Introducing the All-Bill Snyder Team

Snyder team

By Cole Manbeck and John Kurtz

It’s mid-July, and there’s a good chance you’re starting to get the itch for football. We’re under the 50-day mark until the season opener for Kansas State, and to help pass the time, we thought we’d do something fun to engage all of you.

John Kurtz and I put our heads together (scary thought, I know) and came up with the All-Bill Snyder Team. We have broken the groups into a First-Team Offense, First-Team Defense and First-Team Special Teams as well as a Second-Team unit for all three categories. This list is subjective and certainly up for debate, as some great players were left off. So we want your opinion. Let us know if you agree, or if you have some changes, and who those changes might be.

*Editor’s note: This list does not include players currently on the K-State roster as their body of work is not complete.

 

First-Team Offense:

Quarterback: Michael Bishop (1997-98)

Bishop helped lead K-State to a 22-3 record, a Fiesta Bowl victory in 1997 and a No. 1-national ranking in 1998. The talented signal caller possessed one of the strongest arms in all of football and was a powerful runner. Bishop, the 1998 Davey O’Brien Award winner (given to the country’s top quarterback), led the Big 12 Conference with 2,844 passing yards and 23 touchdowns to only five interceptions during his senior season, while rushing for 748 yards and 14 touchdowns. His 37 touchdowns in 1998 topped the Big 12 and ranked fifth nationally. Bishop, a 1998 consensus All-American, finished second in the 1998 Heisman Trophy voting, the highest a K-State player has ever finished.

Running back: Darren Sproles (2001-04)

One of the easiest decisions on this list, Sproles finished his college career with 4,979 rushing yards and ranked sixth all time in college football history in all-purpose yards. The dynamic running back, a First-Team All-American, led college football with 1,986 rushing yards in 2003, and delivered an unforgettable performance in K-State’s 35-7 victory over No. 1-ranked Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship, running for 235 yards while also taking a screen pass 60 yards for a score. Sproles, who finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2003, ran for at least 1,300 yards in each of his last three seasons in Manhattan. He scored 45 touchdowns and averaged 6.1 yards per carry during his four seasons at K-State.

Fullback: Rock Cartwright (2000-01)

Cartwright will go down as arguably the best running fullback Bill Snyder has had up to this point at K-State. The powerful fullback ran for 570 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry during his two years in Manhattan. Cartwright was also a tremendous blocker, helping pave the way for running back Josh Scobey, who rushed for 1,981 yards, 31 touchdowns and averaged 4.8 yards per carry during their two seasons together in the backfield.

Wide receiver: Kevin Lockett (1993-96)

Lockett was the model of consistency during his four years at K-State. The Wildcats’ all-time leader in career receptions (207), receiving yards (3,032) and receiving touchdowns (26), Lockett was equally as good in the classroom, earning academic All-American honors in 1995 and 1996. Lockett, a First-Team all-Big 12 performer in 1996, will go down as having one of the best sets of hands Snyder ever coached.

Wide receiver: Jordy Nelson (2003-07)

Known for its success with walk-ons, Nelson is arguably K-State’s best non-scholarship player to come through the program under Snyder. The Riley County product, a consensus All-American in 2007, ranks second all-time in school history with 2,842 yards receiving. He caught 122 passes in 2007, ranking second in the country. Nelson’s 122 receptions are the most in school history for a single season. The next closest is Tyler Lockett at 81 in 2013. Nelson’s 1,606 yards receiving in 2007 is the top mark in program history, with the next closest being Lockett, who had 1,263 yards last season.

Tight end: Justin Swift (1995-98)

Swift caught 42 passes for 697 yards and six touchdowns during his K-State career. He was a favorite target of quarterback Michael Bishop. The 6-foot-4 tight end recorded 36 receptions for 609 yards in his final two seasons, averaging 16.9 yards per catch.

Offensive line: Todd Weiner (1994-97)

Weiner arrived at K-State as a 6-5, 240-pound tight end. He left approximately 60 pounds heavier as a second-team All-American and a First-Team All-Big 12 performer at left tackle. Weiner was a second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks and played 11 seasons in the NFL.

