 5 players with at least 50 3PT attempts, and all 5 shoot 34% or better, so defenses usually have to respect at least 4 of the 5 players on the floor out to the arc even though they don’t shoot them a lot. Eustachy’s system has had a similar focus throughout the years, and this team is definitely guard driven but with an unusual combination of a lack of turnovers, but also a lack of assists. Basically look for a style that attacks a lot of the dribble, forces fouls, and allows for athletes to go get offensive rebounds on their many misses.

Defense

The Golden Eagle’s give up nearly .99 points per possession on the year, and they are strongest at rebounding and forcing turnovers. They hold opponents to an OR% of only 28.6% and force turnovers at a clip of 21.4%. Against the Top 150 kenpom teams on their schedule they again maintained thost numbers. However, teams shoot 50.4% eFG% against them and get to the FT line at a rate of 39.6%. Against Top 50 teams the eFG% given up goes up to 52.7% and the FT rate to 40.9%. In their last 10 games teams shot 55.7% against them. They finished with the worst eFG% in CUSA and teams shot 52% against them on 2PT shots. This is a defense that doesn’t allow alot of 2nd chances, but some of that is due to the success teams have shooting against them, though rebounding has always been a major focus for Eustachy. However, this is a pretty small team with 3 guards that go 5-11, 6-0, and 6-2 all averaging over 75% of the minutes played, and all over 85% of the minutes played the last 10 games. Then a group of 3 slashers and a couple undersized post players ranging between 6-5 and 6-10 rotate in at the other spots.

Guards (starters in bold)

These three smaller guards are definitely key pieces to Eustachy’s team and their scoring is pretty evenly distributed. All three have a shot% of about 20% when in the game, so none are real volume shooters.

#23  6-0 #185 PG Angelo Johnson - Johnson was 2nd on the team in minutes through the season (84% minutes played) and 2nd in assist rate (17.7%). He scored nearly 10 points per game, but with an offensive rating of 96.0 and eFG% of only 41.9% is not a real efficient scorer. Johnson shot 34.3% from 3 on 93 attempt and only shot 37.7% on 2PT shots on 215 attempts (2nd on the team).

#0 6-2 #190 G LaShay Page – Page was Southern Miss’ 2nd leading scorer at 11.5 PPG and played the most minutes (87%). He was also the biggest 3PT thread; his 203 attempts were more than twice any other player and he hit 35.5%. He had a respectable offensive rating of 110 and eFG% of 49.7. Of the 3 smaller guards Page was by far the best on 2PT attempts, hitting 43.5%, but on only 115 attempts.

#5 5-11 #170 PG Neil Watson -Watson was 3rd in minutes at 74%, but was the leading scorer with 12.2 PPG. He also finished with an assist rate of 30.8%, best on the team. Watson had a respectable offensive rating of 111, but only had an eFG% of 42.1%. His was a solid 37.4% from beyond the arc on 99 attempts, but finished only 35% on 197 2PT attempts. Watson had a very good FT rate of 61% plus hit 84% from the FT line and was 2nd in steal% at 2.4%.

The remaining 3 players are all listed as guards, but Bolden and McGill are very long and play more like swing forwards or even at times power forwards, but basically in a 4 out offense.

#12 6-5 #205 G Rashard McGill - McGill was Southern Miss most inefficient offensive player, with an offensive rating of only 89, and not a big scoring threat. He was 3rd in offensive rebounding at 10.6%, but only had 1.4 ORB per game. He started the last 3 games, but only averaged 34% minutes on the season. He missed 3 games in February, but has played 53% minutes the last 5 games.

#31 6-10 #200 G Maurice Bolden- Bolden was 4th in scoring at 9.9 PPG and played 61% minutes on the season. Bolden was one of the better defensive rebounders at 17.8% and 3.4 per game and led the team with a block% of 4.8%. He was 2nd with a shot% of 24.1% when he was in the game, but only shot 45.7% and had an offensive rating of 103. Bolden was a 3PT threat at 37.5%, but only had 64 attempts.

#2 6-7  #215 G Darnell Dodson – Dodson was sort of a wildcard player. He only played 31.7% minutes on the year (and 39% the last 10 games), but was the 3rd leading scorer at 11.1 PPG. He had a solid offensive rating of 116 and an eFG% of 51.1% while hitting 37.9% from 3 on 58 attempts. When he was in the game, he had a shot% of 31%, the highest for Southern Miss and as close as they have to a volume shooter. He led in defensive rebounding % at 21.8% while averaging 3.13 per game.

