After getting their first conference win at home against Texas Tech Saturday night, the Longhorns head back out on the road to play Kansas State. The game starts at 7 PM central time, and airs on ESPN2.
Kansas State comes into this game with a 4-2 Big 12 record, with their last two games losses to Kansas and Iowa State. First year coach Bruce Weber inherited a strong roster, which includes senior guard Rodney McGruder. The 6-4 McGruder got off to a slow start this season, but has picked things up lately, and is again an effective scorer for the Wildcats. 78 percent of the Kansas State guard's attempts are jump shots, and McGruder is a dangerous shooter. Julien Lewis will need to keep tabs on him all night, and he will have to chase McGruder through the many screens that take place in Weber's motion offense.
Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez is another player to keep your eye on as you watch the game. Rodriguez is one of the better playmakers in the country, assisting on 40 percent of his teammates' baskets while in the game. Rodriguez is one of the few guards on Kansas State who frequently attacks the basket, attempting 32 percent of his shots at the rim. The problem for Rodriguez is that he has made less than 40 percent of these shots in close; this is the life of a 5-11 guard in the land of the giants.
Will Spradling and Shane Southwell are two more effective shooters for the Wildcats. Neither one is a serious threat to drive the basket, but both are dangerous shooters when open. While Spradling has played more over his career in Manhattan, in a way Southwell is actually a tougher guy to guard, as his height (he is 6-6) helps him get good looks from three.
It is hard to know what to make of Kansas State. They started out the season generating numbers that looked more like one of Frank Martin's teams, posting a low shooting percentage but high offensive rebounding rates. Since conference play has started, they have played more like one of Weber's teams at Illinois, shooting for a much higher effective field goal percentage (they currently have the best eFG% in the Big 12), and no longer crashing the glass. One thing that has changed: since the start of Big 12 play, Kansas State has taken 39 percent of their shots from three point range, while their season average is just 32 percent. It is a change that makes sense. If you are going to take mostly jump shots, you might as well get an extra point when they go in.
So what Kansas State team will we see? The one that takes and misses a lot of mid-range shots, but crashes the glass? Or the one that fires away from three? We will find out soon enough.