Offensive line: Nick Leckey (2000-03)

The only First-Team All-American on the offensive line during the Snyder era, Leckey started 41 consecutive games for the Wildcats. The former center never allowed a sack during his career and was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy (given to the country’s best center) in 2003. Leckey, who played six seasons in the NFL, was named to the All-Big 12 First Team in 2002 and 2003.

Offensive line:  Kendyl Jacox (1994-97)

Jacox was a four-year starter at guard and center and earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors in 1997. The 6-1, 320-pounder went on to play for three NFL teams.

Offensive line: Barrett Brooks (1991-94)

Brooks, a four-year starter at left tackle, earned Second-Team All-American honors in 1994 and was an All-Big Eight Conference performer. Brooks was one of just three offensive linemen during the Snyder era to earn First or Second-Team All-American honors. Brooks played 11 seasons in the NFL.

Offensive line: Ryan Young (1996-99)

An All-Big 12 performer on the offensive line, Young shined at left tackle along the K-State offensive line. Young, a 6-6, 325-pounder, went on to play in the NFL.

 

First-Team Defense:

Defensive end: Darren Howard (1996-99)

Howard, a two-time All-Big 12 selection, was a cornerstone on some of K-State’s best defenses. The defensive end owns the school record for sacks in a career with 29.5 and is second in school history with 54 tackles for loss. Howard led the 1997 defense with 11 sacks and the 1998 defense with 10.5 sacks. He also owns K-State’s record for forced fumbles in a single season with six and is tied for the school lead in a career with nine.

Defensive end: Nyle Wiren (1993-96)

Wiren’s 11.5 sacks in 1996 are tied for the top mark in a single season in program history. His 27.5 career sacks rank No. 2 all time. Wiren recorded three sacks in three different conference games during his time at K-State. The defensive end ranks sixth in school history with 46 tackles for loss in his career.

Defensive tackle: Tim Colston (1992-95)

A two-time All-American, Colston was named the Big Eight Defensive Player of the Year in 1995 after recording 81 tackles and seven sacks. His junior season was even more impressive. Colston recorded 94 tackles, eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss in 1994. Colston, a three-time All-Big Eight Conference selection, ranks eighth in school history with 18 career sacks and is 10th all time with 158 unassisted tackles, a remarkable feat for a defensive tackle.

Defensive tackle: Mario Fatafehi (1999-2000)

Fatafehi arrived at K-State as a junior college transfer and made an immediate impact. The defensive tackle started 24 consecutive games for the Wildcats and recorded 128 tackles and 12 sacks during his career. Fatafehi, a First-Team All-American, earned Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors in 1999, and earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors in his senior season after posting 80 tackles and 8.5 sacks.

Linebacker: Mark Simoneau (1996-99)

Linebacker might be the strongest position group during the Snyder era, making these selections difficult. But there was no debate that Simoneau, an All-American and three-time All-Big 12 selection, should be on the All-Bill Snyder First Team. The Kansas native racked up 400 tackles in his career, ranking third all time at K-State. His 251 solo tackles are the top mark in program history. Simoneau led the Wildcats in tackles in both 1998 and 1999 and his 52 tackles for loss in his career rank third in school history. Simoneau was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

Linebacker: Jeff Kelly (1997-98)

It was quite the battle between the Oklahoma and K-State coaching staffs to land Kelly. In the end, the Wildcats got the talented linebacker, and Kelly made all the recruiting work K-State put in pay off. The 1998 First-Team All-American only spent two seasons in Manhattan, but he still ranks fourth all time with 47 tackles for loss. Kelly’s 24 tackles for loss in 1997 are No. 3 all time in a single season for K-State, while his 23 tackles for loss in 1998 rank fifth all time.

Linebacker: Josh Buhl (2000-03)

Buhl redshirted in 1999, but on home game days, he would still warm up with his teammates wearing the No. 7 on his jersey. Michael Bishop, one of the most popular players in the Snyder era, had just departed. Little did K-State fans know at the time they would be able to continue wearing that No. 7 jersey proudly for a future All-American. Buhl’s 184 tackles in the 2003 season ranks No. 1 all time at K-State. His 135 tackles in 2002 ranks 12th on the all-time chart. His 109 unassisted tackles in the 2003 season ranks No. 1 in school history, while he ranks second all time at K-State with 247 solo tackles. Buhl, who recorded 398 tackles during his career, wasn’t your prototypical size for a linebacker, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better player for his position pound for pound.

