(8) Kansas State vs. (9) Southern Miss Preview
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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(8) Kansas State Wildcats
The trademark of Frank Martin-coached teams is being tough and physical on the defensive end. This year’s group is no different. They aggressively protect the rim, led by Jordan Henriquez’s 2.3 rejections a night. They’re one of the best rebounding teams in the field, winning the battle of the boards by five on average. Coach Martin will regularly go nine deep, largely due to the frequent foul trouble his team gets into. They committed 20 fouls a game during the regular season. That will be a major concern in tournament play, especially if Rodney McGruder is forced to sit early because of it. They really rely on him offensively; they were 7-2 when he scored 20 or more. To win in the big dance for the third-straight year, the Wildcats will have to properly adapt to the way the officials are calling the game and make sure that they don’t leave too many points at the foul line. They only shot 66 percent as a team from the charity stripe. Against the RPI Top 50, the Wildcats were 5-6.
(9) Southern Miss Golden Eagles
The Golden Eagles are back in the tournament for the first time since 1991 and only the third time in school history. They’re in by being the only DI team to go undefeated at home while having a strong RPI and strength of schedule. They’re a balanced squad with six guys who average at least nine points. Neil Watson is their leading scorer with 12, but it’s a coin flip as to who will lead the Golden Eagles offensively on any given night. Despite their variety of options the Golden Eagles are not an overly efficient team, shooting just 41 percent from the field while averaging just 11 assists total. They actually allow their opponents to shoot better from the field than they do at 43 percent. Defensively, they give up 64 points a night. They went 9-3 against the RPI Top 75, with two wins against teams in the Top 25 and six against teams in the 51-75 range.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Kansas State. The Wildcats defense and physicality will bother the Golden Eagles and help them advance.
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