Kansas State Wildcats
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #71
Conference Rank: #9 Big 12
Kansas State struggled through the 2015-2016 campaign, finishing the year with a 5-13 record in Big 12 play. Coach Bruce Weber has talent on this roster, but it has failed to come together. This time around the expectations are growing, but the Big 12 is brutal and the Wildcats could struggle to find too many more wins in 2016-2017. Wesley Iwundu, a 6-7 forward, is the team’s top returning scorer with 11.9 points per game. Iwundu also averaged 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Having a forward who can pass like that is a very valuable tool. The fact that he can score consistently by attacking the basket certainly helps. Iwundu has changed his shooting motion after going just 6-for-30 from beyond the arc. If he can start knocking down perimeter shots, Iwundu will be in for a huge season.
2015-16 Record: 17-16, 5-13
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Bruce Weber
Coach Record: 79-54 at Kansas State, 392-209 overall
Justin Edwards was the team’s top scorer last season, averaging 12.7 points per game. Nobody on the team shot well from beyond the arc, but Edwards was one of the team’s better outside shooters. He could also attack the basket with ease and even led the Wildcats with 5.9 rebounds per game and 1.8 steals. He could do it all and Edwards had the ability to help out in nearly every aspect of the game. Stephen Hurt, a 6-11 forward, is the other significant departure. He started 24 games last season and averaged 6.4 points and 4.4 rebounds. Little used Ron Freeman and Brian Rohleder are also gone.
Xavier Sneed is the team’s top freshmen. The long 6-5 small forward product will bring a lot of versatility to K-State. With his athleticism, he can defend just about anybody and he can score in a variety of ways as well. Starting or not, Sneed should make a big impact right away. Brian Patrick can offer a shooter off of the bench as a freshman and Cartier Diarra, who was expected to be the backup point guard, will miss the season with an injury. The frontcourt adds James Love III and redshirt freshman Isaiah Maurice, Pierson McAtee and Dante Williams. With their experience, Maurice and Williams will have to provide much of the frontcourt depth.
Who to Watch:
Including Iwundu, Kansas State returns five players who started at least 11 games last season. D.J. Johnson and Dean Wade will likely start in the frontcourt with Iwundu at the small forward spot. Johnson averaged 9.3 points and 5.2 rebounds last season, but those numbers are a little misleading. The 6-9 senior missed the 2014-2015 campaign with a broken foot and it took him some time to get back into the swing of things. By the time Big 12 play came around, Johnson was much more productive. If he can build off of that, he will be a very productive big man. Wade is a 6-10 sophomore who averaged 9.9 points and 5.1 rebounds as a freshman. He can knock down three-pointers and stretch the defense, but does need to be more consistent in that regard. Kamau Stokes was forced into action as a freshman and will again run the point for the Wildcats. Stokes did hit a team high 34.0 percent of his three-point shots, but like everybody else on the team, he could stand to be more consistent. More importantly, Kamau will push the ball up the floor and find his teammates. The assist-to-turnover ratio was average at best with 57 assists and 44 turnovers on the year, but that should improve with a year of experience under his belt. Barry Brown will look to step into the starting shooting guard spot after averaging 8.6 points per game as a freshman. He was the most prolific shooter on the team last season, but will need to be more aggressive attacking the basket if he wants to keep a starting job.
For Kansas State it is more about team cohesion than anything else. The talent is there to make a run towards the NCAA Tournament, but it has been there before and K-State has fallen short. The biggest problem this year, besides outside shooting and turnovers, will be the strength of the Big 12. Even finishing ninth in the ten team conference should see K-State on the NCAA Tournament bubble. With more experience returning, the Wildcats and Coach Weber should have a better early season than they did last year. Still, a 5-13 record in Big 12 play is not going to cut it, but this team should be at least eyeing the bubble heading into the middle of February.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Kamau Stokes, Sophomore, Guard, 9.4 points per game
Barry Brown, Sophomore, Guard, 8.6 points per game
Wesley Iwundu, Senior, Forward, 11.9 points per game
D.J. Johnson, Senior, Forward, 9.3 points per game
Dean Wade, Sophomore, Forward, 9.9 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 70.7 (234th in nation, 8th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.2 (84, 4)
Field-Goal Percentage: 42.9 (226, 8)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.4 (163, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.3 (326, 10)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 30.0 (332, 10)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.8 (211, 7)
Rebound Margin: 3.5 (64, 4)
Assists Per Game: 13.9 (134, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.9 (292, 8)
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
# 108 Xavier Sneed