Cornerback: Terence Newman (1999-2002)

Well, this was an easy choice. Newman was a unanimous First-Team All-American in 2002 and was named the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year after intercepting five passes and breaking up 14 more. The Salina, Kan., product won the Jim Thorpe Award (given to the country’s top defensive back) and was a finalist for the Bronco Nagurski Award (given to the country’s top defensive player). Newman’s 19 passes defended in 2002 rank third in school history for a single season. Selected with the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft, Newman intercepted 10 passes during his college career, tying him for seventh all time in school history. But it wasn’t so much the interceptions from Newman that were key. Teams became afraid to throw his direction, and thus, he essentially eliminated half the field for an opposing quarterback to throw.

Cornerback: Chris Canty (1994-96)

Chalk up another easy decision here. Canty was a consensus two-time All-American at K-State. His 25 passes defended in 1995 rank No. 1 in school history for a single season, while his 56 passes defended in his career also ranks No. 1 all time. Canty’s eight interceptions in the 1995 season is the top mark in school history while his 14 career interceptions ranks No. 2 all time. Canty, who led K-State in interceptions in both 1995 and 1996, chose to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft, where he was a first-round pick.

Safety: Jaime Mendez (1990-93)

K-State’s all-time leader in interceptions with 15, Mendez was one of the key pieces in building the Wildcats’ football program into a consistent winner. And when he picked off a pass, he made it count, averaging nearly 20 yards per interception return, far and away the best mark of any K-State defensive back ranking in the top 10 in career interceptions. Mendez burst onto the scene quickly, intercepting six passes as a redshirt freshman in 1990 while earning Honorable Mention All-Big Eight Conference honors. He eventually became a First-Team All-American in 1993 and finished his career with 313 tackles, ranking 11th all-time at K-State.

Safety: Lamar Chapman (1996-99)

A Second-Team All-American in 1999, the Liberal, Kan., native stood out in a strong secondary that featured Jerametrious Butler, Dyshod Carter and Gerald Neasman. Chapman earned Second-Team All-Big 12 honors in 1997 and was named First-Team All-Big 12 in 1998 and 1999.

 

First-Team Special Teams:

Placekicker: Martin Gramatica (1994-98)

Look up K-State’s record books for kicking and Gramatica’s name will appear frequently. The Argentina native was a two-time All-American at K-State and won the Lou Groza Award (given to the country’s top placekicker) in 1997. Gramatica owns the school record for points accounted for in a career with 349 and owns the school record for points accounted for in a single season with 135. Gramatica drilled a 65-yard field goal against Northern Illinois in 1998, the longest made field goal without a tee in the history of college and professional football at the time.

Punter: Sean Snyder (1991-92)

Snyder, a consensus All-American, holds K-State’s single-season record with an average of 44.56 yards per punt in 1992. Snyder is second all-time in yards per punt, averaging 42.96 yards per attempt in his two-year career.

Punt returner: David Allen (1997-2000)

K-State has been loaded with punt returners during the Snyder era. But in the end, this choice was clear. Allen returned seven punts for touchdowns in his career, tying the NCAA record, and was an All-American. Allen holds the school record with 1,646 punt-return yards during his career. The next closest is Aaron Lockett with 845 yards. Allen owns the single-season record with 730 yards on 33 attempts in 1998, a remarkable average of 22.1 yards per return. Allen once returned punts for touchdowns in three consecutive games, including a dazzling return against Texas in Manhattan in 1998. Allen also holds the K-State record with four punt-return touchdowns in a single season.

Kick returner: Brandon Banks (2008-09)

Banks only played one season under Snyder, but he made it count, returning a school-record four kicks for touchdowns in the 2009 season. Banks owns the single-season record with 1,127 kick-return yards and the career record with 1,625 return yards on only 57 attempts, an average of 28.5 yards per return.