Posts

These are the only players with significant minutes that are listed as forwards. Both have started during the season, but Mill has started 9 of the last 10 games.

#24 6-6 #230 Jonathan Mills- Mills is Southern Miss’ best rebounder, finishing with an offensive rebounding % of 13.6% (2.8 per game) and a defensive rebounding % of 18.8% (3.4 per game). He also averaged 9.7 points per game with an offensive rating of 107. He had an eFG% of 50.5% and did not attempt a 3PT shot on the season. Mills led Southern miss with a FT rate of 69% and hit 66% from the FT line. He played slightly more than Pelham at the post spot with 56.8% minutes.

#15 6-6 #225 Torye Pelham – Pelham was the most efficient scorer with an offensive rating of 125 and eFG% of 65.6%. He split with Mills at 45.6% minutes and finished as the leading offensive rebounder at 16.6% and 2.9 per game. He was decent at drawing fouls with a FT rate of 42.2%, led with a steal % of 3.5%, and was 2nd in block % at 4.6%.

Outlook

In looking at this game Southern Miss provides an interesting match-up in that there really isn’t one individual player you have to stop. Johnson, Mills, Bolden, Dodson, Page, and Watson all average between 9.5 and 12.2 PPG and Johnson (5 times), Page (5 times), Dodson (6 times), Mills (6 times), and Watson (8 times) have all taken turns leading the Golden Eagles in scoring during the season. Down the stretch the key scorers have been Watson and Mills (each led in scoring 4 times in the final 10 games). Neither team has been great shooting the ball this season, but Southern Miss has been nearly 3% worse shooting on the year and more importantly has been 5% worse on eFG% defense. Unless one team has a better than expected shooting day, then it could come down to TO%. Southern Miss’ ability to protect the ball versus our ability to turn people over (nearly 24% per game) will be a big factor. Both teams are solid on the offensive glass, but Southern Miss has been better at defensive rebounding. With both teams being good at getting to the FT line and both being bad about sending people to the line, there could be a combined 60 free throws shot and likely a 2 and half hour game.

In the end though, playing junk yard basketball in CUSA is not the same as playing it in the Big 12, and I don’t think Southern Miss’ score by committee system will work against us. I’m guessing the Cats will force turnovers at a clip in the low 20s and the Cats will win o-boarding and FT rate, probably with a 40%-40% game. Then it comes down to eFG% and it doesn’t look like Southern Miss can match us, let alone outshoot us. If the Cats hit shots at a reasonable clip, things could get real comfortable for Cat fans by early in the 2nd half.

 

Cats 73 – Golden Eagles 60

Discuss on the board: http://goemaw.com/forum/index.php?topic=19870.0

Austin on fatty


Austin Meek reflects on fatty4ksu

If I’m ever feeling discouraged, I try to remind myself how fortunate I am to make a living writing about sports, something many people happily do for free. It’s ridiculous, if you think about it, and the only reason our economy supports such a job is because of the true, passionate fans in this world. These are the people who read every word, know every recruit and use sports as a way to create community with others. People like Shwan, in other words.

I didn’t know him well, but I remember meeting him several years ago at the old Manhattan Classic AAU tournament. I was relatively new on the beat and still hadn’t found my place. I recognized him by his Internet moniker, which is a testament to his talent and creativity. (I didn’t recognize Trim; nothing personal, pal.) He wasn’t the guy I’d pictured, which seems like a common response from people meeting him for the first time. He probably knew far more about the beat than I did, but he went out of his way to be nice and make me feel at home covering K-State. I always remembered that.

I won’t deny having mixed feelings about how the Internet has affected discourse in sports. At its best, though, the Internet can be an outlet for creativity, a home for humor and insight, and a place where people come together in genuine community. Shwan embodied all of those things.

J-Mart on fatty


Jeffrey Martin reflects on fatty4ksu

He was different.

Not in a disturbing way, but Shwan was, well, odd. I’d never met someone like him, and that, in retrospect, must only be interpreted as a compliment. He was unique, someone whose passion for whatever struck his interest was unbridled and genuine.

I’ll admit it – his love for all things K-State, especially athletics, disturbed me at first. I thought he was messing me, being a new beat writer, and I wasn’t privy to much of the slang and backstories that permeated the various message boards he frequented.

I was a little defensive because here was this odd yet intensely curious K-State fan who wanted to know everything about his beloved Wildcats, and he wanted me to tell him. He cared so deeply, yet my initial reaction was one of insecurity – I recoiled.

