The Puerto Rico Tip-Off gets underway tomorrow morning at 10:30 when the Charlotte 49ers take on the Kansas State Wildcats. (A prominent member of the Charlotte athletic department graduated from there, as you well know.) We reached out to Dave Thoman at our sister blog, Jug of Snyder, with three questions on the matchup in an occasional feature we’ll call the “Three Point Stance”.
1. Who are the standout players for the Wildcats coming into 2013-14?
Shane Southwell and Will Spradling are the two senior starters expected to step up over the course of the year. Southwell was supposed to have a big offensive season last year, but was largely overshadowed by Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez. With those players gone, he’s by far the best player in isolation. Spradling is an excellent shooting guard, but has been thrust into the point guard position until Jevon Thomas is eligible to join the team at the conclusion of the fall semester. Down two points with one second left on the clock, there’s no one you want on the line to knock two shots in than Spradling.
2. The team’s first game was a loss to Northern Colorado, a 13-18 team last year. Has the fanbase taken that as a genuine reason for concern or just an early-season hiccup as the team adjusts?
I hate speaking for the fanbase at large – you know how overreactive fans get. I will give credit to Wildcat fans for being patient with Bruce Weber. He bought a lot of goodwill last year when K-State came out of nowhere to win the Big 12 regular season and he was named Coach of the Year. People are aware of the huge turnover on the roster. Bill Snyder has built a powerhouse recruiting football players that couldn’t even get scholarships at DI-AA schools and turning them into All-Americans. If there’s a fanbase that understands a great coach can make a team greater than its parts, it’s the folks in Manhattan. However, Weber needs to demonstrate he’s capable of doing that (his tenure at Illinois showed he can take someone else’s recruiting class all the way, but failed to make the school relevant once he only had the players he relied on).
3. K-State brings in a host of three-star recruits to replace the players that it lost in the offseason. How ready is this group of freshmen to make an immediate impact?
They obviously weren’t ready against Northern Colorado. The hope is that the Wildcats fell merely to early season jitters – they’ve won their past two. Additionally, a freshman has led the team in scoring in each game (although Spradling would be knocking down more shots if he wasn’t busy running the offense). I’d also note that the big men are young too – forward D.J. Johnson is second on the team in both points (10.0) and rebounds (5.7). Freshman guard Marcus Foster leads the team in minutes per game (30), and Johnson is second. This is a young team, and the Puerto Rico Tipoff is either going to make them grow up quick, or it’ll be a very long plane ride back up to the mainland.
Game Prediction: This is entirely different team than the 2012-13 version, but the blueprint will be the same: Kansas State will play a surprisingly slow and defensive game despite its diminutive roster. I’m looking for scores in the mid- to low-60s, and see K-State emerging with an eight point victory.