Countdown to College Basketball: #46 Kansas State Wildcats
In a year where Kansas State seems to have low expectations from the outside, the Wildcats have a chance to surprise some people and are a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender. While the losing to Emporia State, and finishing 9th in the Big 12 aren’t anything to be proud of, the Wildcats were a team that got better throughout the season. Now with a year more of development for a group of young players, Bruce Weber’s Wildcats are set to surprise some people.
A backcourt duo of Nijel Pack and Mike McGuirl will be one to watch this season, with Pack having a real chance to become a star. Pack will be tasked with being a go-to option on the team, similarly to last year but with another year of development, he should continue to improve. Pack is a great shooter, solid passer, and a good overall scorer. Once he realized he needed to score, he did so by scoring in double figures in 12 of his last 14 games. Mike McGuirl will provide the team with a steady hand at the point, good defense, and the ability to space the floor. While McGuirl is not going to provide much scoring, his veteran leadership will be key for Kansas State.
Davion Bradford will be the key piece, the 7’0 big man really emerged as a go-to option inside at times last season although he was inconsistent. Bradford has a really good touch around the basket and uses that to score with ease. His key will be developing as an interior defender and remaining out of foul trouble. Mark Smith comes over from Missouri to move into the starting rotation, he’s a solid scorer, decent shooter and defender and is an upgrade from DaJuan Gordon. Selton Miguel likely fills out the starting-5, while he’s not a major threat offensively, he’s a good defender that will play as a small-ball 4.
The bench unit will also be set up to have some scoring coming from it. Markquis Nowell maybe 5’7 but he’s a pure bucket-getter, in a game where the offense may be struggling he could be a good sixth man scorer. Ismael Massoud will come in and provide some scoring and shooting at the 4 spot. Kaosi Ezeagu will play minutes as a backup-5, he will be able to provide some interior scoring off the bench
While this team struggled big-time last year, the defense remained solid and will continue to be solid this season. While a lot of this projection is heavily reliant upon breakouts from Pack and Bradford, they showed late last season that they can be high-level scorers. They also add some scoring pop with Gordon, Nowell, and Massoud who all have the ability to be double-figure scorers depending upon the matchup.
Kansas State will still have games where they just won’t score enough points to have a chance to win. For them to win they will need to play a low-possession defensive-minded game. With their toughness, physicality and the improvements around the margins, this should be a team capable of making the NCAA Tournament.
PG: Mike McGuirl
SG: Nijel Pack
SF: Mark Smith
PF: Selton Miguel
C: Davion Bradford
B1: Markquis Nowell
B2: Ismael Massoud
B3: Kaosi Ezeagu
B4: Luke Kasubke