But if Shwan was anything, he was persistent. And over the years, I embraced his idiosyncrasies. There were phone calls in addition to the e-mails. He’d pop up at the strangest times when I was in Manhattan.

After a while, I started looking forward to those meetings.

And now he’s gone.

One of my favorite movies is “Rushmore,” and while maybe it cheapens the memory of Shwan to compare him to a celluloid character, I can’t help but think of him whenever I watch the flick. He reminds me so much of the central figure, Max Fischer, who loved nothing more than his time at the fictional titular private school.

At one point, Max is asked what the secret, presumably to life, is.

“The secret, I don’t know…,” Fischer says. “I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then… Do it for the rest of your life. For me, it’s… Rushmore.”

Substitute “K-State” for Rushmore, and that was Shwan.

Rake on fatty4ksu


Jeff Rake reflects on fatty4ksu

I was at Hale Library one night, tired and cranky because I had to grade papers for my job as a teaching assistant, and that’s when I heard a voice behind me.

I checked the time. It was 1 a.m.

“Rake,” the voice said.

The place was empty. I didn’t recognize the voice.

I turned around and it was Fatty.

“You’re a counterpuncher, Rake!” he said. “A counterpuncher!”

I had no earthly idea what he was talking about.

“You’re a counterpuncher in tennis,” he said. “I hate counterpunchers!”

We had met just one previous time at the rec center tennis courts. Fatty watched me play for three or four points — maybe five. And somehow, in that short amount of time, he had figured out that I was a “counterpuncher,” his way of saying that I do nothing but play defense.

“Well,” I told him, “I do play fairly conservatively.”

“You’re a counterpuncher!” he said again.

* * *

I would estimate that I’ve had a dozen encounters with Fatty. There was the time at the tennis courts (he was practicing his serve by himself), and then there was a time at the Cat’s Den convenience store when he criticized my purchase of a bottled Diet Mountain Dew. (“Rake,” he said. “Fountain Drinks are cheaper. And you get more for less. And ice!”)

The other 10 encounters were at Hale Library.

“Look at this place,” he told me during one conversation. “I mean, how awesome is it here?”

“At the library?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “It has, like, everything.”

He then proceeded to point out all that the library had to offer: Hundreds of computers (“Both PC and Mac”), scanners, PDF creators, millions of books, journals, magazines, a coffee place, a bagel shop, a 24/7 study area, couches, atriums, secret mystery rooms. Oh, and also: It looks like a castle.

“What, no love for interlibrary loan?” I asked.

“Everything,” he said. “This place has everything.”

Our conversations weren’t conversations. They were quiz shows. Fatty would ask me a question, I would provide an answer, and then he’d interrupt.

“Wait” he’d say. “How do you not like to fly?”

Or, “How do you not like Frank Martin?”

He’d answer questions with questions and statements with questions and would question my statements. He’d finish my sentences and he would spot my insecurities — in much the same way that he was able to quickly identify my style of tennis.

Fatty was brilliant.

And now he’s gone.

When I first got the news, I was profoundly sad. Fatty loved his life and he loved Kansas State and he loved to make people laugh — on message boards, where he became somewhat of a celebrity, but also in person, where he touched so many people in so many ways.

Our conversations were always a joy. Sometimes we’d talk for 20 minutes. Sometimes a half hour. Once, we must have talked for two hours.

He did not change my life, but he made it better.

He will be missed.

Manbeck on fatty4ksu


Cole Manbeck reflects on fatty4ksu

I never personally met Shwan, but I always felt like I knew him, which I think is part of his charm. If I had to guess, there are thousands of people who felt like they knew him just through his posts on the message boards. Honestly, his posts were some of the funniest things I’ve ever read. Anytime I saw a post from him, I’d click on it because I knew I was in for a laugh. Someone that can bring laughter to so many is a special character trait, and I really can’t imagine not having those posts anymore — the ones where he would set up hypothetical situations with the announcer calling a moment in a K-State game days before the game actually occurred — to him constantly talking about winning the Dr. Pepper (loved how he referred to the championship game as that).

I remember back when I was in college, I was on the way home from a Royals game and we stopped late at IHOP. I had a fascination with who this “fatty” character was on the message boards, so I was talking about him with them. Then one of my friends says she knows him — she went to high school with him at MHS, and I was fascinated to find out about what he was like. From then on, I would involve him with personal messages about topics I thought he might care about. He was always very kind in his responses, and often times funny.