 

Second-Team Offense:

Quarterback: Collin Klein (2008-12)

Running back: Daniel Thomas (2009-10)

Fullback: Brian Goolsby (1995-98)

Wide receiver: Quincy Morgan (1999-00)

Wide receiver: Darnell McDonald (1997-98)

Tight end: Thomas Hill (2000-03)

Offensive line: Thomas Barnett (1998-02)

Offensive line: Jeromey Clary (2002-05)

Offensive line: Quentin Neujahr (1989-93)

Offensive line: Ryan Lilja (2002-03)

Offensive line: Randall Cummins (1997-00)

 

Second-Team Defense:

Defensive end: Chris Johnson (1998-00)

Defensive end: Monty Beisel (1997-00)

Defensive tackle: Tank Reese (2001-02)

Defensive tackle: Damion McIntosh (1996-99)

Linebacker: Arthur Brown (2011-12)

Linebacker: Ben Leber (1998-01)

Linebacker: Percell Gaskins (1992-95)

Cornerback: Joe Gordon (1993-96)

Cornerback: Thomas Randolph (1990-93)

Safety: Jon McGraw (1997-01)

Safety: Ty Zimmerman (2010-13)

 

Second-Team Special Teams:

Placekicker: Jamie Rheem (1996-00)

Punter: James Garcia (1995-98)

Punt returner: Aaron Lockett (1998-01)

Kick returner: William Powell (2009-10)

 

Thoughts? Fire away.

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UTEP Boasts Solid Offense, Bad Defense

UTEP preview

UTEP

Head coach: Sean Kugler (2nd season)

2013 Record: 2-10 (1-7 in Conference USA)

Returning starters on offense: 8

Returning starters on defense: 7

 

With Auburn already on Kansas State’s non-conference slate and an extremely difficult Big 12 schedule on the horizon, it was critical the Wildcats find a couple of softer opponents in 2014. They appear to have done just that, with Stephen F. Austin in the season opener and UTEP on Sept. 27 to round out the non-conference slate.

The Miners finished the 2013 season with a 2-10 record and were outscored by an average of 29 points per game in their final six contests. Over the last two seasons, UTEP has won only five games while losing 19.

UTEP has some talent on the offensive side of the football, but just like Stephen F. Austin, the Miners have several deficiencies on defense.

Let’s start with the offense, which should provide a decent challenge for the K-State defense. Jameill Showers is a talented quarterback and leads the offense. The Texas A&M transfer completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,263 yards and 11 touchdowns last season in his first seven starts, but missed the final five games due to injury. In UTEP’s first seven games with Showers, the offense averaged 28.6 points per game. In the final five without him, the Miners averaged just 13.4 points. Showers, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior, is a dual-threat quarterback who was the Miners’ third-leading rusher in 2013.

UTEP lost its leading receiver from the 2013 season, but including Showers, the Miners return eight starters on offense. Sophomore running back Aaron Jones, who was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team, ran for 811 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per rush last season. Joining Jones in the backfield is Nathan Jeffery. Jeffery, a 6-0, 210-pound senior, is the Miners’ bruising running back. Jeffery ran for 532 yards and averaged 4 yards per rush in his junior season. Jones and Jeffery pave the way for a strong ground game, as the Miners ranked 46th out of 123 FBS teams in 2013, averaging nearly 185 rushing yards per game.

While the offense has some talent, the Miners’ defense struggled in 2013. UTEP’s opponents averaged more than 468 yards per game last season, as the Miners were 107th nationally in total defense. UTEP allowed 39.3 points per game, ranking 115th out of 123 teams. K-State should have success running the football against the Miners, as UTEP allowed 247 rushing yards per game in 2013. Only six teams in the country were worse at defending the run. UTEP’s opponents averaged 6.2 yards per carry.

UTEP only allowed 220 passing yards a game, ranking 49th nationally, but that number is skewed. Opponents still had tremendous success throwing the ball on the Miners, as UTEP was the fourth-worst team in the country in pass efficiency defense last season. The Miners only intercepted three passes on the entire year, ranking dead last nationally. The secondary wasn’t helped by a lackluster pass rush. UTEP only recorded 13 sacks on the season. Only five teams in the country had less sacks.

Just like the season-opening matchup with Stephen F. Austin, K-State’s offense should have a field day against UTEP’s defense. And because of that defense, we have deemed this as the Wildcats’ second-easiest game of the 2014 season.

K-State Opponent Preview: Easiest to Hardest – #1 Stephen F. Austin 

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“The Game” Podcast 05/12/14

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[slider-link]http://1350kman.com/the-game-podcast-051214/[/slider-link]
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Audio – Bill Snyder on Wildcat Insider

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Bill Snyder wraps up the spring game with the guys on “Wildcat Insider.”

