PREVIEW & PICKS: K-State vs. LSU in Cayman Islands Classic Championship

by Alec Busse • EMAWOnline – Lead Reporter – @Alec_Busse

After surviving in overtime against Nevada on Tuesday night in the Grand Cayman Islands Classic, Kansas State moves to the championship round on Wednesday for a matchup with LSU.

LSU’s two wins in the multi-team event came against Illinois State and Akron. The Tigers were propelled by 23 points from Adam Miller in their win over the Zips, which included Miller making 5-of-9 from 3-point land in the win. KJ Williams and Justice HIll also finished in double figures in points against Akron.

LSU is coached by Matt McMahon, who replaced Will Wade this season. McMahon comes to LSU after previously being the head coach at Murray State from 2015-22. While at Murray State, McMahon’s teams won four Ohio Valley regular season titles and three conference tournament titles, including back-to-back crowns in 2018-19.

The winner of Wednesday’s game leaves the Cayman Islands with an undefeated 6-0 record and a Cayman Islands Classic Championship in their head coach’s first season leading their program.

KANSAS STATE (5-0) VS. LSU (5-0)

Date: Wed., Nov. 23, 2022

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Location: John Gray Gym, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

TV: FloHoops

Radio: K-State Sports Network

Betting Line: K-State -0.5 | O/U: 137.5 (via FanDuel Sportsbook)

GAME NOTES

– The winner of each side of the bracket will face off in the championship game on Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m., CT. There will be three consolation games before the title contest at 11 a.m., CT (seventh-place game), 1:30 p.m., CT (fifth-place game) and 5 p.m., CT (third-place game), respectively.

– K-State was originally scheduled to play in the Cayman Islands Classic during the 2020-21 season, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be the first tournament since George Mason won the title in 2019. Overall, this will be the Wildcats’ fifth tournament in the Caribbean, following the Paradise Jam in 2002 and 2018 and the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in 2009 and 2013.

– Previous winners of the Cayman Islands Classic include Cincinnati, Creighton and George Mason.

KANSAS STATE PROJECTED STARTERS

Guard: Markquis Nowell

Guard: Keyontae Johnson

Guard: Cam Carter

Forward: Nae’Qwan Tomlin

Forward: David N’Guessan

KANSAS STATE PROJECTED BENCH

Guard: Tykei Greene

Guard: Desi Sills

Guard: Dorian Finister

Forward: Bebe Iyiola

Forward: Ish Massoud

Guard: Nate Awbrey

Guard: Peyton Ackerman

LSU PROJECTED STARTERS

Guard: Adam Miller is back to playing in 2021-22 after tearing his ACL in the summer prior to last season. As a freshman at Illinois in 2020-21, Miller started every game for a team that was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This season Miller has quickly emerged as LSU’s primary scoring threat averaging more than 17 points per game in the Tigers’ first four matchups. He has the potential to get on serious heaters from the outside. While he can play on the ball, he’s not the best ball handler and can be a bit turnover prone. Against Akron, he turned it over six times.

Guard: Justice Hill is one of a few Murray State transfers on this LSU roster. HIll started 34 games for Murray State’s NCAA Tournament team a year ago and averaged 13.4 points a game. This season he’s averaging close to 11 points a game, but he does have 23 assists on the season in five games.

Forward: KJ Williams has proven to be another dangerous scorer for the Tigers early in the season. Williams is also averaging 17.4 points a game this season, but he’s shooting a blistering 41 percent from the 3-point line, while on lower volume compared to Miller. Williams is a good rebounder, he’s averaging 7.0 boards a game for the Tigers this season.

Forward: Jalen Reed has started all five games for LSU this season and is averaging just over 4.5 points a game to go along with four rebounds. A former top-100 national recruit, Reed stands bout 6-foot-10.

Forward: Mwani Wilkinson is averaging just 3.6 points per game for LSU over the first five contests. Wilkinson shooting just 6-for-14 from the field, but five of his makes this season have come from behind the 3-point line where he’s made 5-of-10 attempts this season.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. Run shooters off the line. Miller and Williams are two of the better shooters that K-State has seen this year and they will challenge both Carter and Johnson on the wing when the starters are on the court. Allowing Miller and Williams to get open looks is going to lead to K-State getting gashed from being the arc most likely, so strong, effective closeouts are going to be important for K-State.

2. Get to the foul line. In all five of LSU’s games this season, their opponent has shot at least 16 free throws. But the Tigers sent Kansas City to the free throw line 26 times, New Orleans shot 26 free throws and Illinois State attempted 30 free throws. Kansas State is shooting 79 percent from the line this year, and a lot of that is due to Nowell and Johnson getting to the line and making more than 80 percent of their attempts each. Kansas State would greatly benefit from shooting a lot of free throws on Wednesday because the Tigers have shown that they’ll send you to the line.

3. Conditioning. This is going to be the third game in three days for each team, so the conditioning level of each team is going to be tested. Similar to a conference tournament run, early seasons MTEs really test teams in this area. The team that is in better shape could get easy opportunities for layups in transition and on the break.

PREDICTIONS

Mason Voth Prediction: The Wildcats are facing a power five team for the second time this season and while LSU has their problems, they are not as bad as Cal. But I think we have seen K-State play their two most complete games of the season the last two nights. Markquis Nowell has gone to a new level and as he continues to get more comfortable as a primary playmaker for K-State, the ceiling will continue to rise for this team. But for the time being I think he and Keyontae Johnson are both still finding their footing in that role for different reasons. I said K-State would go 2-1 in the Cayman Islands going into it, so I will stick with it. The Cats had to battle last night and going to overtime in the late game doesn’t help them either. K-State 72 LSU 76

Alec Busse Prediction: This is going to be the toughest test that K-State has had this season, but that might not be saying much. Still, this is an LSU team that is filled with players that know how to win games, albeit at other schools mostly. Look for this one to be close for much of the game. K-State 71, LSU 67

Gabe Swartz Prediction: LSU isn’t a world-beater by any means with Matt McMahon in his first season in Baton Rouge. Still, the Tigers are a substantial step up in competition from KSU’s game against Cal a few weeks ago. When it has been needed Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson have stepped up and made big shots and plays. I think K-State will find a way to win a nail-biter. K-State 69, LSU 67

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