The best recollection I have — and I say I never met Shwan — but a couple years ago I was in my first few months at The Mercury. I was out jogging on a summer evening, and apparently I ran by Shwan. Later on, I was cruising the message boards (I think it was ksufans) at the time, and I see a post from Shwan talking about how I had run by him and he told me I looked good after losing weight. Some people may have been creeped out by that, but I thought it was hilarious. I told him next time he sees me, make sure to stop me and say hi and I’d love to talk K-State sports with him. Unfortunately, I never ran past him ever again — I really wish I would have.

Reading all the accounts and personal recollections from those of you who personally knew him on goemaw, it’s kind of a nauseous feeling to know he’s gone at such a young age. There will be a lot less laughs around K-State nation and Big 12 country with his passing.

Aside from everything he did on the message boards, the K-State videos, etc., to know what he was doing for his brother in California, that speaks volumes to the type of human being he was as well.

I would say this about him: If there was a separate heaven for K-Staters, Shwan might just be the God of it.

-Cole

20 Pretty Good Minutes of Basketball

In a previous blog I broke down K-State’s defense and its ability for force turnovers, something K-State has been very good at this season, but calling it “40 Minutes of Distress” was a bit much. The game by game trends have shown K-State is able to play 20 good minutes much of the time, but especially on the road, putting together a 40 minute game has been a problem. This is a major reason the Cats sit at 6-6 in the Big 12 and firmly on the NCAA bubble instead of battling Baylor and Iowa State for 3rd place.

 

The charts above break down the advanced stats (pace, points per possesion, effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage, and free throw rate) for Big 12 games only. The top left chart is home Big 12 games, the bottom left chart is Big 12 road games, and chart on the right is all Big 12 games. In every one K-State has shown to be a pretty good team in the first 20 minutes, but the 2nd half has been a struggle, especially on the road.

Most alarming is the 2nd half shooting by opponents. The home eFG% for opponents of 49.3% is bad enough, but on the road the 54.7% allowed is terrible. Overall opponents shoot over 7% better in the 2nd half, and over 11% better in the 2nd half on the road. Also, K-State consistently is able to force TOs at a high rate in the first half, but in the 2nd half that number drops dramatically. K-State’s OR% and FTR numbers both stay more consistent, though the opponent’s 2nd half FTR on the road is an alarming 73.7%. Its clear to see the biggest weakness in the 2nd half has been getting outshot, and on the road outshot by over 8%. K-State’s lack of ability to limit opponents efficiency in the 2nd half of games, and especially to force tough shots and turnovers, is a major reason we’ve seen blown double digit leads and an inability to finish games the way Frank’s first 4 teams were able to on a more consistent basis. If K-State wants a chance at the NCAA tournament (and to pass Texas to finish 5th in the league) then this trend will have to be fixed in the last 6 games.

Discuss on the board: http://goemaw.com/forum/index.php?topic=19135.0

Winning, Losing, and the 4 Factors under Frank

Most people who read my breakdowns know that I’m not a big fan of raw traditional box score numbers when it comes to statistics. I’m of the opinion that advanced stats, or tempo free stats, are the best indicators to look at if you want to break down statistics for basketball games, teams, or seasons. These statistics have really come to the fore front the last several years, mainly due to proponents like Ken Pomeroy and his website (www.kenpom.com), but also to writers like SI’s Luke Winn and websites like www.statsheet.com. There are 6 main components to look at with tempo-free stats; pace (possessions per game), efficiency (points per possession), effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage, and free throw rate. I won’t waste time explaining those; you can go to this site to read a good, concise breakdown of each: http://www.theonlycolors.com/2009/11/10/1125313/tempo-free-stats-for-dummies.

There are a lot of ways you can break down basketball with these statistics, but one major one I like to look at are trends and which factors are most important to winning and losing. Granted, there are going to be many which are pretty universal, but you can also look at specific attributes that are more important to different teams or coaches over time. There have been numerous discussions from fans lately about Frank Martin coached basketball teams and what factors make the biggest difference in winning and losing for his teams. Or what are the strengths and weaknesses of his teams. Or what parts of his philosophy should he be trying to change. My attempt here is to break down the numbers from his career and try to come up with some trends for Frank’s teams.

