Here we go, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation -- the second semifinal of the Las Vegas Invitational. The first will be Iowa vs. West Virgina, which my wife and I will be attending as well. For most of you in the East, the UK vs. Kansas State game will begin at midnight EST. I know some of you will be up, and there will be an open thread as always for you to post your comments in. I will be showing up in there (Internet connection permitting) from the game if my reception is good enough.
I'll be posting some pics from the game later on or early tomorrow (time permitting). But right now, lets have a quick look at the player stats (all stats courtesy of StatSheet.com. Likely starters are highlighted as always. For more on the Kansas State Wildcats, be sure to check out the excellent Kansas State SB Nation blog Bring on the Cats.
|Kentucky Player Stats|
|Kansas State Player Stats|
Inside the paint
The main inside threat of Kansas State this year is 6'10" 230# Darren Kent, who is both an inside player and one of the leading rebounders. Kent is a senior out of Apple Valley, Minnesota.
From inside the arc, a major threat of Kansas State is Dominique Sutton, a smooth and powerful wing player with an excellent mid-range game. Sutton was a 4* Rivals player who joined the K-State Wildcats last year. This year, he is the third leading scorer nd second leading rebounder on the team.
Luis Colon starts at center, and he is a big guy at 6'10"/265#, but Ron Anderson, a 6'8" sophomore power forward and team's leading rebounder will do most of the time in that position if form holds, and neither of these two is a serious scoring threat although Anderson is a much better rebounder. Colon has a tendency to get into foul trouble. Jamar Samuels provides both rebounding and scoring from the bench.
I expect Kentucky to have an advantage at the 1-3 spots. Even though Sutton is a very dangerous player and Kent is big enough to post up, UK has more athletic and dynamic players in the 4 and 5 spot, and at the three, Ramon Harris is capable of handling Sutton.
Kansas State has a dynamic back court consisting of Jacob Pullen and Dennis Clemente, both dynamic scorers who can stroke it from three and score from everywhere else. These two guys will be the biggest challenge that UK will face, along with 3-point specialist Fred Brown who is shooting the long ball at 50% accuracy.
Unfortunately, neither Meeks nor Porter match up particularly well with these guys. Both Pullen and Clemente are small, quick and can penetrate the lane. Kentucky will have some difficulty this year handling smaller guard combos, and this could well be a very difficult team for UK to contain because of the guards. The back court play is likely to decide the game unless Kentucky dominates the front court, and I give the K-State Wildcats a slight edge in the back court.
The team stats for these two contestants are as follows:
|RPI Rank||191||92||That's what 2-2 vs. 5-0 will get you.|
|SOS||0.52||0.42||UNC is why.|
|SOS Rank||146||258||Moving up, but still looks weak. KSU weaker, though.|
|Wins & Losses|
|Blowout (> 19)||2-0||3-0|
|Close (< 6)||0-0||0-0|
|Pts Per Game||80.8||83.6||Both due to weak schedules so far.|
|FG Pct||49.8||45.7||We shoot better because we have better inside players.|
|3pt FG Pct||29.9||34.7||This is where we are vulnerable.|
|Reb Per Game||43.5||46.2|
|Off Rebs Per Game||12||18||This is where their rebounding edge lies. We have to shut this down.|
|Def Rebs Per Game||29.3||25|
|Assists, Steals, & Blocks|
|Assists Per Game||17.8||19||Close.|
|Steals Per Game||7.5||9.4||Close.|
|Blocks Per Game||8.8||3.6||Not close. We are among the best in the NCAA.|
|Turnovers & Fouls|
|TO Per Game||21||12.8||Not close. If both are at season's average, KSU wins.|
|Fouls Per Game||19.3||18||Surprisingly close. Slight advantage UK if FT shooting holds to form.|
Kentucky and Kansas State match up very well, and this is an excellent early-season test for the improving Kentucky Wildcats. Kansas State is not the team they were last year with Michael Beasly and Bill Walker, but they are very competent and more than sufficiently talented to test Kentucky, particularly in the back court.
This will be a very interesting game, and will tell us if the last two blowouts have actually included the signs of improvement we all think we see, or just the mirage of competence courtesy of inferior competition. This game will tell us much about the Kentucky Wildcats, for good or ill.