College Hoops Sunday: Your Commentary

    
December 4th, 2011

Frank Martin's Kansas State (4-0) may be undefeated on the young season, but it can definitely be argued that this group hasn't been tested. That all changes this evening as the Wildcats play their first true road game of the season, visiting Virginia Tech (5-2) in a game that could have long-term effects on both teams when looking ahead to Selection Sunday. The Hokies lost a tough one on Wednesday night, falling to a Minnesota team playing without its best player (Trevor Mbakwe) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and Seth Greenberg will need two of his key cogs to bounce back from their off nights in order to defend Cassell Coliseum.

Senior Dorenzo Hudson (12.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg) went scoreless while freshman Dorian Finney-Smith (7.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg) could muster just three points in the 58-55 loss to the Golden Gophers, and if Jarell Eddie is included three Hokie starters combined to shoot 2-for-14 from the field. That's not going to get it done in games of that magnitude, either out of conference or once they hit ACC play, so these key figures need to remain consistent in their level of production. Point guard Erick Green (16.5 ppg, 2.7 apg) has been banged up for much of the season, first dealing with Achilles issues and then falling off of the raised court at The Barn in the final seconds only to return and nearly send the game into overtime. Simply put, Green is tough as nails and his 25 points were a big reason why the Hokies remained in that contest throughout. 

Kansas State will counter at the point with sophomore Will Spradling, who has become more than just a facilitator in the aftermath of Jacob Pullen's departure. Spradling's averaging 12.8 points per game, an increase of more than six points per game compared to his average of a season ago. In fact, three players are averaging right around thirteen points per game, which underlines the Wildcats' need for balance without the services of such a dominant offensive figure. Guards Rodney McGruder (12.5 ppg) and Martavious Irving (8.0 ppg) also start while Shane Southwell is usually the first option off the bench, and forwards Thomas Gipson (12.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Jamar Samuels (11.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg) handle the bulk of the scoring in the frontcourt.

Kansas State's allowed opponents to shoot just 32.9% from the field to date, but once again this is only through four games and the level of competition that they've played doesn't really compare to Virginia Tech. That field goal percentage defense, along with the Wildcats forcing 18 turnovers per game, will be something to keep track of tonight. Will Kansas State's play transfer to Blacksburg, or will the tested Hokies remain undefeated at home? We shall see, but Kansas State can greatly improve their chances of winning by taking care of the basketball (14.5 turnovers/game) and limiting Hudson's quality looks.

In other action today there are some big games involving the Mountain West, with UNLV visiting Wichita State and San Diego State hosting California. The Rebels already have a win over North Carolina under their belts, but an argument can be made that a win in Wichita would be just as impressive given the Shockers' success of late. Gregg Marshall's team is expected to contend for the MVC title, and with players such as Toure' Murry (13.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and David Kyles (10.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.0 apg) just to name two this experienced group has all the pieces needed to do so.

The key for the Rebels, who are coming off of a thrilling double-overtime win at UCSB, will be the three-point line. Wichita State hasn't been great at knocking the shot down (34%) but they're the best in the nation at defending it as opponents are shooting just 24% on the year. Anthony Marshall, Chace Stanback and the rest of the Rebels will need to find good shots from deep if they're to win, and another big game from the early pick for national transfer of the year (Mike Moser) wouldn't hurt either. 

San Diego State owns one of the tougher home environments to deal with, and for the Golden Bears that task became even tougher with the suspension of sophomore forward Richard Solomon. That development likely adds more to the plate of freshman David Kravish, who has played some good basketball to start his career in Berkeley. But the key for Allen Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez and the rest of the Bears is a simple one: remain aggressive on offense. This is a group that can fall in love with the jump shot, thus limiting their trips to the foul line. That can't happen against the Aztecs if they're to pick up a much-needed win for both themselves and the mailgned Pac-12. Cal will also need to keep SDSU off the offensive boards, and guards Chase Tapley, Jamaal Franklin and Xavier Thames have been a handful for opponents as well. 

Baylor hits the road for the first time this season, and their matchup with Northwestern will be an interesting one to watch when considering junior point guard Pierre Jackson. Can he (and by extension his teammates), navigate the Wildcats' changing defenses? If so, the scoring opportunities for the likes of Qunicy Acy, Anthony Jones, Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller up front should be plentiful. But in John Shurna and Drew Crawford the Wildcats counter with one of the top scoring tandems in the country, and Bill Carmody's offensive system makes it tough on opposing defenses.

Also worth checking out is Notre Dame playing Maryland in the BB&T Classic, with both teams still looking for identities either because of youth (Maryland) or a major injury (Notre Dame). And Creighton hosts Nebraska in a game that matches the Huskers' Bo Spencer with Creighton's deep backcourt, and the Bluejays' Doug McDermott isn't too bad of a player either.  

Top 25 Games
4:00 PM (8) Baylor at Northwestern (BTN)
4:00 PM (20) UNLV at Wichita State
5:05 PM Nebraska at (22) Creighton (ESPN3)
5:00 PM (23) California at San Diego State (The Mtn.)

NCAA Division I Games
2:00 PM Dayton at Murray State (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Seattle at Harvard
2:00 PM Nebraska-Omaha at Michigan State (ESPN3)
2:00 PM La Sierra University vs. Columbia*
2:00 PM Maine at Rhode Island (Cox HD)
2:00 PM Iona at Niagara
2:00 PM St. Peter's at Manhattan
2:00 PM Rider at Marist
2:00 PM Akron at Middle Tennessee
2:00 PM USC Upstate at UNC Asheville
2:00 PM New Mexico State at Southern Miss
2:15 PM VCU vs. George Washington* (MASN/Versus)
3:00 PM Bowling Green at Western Kentucky (FCS)
3:00 PM Southern Methodist at Arkansas-Little Rock
3:30 PM South Carolina at Clemson (ESPNU)
4:00 PM North Carolina State at Stanford (FSN)
4:00 PM Mid-Continent College at Morehead State
4:30 PM Stetson at Indiana (BTN.com)
4:30 PM North Texas at Loyola Marymount
4:45 PM Notre Dame at Maryland (MASN/Versus)
5:00 PM Fairfield at Canisius
5:00 PM Pacific Union at San Francisco
5:30 PM Kansas State at Virginia Tech (ESPNU)
6:00 PM Hampton vs. Howard*
6:00 PM Langston at Oklahoma State
6:00 PM Ole Miss at Penn State (BTN)
8:00 PM Saint Joseph's at American (TCN)
8:00 PM Montana at Oregon State (Root NW)