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Purple Outlasts White in Spring Game

Spring Game Wrap Flipper

By Erik Stone

Charles Jones rushed for 77 yards on 20 carries while Jake Waters added a rushing touchdown as the Purple defeated the White 23-13 in the annual Kansas State Spring Football Game before 17,395 Saturday afternoon at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

The Purple got on the board first in a low scoring first half on a 14-yard run by Glenn Gronkowski which made the score 7-0. The lead was 7-3 at halftime after Matthew McCrane put the White team on the board with a 42-yard Field Goal. Unlike past years, Head Coach Bill Snyder did not flip the score at halftime which benefitted the Purple squad as they extended their lead to 14-3 on Waters’ 10-yard scamper in the third quarter.

Most of the scoring took place in the fourth quarter as Jack Cantele booted a 27-yard Field Goal to make the score 17-3 before the White team pulled closer on what proved to be the biggest Offensive play of the day when backup Quarterback Joe Hubener threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Judah Jones making the score 17-10. After Ian Patterson who saw significant playing time in the final three games last season got the White to within 17-13 with a 46-yard Field Goal into a stiff southerly breeze, the Purple ran out the clock and scored on the game’s final play when Defensive End Laton Dowling pushed into the end zone from one yard out, no extra point was attempted providing the final margin of 23-13.

Waters along with the rest of the Purple Offense was described as inconsistent after the game by Snyder as he completed 26 passes on 38 attempts for 227 yards with one interception. Hubener was 11 of 16 for 124 yards while Jesse Ertz completed nine of 13 pass attempts but was sacked four times. Curry Sexton was the game’s leading receiver with eight catches for 88 yards as Tyler Lockett was held out of the game for precautionary reasons.

The game featured a special moment in the third quarter when eight-year old Kaiden Schroeder who is a cancer patient entered the game and with Waters handing off to him he scored on a 30-yard touchdown run. Upon reaching the end zone, young Kaiden was mobbed by the entire Kansas State team and was given a loud ovation by the fans.

K-State, coming off an 8-5 record in 2013 and a victory over Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl will kick off the 2014 campaign on August 30 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium against Stephen F. Austin.
Stay connected to all things KSU on the go just text EMAW to 88474

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Can Andre Davis Take Over as K-State’s No. 2 Receiver?

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By Cole Manbeck

If the roar of thunder was any indication last night, spring is here. Which means it’s time to talk about Kansas State football. The Wildcats started spring football on Wednesday, so now seems like a good time to start to dive into the upcoming season. Today’s blog focuses on Andre Davis, who the K-State coaching staff hopes to get on the field opposite of Tyler Lockett with Curry Sexton in the slot.

Davis, who played two years at Santa Rosa Junior College, signed in the 2014 recruiting class and is already on campus participating in spring practice. Davis, a 6-foot, 185-pound junior, possesses decent size and 4.4 speed. The scouting services had mixed reviews on Davis. Rivals.com listed him as a 2-star recruit with a 5.3 rating, meaning he was viewed by Rivals as a lower-tier 2-star. ESPN, however, ranked Davis as the 36th-best junior college player in the country and the fifth-best junior college receiver.

Part of the reason there are mixed evaluations on Davis are his stats. In his freshman season, he caught 32 passes for 312 yards. In his sophomore year, Davis caught 41 balls for 841 yards, averaging 20.5 yards per reception. Those numbers are nothing to be ashamed of, but Santa Rosa Junior College head coach Lenny Wagner told Powercat Gameday those statistics would be much better had it not been for an injury at quarterback.

“He’s way better than his stats show,” Wagner said in a phone interview. “We lost our quarterback in game two of the season and our backup was not as good as the starter. So it crunched our receivers. We did everything we could to find creative ways to get Andre the ball. We put him in the backfield. He wasn’t getting enough touches due to our quarterback and offensive line situation.”

Coaches on the West coast began to take notice as the season went on, but K-State got its foot in the door early and the Wildcats slammed that door shut on his recruitment.

“A lot of people liked him but the only school that really stepped up early was Kansas State,” Wagner said. “California looked at him and said he was their No. 2 guy. And another school had him as a No. 2 guy on their list. When K-State saw him, they loved him. That meant a lot to him. Nobody made a commitment like that. When he did that, he shut it down. He said ‘I’m done, that’s where I’m going.’ He committed to K-State so early that a lot of schools didn’t have a chance at him.”

