K-State Q&A: Looking ahead to important road games, looking back on the Baylor loss, plus NCAA Tournament and Justin Edwards

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another K-State Q&A. Apologies for taking last week off, but it was 86 degrees in Texas leading up to the Baylor game. I chose to spend every second I could away from the computer.

Anyway, there’s a big week of basketball ahead. The Wildcats play at Oklahoma and Texas Tech and then return home to take on Iowa State. All three games could be considered toss-ups. They will certainly impact the seed K-State earns in the NCAA Tournament.

Let’s go ahead and jump into your questions. Thanks, as always, for asking them.

1. The expectation has to be 0-2, given K-State’s recent history. Though it has often looked dominant at home (winning 14 straight) it has played poorly on the road (losing every away game other than at bottom-feeder TCU). But the majority of its road losses have been close, so it’s also reasonable to assume K-State will break through and win a road game at some point. Oklahoma is 11-3 at home. Texas Tech is 10-5 at home. K-State could win in both venues, but both games will be difficult. Too difficult to expect victories given that K-State has lost five straight on the road.

2. Expect Southwell to play against Oklahoma. He dressed and warmed up for K-State’s game against TCU and Bruce Weber said he should be good to go for as many as 20 minutes this weekend. He may not start, but he should play.

3. The main key to beating Oklahoma is forcing the Sooners to play at a slow pace. They average 83 points, considerably more than K-State, and have five players who averaged double-figures. The Wildcats beat them in Manhattan by shutting down Cameron Clark. That may be difficult to duplicate with Southwell less than 100 percent. But maybe they can slow down Buddy Hield, OU’s leading scorer, or Ryan Spangler, a double-double machine.

I feel weird writing this: But Oklahoma could be a less challenging game than Texas Tech. Sure, the Sooners are headed to the NCAA Tournament and the Red Raiders aren’t, but Oklahoma has some wild ups and downs. It won at Texas and beat Iowa State. It also lost at home to Louisiana Tech. Bruce Weber has never lost to Lon Kruger, and K-State matches up well with Oklahoma. KenPom projects OU to win 74-70, giving K-State a 34 percent chance of victory. That sounds reasonable, though I would give K-State a 45 percent shot at victory.

Well, fouling Isaiah Austin the second he grabbed the final offensive rebound of that possession would have worked out better than allowing him to pass to Brady Heslip. But that’s a difficult thing for a player to realize in that situation. Besides, there were bigger issues on that sequence. For starters, why did Bruce Weber call his team off the free-throw line as Marcus Foster attempted his second shot? A made free throw or an offensive rebound would have effectively ended the game. So why drop your defense back? All that did was encourage Baylor to shoot a three. Then K-State can’t come up with a rebound on the other end while Baylor can grab three. And Will Spradling cheated up on Austin instead of staying back on Heslip. If he stays on Heslip, Austin has no one to pass to for a game-tying three. That may have been the biggest mistake of all. Still, K-State did everything wrong at the end of regulation.

I could see K-State reaching the Sweet 16 if it can escape the 8/9 line, where bracket projections currently list it. The Wildcats have enough talent and experience to win in the rounds of 64 and 32, but it will be extremely difficult to win two games when the second one is against a No. 1 seed. Not only is the 8/9 game the toughest game of the first round, the winner has to face a top four team that just pounded a 16 seed two days later. If K-State can close strong and move up to a 6/7 seed, its road becomes more manageable.

Justin Edwards is a wing, capable of playing shooting guard and small forward. He is a slasher and one of the most athletic players on K-State’s roster. Remember, he ran away with the dunk contest at K-State’s preseason basketball kick-off event. He averaged 16.7 points at Maine. Next to Marcus Foster, he may be the Wildcats’ best player. Watch out for him next season when he becomes eligible.

Have a comment or future story idea for K-Stated?
E-mail: krobinett@wichitaeagle.com
Twitter: @KellisRobinett