Offense

Over Frank’s career the perception has been that his teams haven’t always been the most fun to watch offensively. In many ways that has been true, a lot of that due to factors that most fans pay attention to; making shots and turning the ball over. The first thing I looked at is how Frank’s teams have compared to the averages over his career in each of the 4 factors. In the last 5 seasons, the average eFG% for D-1 basketball has been 49.2%, for TO% has been 20.5%, for OR% has been 32.6%, and for FTR has been 36.9%. In both eFG% and TO% Frank’s teams have been average; 49% of the time (in 159 total games) K-State shoots 49.2% or better and 52% of the time K-State teams have 20.5% turnovers or better. The average for each for his teams over his career has been 49.7% eFG% and 20.7% TO%.  So the numbers are about average and the number of times K-State is better or worse than the average is about 50-50. The four factors are generally listed in this order: eFG%, TO%, OR%, and FTR. The general perception is that order they are listed is also the order of importance to winning and losing, so when you look at K-State’s offense being average in the first two, that means Frank has had to make up for it with the other two factors; OR% and FTR. Frank has been very successful in doing so and the numbers show it; 89% of the time (again, for 159 total games) K-State has been better than average in OR% and 66% of the time it has been better in FTR. K-State averages for Frank have been 41.4% for OR% and 44.6% for FTR; both well above the NCAA averages. As a result, even though Frank’s teams haven’t always been “pretty to watch”, they have still been good in offensive efficiency, or points per possession. The NCAA average over Frank’s career has been 1.01 points per possession, and K-State’s average has been 1.07. 70% of the time Frank’s teams have been better than average. This year has been the worst efficiency of Frank’s career, but is still at 1.06 points per possession. Of course the problems in Big 12 play this year are shown by that efficiency dropping to only 1.01 in Big 12 games, mainly due to poor eFG% and high TO% in those games.

When you look at the four factors and which have had the biggest impact on winning and losing, there are some clear trends. Of course when K-State shoots well they win; when K-State shoots 50% or better eFG% they are 68-9 under Frank (88%). The next best indicator of winning and losing has been FTR; when getting to 45% or better K-State is 60-13 (82%). The final major trend is OR%; when getting 45% or better K-State is 44-8 (85%). Even though the winning percentage for OR% is higher, I valued FTR more because Frank’s teams have achieved more often in FTR compared to OR% (46% of the 159 games compared to 32%). The final indicator to look at is what I call 40-40 games for Frank or when K-State achieves 40% or better for both OR% and FTR. K-State is 50-8 in those games (86%). Its a little different measure, but another way to look at it is when K-State is better in both OR% and FTR than its opponent. When K-State is at least 5% better in both of those categories than an opponent, Frank is 46-5 (90%).

So when looking at winning and losing the biggest factor is making shots, but that’s true throughout college basketball. However, its clear to see the importance for OR% and FTR and when Frank’s teams do well they win at a very high clip. I had anticipated TO% having a bigger impact (this year in Big 12 play at has), but over Frank’s career it hasn’t been nearly important (or as statistically significant) as the other factors.

Defense

Once again I looked at how Frank’s teams compared to averages for eFG%, TO%, OR%, and FTR. Again those averages are 49.2%, 20.5%, 32.6%, and 36.9% respectively. The biggest strength of Frank’s defenses has been forcing turnovers; 67% of the time (out of 159 games) opponents are worse than average. Frank’s defenses force turnovers at a 23.1% clip over his career. Next is eFG%, teams shoot below the national average 58% of the time. The average for K-State defenses under Frank is 47.5%. Rebounding has been closer to average with 55% of opponents rebounding below average in OR%. The average OR% for opponents is 31.4%. One factors would seem to be a weakness; opponents finish with a higher FTR than average 65% of the time against K-State with an average FTR of 45.5% for opposing offenses. While Frank’s pressure man style often forces turnovers in bad shots, it also leads to lots of fouling and FT attempts for opponents, but it doesn’t hurt K-State as bad as you might anticipate.

To win games, K-State is 61-7 (90%) when holding opponents under 45%. The next most important factor is forcing turnovers; when opponents turn the ball over 25% of the time or worse K-State is 44-13 (77%). The other two factors aren’t as significant, mainly because K-State is so good at OR% and FTR offensively. Opponents are 13-15 when achieving an OR% of 40% or better, and K-State is actually 34-26 against opponents when they have a FTR of 50% or better against the Wildcats. The numbers are nearly 50-50 when opponents are better than K-State in either category. When opponents finish with a better OR% than K-State they are 14-16 (47%). When better in FTR opponetns are 39-41 (49%). Even when opponents are dramatically better in FTR (by 20% or more) they are 13-20 (39%) against K-State. The numbers show that K-State can often overcome too much fouling or even getting beat on the offensive glass.

