K-State Q&A: Matching up with Kentucky, Wildcat puns, Shane Southwell, Brad Underwood, Marvin Clark and Hawaiian shirts

In honor of the start of the NCAA Tournament, we are moving our weekly K-State Q&A up a day.

Kansas State is taking on Kentucky at approximately 8:40 p.m. on Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The game should serve as an exclamation mark on a fun day of basketball. Kansas and Wichita State are both playing in the same arena on the same day.

I’m already here with a strong media horde. So follow along for updates.

Two updates before we move onto your questions:

1. Marvin Clark says he will announce his college decision on Monday. His finalists are Kansas State, Michigan State, Seton Hall and Indiana. He is no longer considering Iowa State. Clark’s AAU coach, Matt Suther, said he will meet with Clark and his family this weekend to discuss the possibilities.

“It’s going to be a tough decision,” Suther said. “He is still weighing his options. He has gone back and forth. He really likes Michigan State, but the pull to stay close to home is also there. He is looking at where he has the best opportunity to play right away. He wants to go someplace that is really big on skill development.”

2. Brad Underwood still bleeds purple. I caught up with the McPherson native and former K-State player/coach this week about his amazing season at Stephen F. Austin. But before he hung up the phone, he told me he was rooting hard for K-State this weekend.

He said one of the best things about working at Stephen F. Austin is that it reminds him of K-State.

“It’s just like Manhattan,” Underwood said. “I’m a really simple guy. I grew up in McPherson. To me where there are good people there is a good program. This is an unbelievable community. Everyone says it’s hard to recruit to Manhattan. That’s a bunch of crap. The people make it easy. It’s the same here. Players feel that genuine care and appreciation from them and they can tell they want to come here. It’s why both places are so special.”

Anyway, let’s get to your questions.

Over. Definitely, over. If CBS doesn’t point out that “the Wildcats are sure to win this game” in the opening five minutes, it will be a surprise.

Here’s the interesting thing about this matchup: Kentucky has more talent at every position, but it is only a 4.5-point favorite in Vegas and a 3-point favorite by Ken Pomeroy. So it’s not like Kentucky is known for showing up and blowing teams away. It has lost 10 games, including six in the down SEC (and one to South Carolina). It is a strong rebounding team, but it doesn’t put up a ton of points. If K-State brings tenacity on defense and challenges Kentucky up and down the floor with its depth, it will have a chance. Kentucky has a huge advantage inside. Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein may be the best front court K-State has faced all season. They resemble Baylor, only bigger. That will be tough to overcome, but not impossible. K-State has beaten bigger teams (Kansas and Gonzaga come to mind). On paper, it’s a horrible matchup. In reality, the game should be close.

If K-State can get quality minutes out of D.J. Johnson, and maybe even play him next to Thomas Gipson, then the answer is yes. If not, Gipson, Shane Southwell and Nino Williams will be in a for a long night.

I’m going with Kentucky down low. Though some three-pointers from Marcus Foster, Will Spradling and Shane Southwell will help K-State’s chances, I don’t think K-State can win if Kentucky dominates inside. When K-State has been at its best, it has gotten contributions from its bench, with D.J. Johnson and Omari Lawrence scoring near the basket. That needs to happen on Friday.

He’s had a disappointing season. This was supposed to be his year, coming off a breakthrough junior campaign. But he hasn’t matured into the consistent leader or scorer K-State needs him to be. Even when he has played well, like against Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament, he turned into a knucklehead with the game on the line. I thought this Bruce Weber quote about K-State’s senior class was telling: “They aren’t boisterous guys. We come every day hoping for some epiphany and they have the little fairy godmother who comes and does a little wand on them and the next day they come and they are great leaders. They are what they are.” That being said, Southwell has a chance to go out with a bang if he can defend Randle or put up some points against Kentucky.

I assume by #OOD you are referring to K-State’s fan base. I’m sure some will make the trip, but they won’t have a crowd advantage. Wichita State fans have been gobbling up tickets in St. Louis for months and no fan base travels better than Kentucky.

If that’s your first instinct, go with it. I feel like tinkering with your bracket only leads to negatives. That being said, K-State and Wichita State match up reasonably well. It would be a good game … If K-State can beat Kentucky.

I have worn a Hawaiian shirt on press row before. When K-State played in the Diamond Head Classic, I broke out the loudest shirt in the building. It worked well with khakis and Sperry’s. K-State smashed Texas El-Paso that day, but Frank Martin opened the postgame news conference with a comment on my shirt. He called it “big-time” and promised to wear an even better Hawaiian shirt in the tournament’s championship game, selected by Underwood, and he did. I definitely recommend wearing a Hawaiian shirt in St. Louis. The high will be in the 70s on Friday.

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E-mail: krobinett@wichitaeagle.com
Twitter: @KellisRobinett