Davis is an interesting story. He played one season at Santa Rosa, but then, in an effort to save money, left school and went back to his home in Baltimore. He took a semester off, then returned the following season to Santa Rosa.

“Since he didn’t play two consecutive years, he was off some people’s radars,” Wagner said. “When K-State started recruiting him, they knew right away they wanted to offer him.”

And here is why:

“He is phenomenal,” Wagner said. “I agree with people who say he’s the best in the country. He’s so explosive. He won some games for us. We were behind in five of our six wins in the fourth quarter, and in two of those games he ran back punts or kickoffs that were difference makers. This past season, he caught a pass and was a man possessed. He broke nine tackles and outran four guys to the end zone in the last minute. He was clutch.”

Wagner said that Davis has enjoyed his time in Manhattan thus far, and loves K-State head coach Bill Snyder. Lockett will love Davis as well if he can take some heat off K-State’s star receiver.

“What I could see happening is Andre would be on the opposite side of the field of Lockett and at some point and would take a lot of the pressure off of him,” Wagner said. “Whoever is playing that other side is going to be one on one and if Andre is that guy, he’s going to make a ton of big plays over there.

“He’s the complete package and there’s not a lot of guys I would say that about. He’s tough, fast and has great hands. He’s tremendous off the field. Good student. Always lifting weights. He’s a really sharp, awesome kid.”

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Jeff Mittie Press Conference

Mittie

Click play to listen to Mittie’s introductory press conference.Mittie_Jeff

 

One of the most experienced coaches in Division I college basketball will become the 9th head coach of the K-State women’s basketball program. TCU head coach Jeff Mittie has been announced as the new head women’s basketball coach at Kansas State taking the place of Deb Patterson.

Mittie, 47, has earned 454 wins in his 22 years of coaching with a winning percentage of .660. It has included stops at Missouri Western, Arkansas State and TCU. Over his last 14 seasons with the TCU women’s basketball program, Mittie has guided the program to 13 winning seasons with 11 consecutive postseason appearances, including nine NCAA tournament appearances.

He recorded his milestone 300th victory at TCU on Feb. 19th this past season during a home win over Kansas State. He will not be coaching TCU during their run through the WNIT that starts this week.

Mittie agreed to a five year contract approved by the Kansas State Athletics, Inc., Board of Directors and President Kirk Schulz.

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Cats Suffocated By Kentucky

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K-State players react to Kentucky’s lockdown defense and look forward to next year.

Shane Southwell on how he wants to be remembered.

Will Spradling on moving on after his career is over.

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Why K-State Can Defeat Kentucky

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By Cole Manbeck

As a 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament, you don’t expect to draw the preseason No. 1-ranked team as the opponent in the opening round of the Big Dance. But that’s the card Kansas State has been dealt, as the Wildcats will play Kentucky Friday at 8:40 p.m. in St. Louis.

This is a mismatch for K-State on paper. But games aren’t won on paper. It was a mismatch for South Carolina. The Gamecocks beat Kentucky. It was a mismatch for Arkansas. The Razorbacks beat Kentucky twice. It was a mismatch for LSU. The Tigers beat Kentucky. South Carolina, LSU and Arkansas weren’t selected to be in the field of 68. So this is a winnable game for the Wildcats, but they cannot be intimidated by the name on the front of their opponent’s jersey come Friday night.

Kentucky is significantly bigger than K-State. And it’s not just on the inside. Kentucky is long on the perimeter. Its starting guards are James Young (6-foot-6), Aaron Harrison (6-6) and Andrew Harrison (6-6). Julius Randle leads the Wildcats’ frontcourt with 15 points per game and 10.5 rebounds, while Willie Cauley-Stein, at 7 feet tall, anchors Kentucky’s defense with 101 blocked shots this season. Stein ranks in the top-25 in the country with 2.84 blocked shots per game. Kentucky also plays Dakari Johnson, who is a 7-foot, 265-pound freshman. Johnson only averages 12 minutes per game on the season, but has seen increased action of late and is playing much better.

