College Hoops Monday: Your Commentary

February 14th, 2011
It's now or never for Frank Martin's Kansas State Wildcats, who have been among the most disappointing teams in America. Having lost at Colorado on Saturday night K-State (16-9, 4-6) is in desperate need of a signature win, and the blessing of being in the Big 12 is that they have multiple opportunities to pick one up. Tonight certainly qualifies with in-state rival Kansas (24-1, 9-1) visiting Bramlage Coliseum, and with Thomas Robinson out and Josh Selby banged up (and likely to sit as well) the Jayhawks will be down in the depth department. But that hasn't mattered of late to Bill Self's team, which has been among the most efficient in America due in part to the presence of Marcus and Markieff Morris. Marcus is the team's leading scorer and Markieff its leading rebounder, and the combination of both posting double-doubles on Saturday with Kansas State's dwindling numbers up front will be a major test for the Wildcats.

Luckily for Coach Martin senior forward Curtis Kelly remains eligible and will be for the remainder of the season, avoiding one more personnel loss that's already stricken Freddy Asprilla and Wally Judge from the roster. The one piece of good news from their first meeting, a 90-66 Kansas win in Lawrence, may be that the Wildcats were out-rebounded by just four on the night. At the very least Kelly, Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and Jamar Samuels will need to provide a similar output on the glass if Kansas State is to remain competitive throughout. They're also going on have to be much better on the defensive end as interior play was a major reason for Kansas' effective field goal percentage of 66.4% and an offensive efficiency of 123.3. If things are relatively easy for the Morii and Mario Little inside it's going to be a long night in Manhattan.

On the perimeter it's go time for Jacob Pullen, who stated a few weeks ago that he won't be playing in the NIT should Kansas State end up there. The senior's averaging 18 points per game but shooting just 41% from the field, a product of teams focusing their defensive efforts on him in addition to the lack of another playmaker in the backcourt. Rodney McGruder averages around 11 points per game but other than that Kansas State's other perimeter players have struggled with consistency. That's bad news considering how well Kansas has played on the perimeter, with every player understanding and buying into their particular roles. Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed and Tyshawn Taylor are all solid veterans who can do a number of things on the floor, with Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford both getting their opportunities to contribute especially with Selby out.

The job for Kansas State is a simple one: compete on the boards and take care of the basketball (averaging 15 turnovers per game) and they've got a shot. But if the Jayhawks are allowed to distribute the ball with ease and rebound, the door may close on the Wildcats' chances of grabbing an at-large bid (even with games against Missouri and Texas still to be played). In the other matchup involving a ranked team Syracuse hosts West Virginia as the race for a single (and maybe double) bye in the Big East Tournament heats up. The Orange fought hard in the second half before ultimately falling at Louisville by four, and they'll need their defense to perform well against the Mountaineers. Bob Huggins' club doesn't have a vast array of perimeter shooters but they can attack the glass, and the matchup between Kevin Jones and Kris Joseph should be fun to watch.

Top 25
9:00 PM (1) Kansas at Kansas State (ESPN)
7:00 PM West Virginia at (20) Syracuse (ESPN)

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Stony Brook at Albany (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Hampton at North Carolina A&T (ESPNU)
7:05 PM Savannah State at Citadel
7:30 PM Quinnipiac at Sacred Heart
8:00 PM Delaware State at Florida A&M
8:00 PM Florida Gulf Coast at Western Kentucky
8:00 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at Bethune-Cookman
8:00 PM Sam Houston State at McNeese State
8:00 PM Coppin State at North Carolina Central
8:00 PM Morgan State at South Carolina State
8:00 PM Tennessee State at Tennessee Tech
8:30 PM Howard at Norfolk State
9:00 PM Alcorn State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
9:00 PM Prairie View A&M at Jackson State (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Southern University at Mississippi Valley State
9:00 PM Texas Southern at Grambling State
12:00 AM Nevada at Hawaii