Preview & Prediction: By Fairway Jay
Kansas State (5-0) looks to remain perfect this early season when they tip-off the late game Friday night at the Las Vegas Invitational. The Orleans Arena is the host venue and I’ll be in attendance to watch the two late games Friday. Two coaches in their second season guiding their respective programs have high hopes despite some key losses. Kansas State is more of a perimeter team this year with the departure of Michael Beasley and Bill Walker to the NBA. Jacob Pullen is the lone returning starter at guard and leads a group of five players averaging double figures in scoring. Denis Clemente has been a solid addition from Miami, as the lightning quick transfer combo guard has stepped right into the starting lineup and provided a scoring threat (13ppg) and the ability to speed up the pace. Head coach Frank Martin’s team is required to work with weights and build body strength, and the front court features a physically strong group with three players that were all in the system last year and currently averaging over 7rpg. The Wildcats are ripping down 42 rebounds-per-game (ypr), and freshman reserve Jamar Samuels is very active on the offensive end and has contributed 11ppg and nearly 6rpg. Kansas State has scored over 80 points in four of their five games, but Kentucky will provide a much greater challenge with a stronger and more aggressive man-to-man defense.
Kentucky (2-2) did get beat 77-58 at North Carolina ten days ago, but they held the potent Tar Heels to 41% shooting while also holding a slight rebounding advantage. The Wildcats were careless with the basketball in their opening two games, committing 25 and 28 turnovers. They held their last two inferior opponents under 32% shooting, but still had 19 turnovers against Longwood. However, head coach Billy Gillispie said his team played with much more hunger and toughness in that 91-57 win, and noted better ball movement and passes into the low post. Patrick Patterson is hitting over 67% of his shots this season and had a career-high 28 points to go along with 12 rebounds and six assists against Longwood. The big work horse power forward is the go-to guy inside while fearless shooting guard Jodie Meeks is back healthy this season and proving to be a prolific scorer while averaging 24ppg. That inside/outside combo should be solid throughout the season, but the new embryonic Kentucky point guards will be tested with Kansas State’s pressing style. Forwards Perry Stevenson and freshman Darius Miller need to set more screens to help their point guards, and Kentucky will be best when they play with more toughness and aggressiveness on the defensive end. The Kansas State – Kentucky match-up is sure to be a physical contest and will provide a solid challenge for both teams.
A potentially interesting match-up awaits Saturday night. Former Kansas State coach Bob Huggins and his West Virginia team plays Iowa Friday, and West Virginia could meet Kansas State Saturday evening if they both win or lose their opening game. Current KSU coach Martin was an assistant under Huggins. But the Kentucky vs. Kansas State match-up is the marquee feature at the Las Vegas Invitational and can be seen on ESPNU with Saturday’s championship game televised on ESPN2.
Winner: Kentucky Margin: 1-4 points
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About Fairway Jay
Previews & Predictions
Jay Ginsbach, also known as "Fairway Jay’"joins the CHN team and staff this season from Sportsmemo.com. He’ll provide his insight and expertise covering the college basketball scene with periodic thoughts from a Las Vegas perspective.