Again, the stats verify that making or not making shots is the most important aspect of winning and losing with forcing TOs a close 2nd. Frank’s teams have been pretty good at both. Opponents only average .95 points per possession over Frank’s career, and 61% of the time opponents finish below average in points per possession over his career. When Frank’s pressure man defense forces teams into poor shots and bad decisions with the basketball it is very good. In Big 12 play K-State’s defense has still be very solid, allowing only .98 points per possession.

Conclusions

If you’ve followed K-State basketball closely under Frank, none of this is completely new, but the numbers do verify most of the perceptions of Frank’s teams, good and bad. Clearly, this year has shown that his strengths continue to be features of his program, but when you don’t hit shots and turn the ball over too often OR% and FTR can’t completely cover for your offense. Frank doesn’t have to have great shooters and ball handlers to win, but they have to be decent and so far the jury is still out on this year’s team. And its fair to point out that the issues Frank has had with roster turnover and maintaining enough continuity in his roster have contributed to some of this year’s issues. However, you can also see that the tenants Frank’s teams have had are still there; offensive rebounding, getting the the free throw line, and pressure defense. This gives a glimmer of hope for this season that if shooting and ball handling on offense can even come to respectable levels, this team is still very much in the hunt for an upper half finish and a trip the NCAA tournament.

40 Minutes of Distress

Distressnoun

1. great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction; trouble.

2. a state of extreme necessity or misfortune.

3. that which causes pain, suffering, trouble, danger, etc.

K-State’s defense and Frank Martin’s philosophy gets plenty of discussion from fans, commentators, and analysts. Martin’s teams have become known for their pressure and making things tough on opposing offenses, and the yearly statistics in defensive efficiency show the results. In his first 4 and half seasons, Frank’s teams have allowed about .90 points per possession every season; .90, .93, .90, .93, and .88 respectively. All of those rank in the To 50 nationally per season, and are much better than the national average of about 1.01 PPP.

When you look at the 4 factors of advanced statistics, 2 are consistent strengths. 1st, opponents’ effective field goal percentage (or eFG%, which factors in 3 point shots with 2 point shots) have finished between 44-48% every season, again below the national average of 49%. However, the strongest point of Frank’s defenses has consistently been forcing turnovers. On average opponents turn the ball over 1 out of every 4 or 5 times they possess the basketball. K-State’s defenses have forced turnover percentages of 22.4%, 23.8%, 23.6%, 22.2%, and 23.9% respectively (the national average is usually between 20-21%). All of those rank in the Top 100 for each season, and the past 4 seasons have all been in the Top 60. When you look deeper at those numbers, one thing that stands out is that Frank’s teams usually aren’t the best at creating steals. The steal percentage for each season has been 10.4%, 10.0%, 10.4%, 8.7%, and 8.6% respectively (the national average is usually about 10%). None of those rank in the Top 100, and the last two seasons aren’t even cracking the Top 200 nationally. In general Frank’s teams have been average at forcing steals, and the past two season well below average, yet his defenses still consistently generate turnovers.

That gets us to the word and definitions that we started with; distress, and this is where Frank’s teams are at their best. When you take out the steal percentage from the turnover percentage, Frank’s teams the last 4 seasons have been excellent. The percentage of turnovers not generated by steals the last 4 seasons have been 13.8%, 13.2%, 13.5%, and 15.3%. Every season this has ranked in the Top 2 for high major programs, and each season has been in the Top 13 nationally. Frank’s defenses are designed to make offenses uncomfortable and as a result an opponent is going to get sped up. This results in the high number of passes for opponents that are simply thrown out of bounds, possessions that end in travels, or even ball-handlers attacking the basket out of control and drawing a charge. In turn it also leads to forced shots which ends up lowering an opponent’s eFG%. It also at times makes it more difficult to judge who is playing well defensively and who is not; most observers tend to look at steals as the biggest indicator of great defense and for Frank’s players (and teams) that is not always the case. How you defend your man off the ball, how you fight through screens, and how you defend in the paint is what leads to the mistakes that Frank’s teams try to force just as much as ball pressure leads to steals or defected passes. So while 40% of the time Frank’s defenders are going to pick a ball handler or step in front of a pass for a steal, 60% of the time the turnover is simply going to be forcing an opponent into a mistake. This will lead to occasional wide open lay-ups or back door cuts, but more often than not that will be offset by an opposing guard throwing the ball into the 2nd row.