Tonight on ESPN2, the Texas Longhorns (9-10, 1-5) face their purple overlords, the Kansas St. Wildcats (15-4, 4-2). If Texas wants its bubble shot at making the NCAA Tournament, this game pretty much counts as a must-win.
For basketball fans that deplore Barnes' aggressive recruitment of one-and-dones, this Kansas St. team is a prime example of what things could look like if Texas just recruited decent four-year players. Bruce Weber's crew is a pretty good college team that has posted 12 wins, including a victory over Florida. However, I don't consider them a real threat to do anything substantial in the Tournament. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but I actually really like watching their players.
Kansas St.'s best starter, senior wing Rodney McGruder, is one of my favorite players to watch in the Big 12. He's also an undersized guard unlikely to ever get a sniff at the NBA. He leads the Wildcats with 15.3 PPG. His status as KSU's only double-digit scorer is much a function of opportunity, as his slash line is only OK (.442/.696/.345). Last year against Texas, McGruder got buckets, scoring 33 points in a fantastic performance.
I'm also a big fan of off-guard Will Spradling, a pesky ball of energy that, in a better life, would be Aaron Craft. Unfortunately, he can't really handle the ball, which makes him more of a Julien Lewis-type. Sophomore Angel Rodriguez has a sky-high assist rate (40.3%) and averages a decent 4.9 APG. He's the second-leading scorer at 9.4 PPG but his abysmal shooting percentages are only marginally better than Javan Felix's.
Junior Shane Southwell rounds out the four-guard portion of the starting lineup, and senior Martavious Irving provides depth on the perimeter. On the interior, Thomas Gipson draws the starting nod. He's a big-bodied individual that leads the team with 5.5 RPG. Reminds me of Texas A&M's Bryan Davis. Backup bigs Adrian Diaz and Jordan Henriquez will rotate with Gipson frequently. They're tall and athletic but are overseas players at best.
The Wildcats are fairly methodical on offense. They will pass around to find the right shot, try to limit turnovers, and crash the boards well. But McGruder is really the only threat to create his own shot, and Kansas St. doesn't spot-up shoot it particularly well. Defensively, the Wildcats are missing good wing play, and Texas may be able to attack through the length of Papapetrou and Lammert. Jonathan Holmes would've been a nice to have.
It's winnable. But it's also K-State.
Kansas St.: G - Martavious Irving #3 - Sr.) | G - Omari Lawrence (#12 - Jr.) | F - Nino Williams (#11 - So.) | F - D.J. Johnson (#50 - Fr.) | C - Adrian Diaz (#20 - So.) | C - Jordan Henriquez (#21 - Sr.)
Kansas St.: N/A
TEXAS (9-10, 1-5)
at No. 18/21 K-State (15-4, 4-2)
Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 • 7 p.m. CT
Manhattan, Kan. • Bramlage Coliseum (12,528)
Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Stephen Bardo (analyst)
Radio: Longhorn IMG Radio Network
Craig Way (play-by-play), Eddie Oran (analyst)
Satellite Radio: XM 202 / Sirius 216
Streaming Audio: TexasSports.com
Live Stats: GameTracker