The obvious advantage Kentucky has over K-State is rebounding. Kentucky is No. 2 in the country in rebounding margin, outrebounding opponents by 10 per game. K-State ranks 151st in the country, outrebounding teams by only 1.3 per game. The biggest key will be keeping Kentucky off the offensive glass. Kentucky is No. 4 in the country with 14.8 offensive rebounds per game, and it led the SEC in offensive rebounding percentage, with a 42.2 percent rate. K-State ranked second-to-last in the Big 12 in defensive rebounding percentage this season at only 67 percent.

That’s not to say K-State can’t outrebound Kentucky or outscore it in the paint. Baylor has equal size to Kentucky in its frontcourt. K-State outrebounded the Bears, the 12th-best rebounding team in the country, 33-26 in a 76-74 loss to in Manhattan. K-State outrebounded Texas 36-35 in a 67-64 loss in Austin. The Longhorns are the 11th-best rebounding team in the country. And K-State defeated KU, the No. 10 rebounding team in the country. So just because Kentucky is big inside doesn’t mean K-State can’t win the game, as the Wildcats have defeated both KU and Texas this season, and had a great shot to defeat Baylor twice.

Rebounding will obviously be critical on Friday, but the second-biggest key for K-State will be limiting its fouls, particularly on the inside with Thomas Gipson and D.J. Johnson. Kentucky has shot 1,020 free throws this season, which is the second-most in the country, and it has made 696 free throws, the third-most nationally. Kentucky averages 30 free throws per game, while K-State averages 23 attempts from the line per contest. Kentucky has had seven games this season where it has shot 40-plus free throws, and it has shot 30 or more free throws in 17 of its 34 games. K-State ranks 317th out of 345 teams with 21.7 fouls per game, and 25.5 percent of the points K-State has allowed this season have come at the free-throw line. On the offensive end of the floor, K-State has scored 21.5 percent of its points this season at the foul line, while Kentucky has scored 27 percent of its season’s points at the charity stripe.

Kentucky has four players who have shot 150 free throws or more, led by Randle, who has attempted 254, ranking 20th nationally. K-State doesn’t have a single player who has attempted more than 116 free throws (Marcus Foster).

The third key will be taking care of the basketball. Kentucky isn’t a great offensive team when you make them score in its half-court offense. Kentucky is better when it gets out and runs in transition in broken-floor opportunities for easy scores. Those easy baskets come in two different situations – turnovers and blocked shots. Kentucky ranks ninth in the country with 6.2 blocked shots per game. K-State players can’t just put their heads down and throw up a shot on the inside, because there’s a good chance it will get blocked and could lead to a fast-break situation for Kentucky. When K-State attacks inside, it must be smart. Use pump fakes, because Kentucky players often get over-eager and will leave the floor.

K-State, which ranks No. 57 nationally with a 1.26 assist-to-turnover ratio, can ill-afford silly turnovers. As I mentioned above, Kentucky isn’t a great half-court team. Kentucky averages 1.12 points per possession, which is solid, but that stat is inflated due to its ability to score in transition and due to the free throws. So if K-State can value every possession, take smart shots and cut down on fouling, it will have a good shot to win.

The fourth key will be hitting shots from the perimeter. Kentucky’s backcourt is big, so it will be difficult at times for K-State’s guards to get shots up over its length. Still, Will Spradling, Marcus Foster and Shane Southwell will need to shoot the ball well from the outside, because points in the paint will come at a premium. That being said, K-State can’t be afraid to attack inside, because it would be beneficial if it can get a couple of Kentucky’s big men in foul trouble.

One of the advantages K-State has in this game is its depth. K-State plays 10 guys 13 minutes or more. Kentucky only plays 7 guys 7 minutes or more per game. And K-State has been off since last Thursday afternoon, while Kentucky just had to play three games in three days, including a physical 61-60 loss to No. 1-ranked Florida on Sunday. K-State will have fresh legs, and Kentucky likely will too by Friday. However, K-State was able to rest for three days while Kentucky has been playing games. Now, while K-State is able to begin practicing and preparing for its opponent, Kentucky had to give its team Monday off.

Another advantage K-State has is its defense against Kentucky’s offense. K-State is one of the best teams in the country at defending the 3, and Kentucky only makes 32.5 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc. Only three Kentucky players have made more than 10 3s this season. Kentucky ranked 12th out of 14 teams in the SEC with just 5.1 made 3s per game this season.

Kentucky isn’t a very good passing team. The Wildcats have a 0.92 assist-to-turnover ratio, ranking No. 242 in the country. In Kentucky’s two losses to Arkansas this season, it combined for 18 assists and 35 turnovers. In its loss to Michigan State early in the season, it had eight assists and 17 turnovers. In its loss to LSU, the Wildcats had only eight assists and 13 turnovers. Kentucky, which has had more turnovers than assists in 18 of its 34 games this season, can play selfish basketball at times, trying to score one-on-one instead of passing the ball within the offense. When Kentucky struggles, it’s often because they don’t play team offense.

Kentucky is a good defensive team, holding teams to 0.99 points per possession and ranks 33rd nationally, holding teams to 40.3 percent. K-State isn’t far behind, ranking No. 55 in the country, limiting teams to 40.8 percent shooting from the floor. However, it’s important to note that the SEC isn’t known for great offenses, while the Big 12 has some of the best offensive teams in the country. So Kentucky’s stats are inflated from playing in a weaker league.

Speaking of inferior competition, Kentucky has only defeated three teams in the NCAA Tournament field (No. 4 seed Louisville, No. 11 seed Tennessee, No. 11 seed Providence). Kentucky is only 3-6 vs. NCAA-tournament teams, with three of those losses to top-ranked Florida. Kentucky is 4-6 vs. top-50 RPI teams, while K-State is 7-8 vs. top-50 RPI teams. K-State is 7-8 vs. teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament and has wins over No. 2 seed Kansas, No. 3 seed Iowa State, No. 5 seed Oklahoma and on down the list. So K-State has been much more battle-tested than Kentucky.

No one is giving K-State a chance, and yes, it’s a mismatch on paper, but keep in mind that there’s a reason Kentucky is an 8 seed. Yes, Kentucky is a blue-blood program. And of the seven guys Kentucky plays regular minutes, six of them were 5-star recruits, while the other was a 4-star. They’re talented, but that talent hasn’t equated to immense success. Out of the seven guys they typically play, five are freshmen and two are sophomores. They’re younger than K-State. Youth leads to inconsistency. And if Kentucky brings that inconsistency on Friday night, K-State can win. Remember, K-State has beaten teams that are better than Kentucky. Just don’t be intimidated by the name on the front of the jersey.

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Cats Fall To Baylor On Senior Day

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Kenny Chery scored 29 points and was perfect from the free throw line as Baylor made their finals 17 attempts from the charity stripe helping the Bears hold on to defeat Kansas State 76-74 on Senior Day Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.

After the game was tied 4-4 early on, K-State went on a 9-0 run to lead 13-4 with 12:47 left in the first half on a Shane Southwell jumper. Both teams struggled from the floor for the rest of the half and while Baylor did close to within three points, the Wildcats used a 10-4 run closing out the first half as they went into the locker room with a 33-25 advantage at intermission.

K-State stretched the lead to 37-25 at the start of the second half but their shooting from both the field and the free throw line betrayed them and the Bears began to heat up. Over the next 11 and a half minutes, Baylor would outscore K-State 28-9 to take a 53-46 lead with 6:11 remaining.

The Wildcats despite trailing by as much as eight points refused to give up and Marcus Foster was a big part of that effort as he knocked down six of his seven three pointers down the stretch for a team-high 29 points. The difference in the game however was free throws and Baylor was money from the charity stripe in the final minutes. After Baylor threw an inbouds pass out of bounds K-State had one last chance for a miracle victory but a full-court pass was intercepted and the buzzer sounded ending the Wildcats’ 15-game home court winning streak, their longest since the 1981-82 season.

K-State was 19-27 from the free throw line for the game and just five of 11 in the second half. The Wildcats also made just 15 of their 33 shots from the floor in the second half. Joining Cherry in double figures for the Bears was Cory Jefferson who had 16 points. Thomas Gipson added 16 points for K-State and Nino Williams had 15. The game marked the final time on the Bramlage hardwood for Omari Lawrence, Ryan Schultz, Shane Southwell and Will Spradling who were honored in a pre-game ceremony.

Kansas State (20-11, 10-8) lost at home on Senior Day for the first time since 2010 and now turns its attention to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. K-State will likely begin play in the tournament on Thursday against Iowa State.

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