#134 Kansas State Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Kansas State Wildcats

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #134
Conference Rank: #9 Big 12

Kansas State Team Page#134 Kansas State Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Kansas State Basketball Tickets

The 2014-15 campaign was not a good one for the Kansas State Wildcats. Going into the season, hopes were high. Marcus Foster, a potential draft pick, decided to return for his sophomore season. Also, Bruce Weber had brought two K-State teams to the NCAA Tournament in his first two seasons at the helm, why not make it three times straight? They weren’t the favorites to take the Big 12, but they were also not projected to go 8-10 in conference play and finish tied for 6th place. The season marked just the third time in seventeen years of coaching that Bruce Weber had a losing conference record. Unfortunately, it’s not going to get much easier this season. Even though Foster was a big personality that certainly hurt the team at times, he was still a really talented former four star recruit that led KSU in scoring for two straight seasons. With him gone, it’s unclear who is going to step into the superstar role for the Cats.

2014-15 Record: 15-17, 8-10
2014-15 Postseason: none
Coach: Bruce Weber
Coach Record: 62-38 at Kansas State, 374-189 overall

Who’s Out:
A better title for this section would be “Who Isn’t Out.” Needless to say, the Kansas State Wildcats are losing quite a bit of talent from last year’s team. I’ll highlight five in particular (Marcus Foster, Nino Williams, Thomas Gipson, Nigel Johnson, Jevon Thomas) who combined for over 71% of the team’s total points from last season (63 per game). Although a good attitude won’t guarantee you success in anything, a bad attitude may just guarantee that you fail. In Foster’s case, his horrible attitude did something that I didn’t think was possible: somehow cancel out his incredible potential and skills (at least in Bruce Weber’s eyes). All season long something looked off. Foster was playing less minutes, was making fwer shots (38.8% FGP) and just didn’t look comfortable. The questions were cleared up late in the season, after Foster went scoreless in 19 minutes of action in the team’s Big 12 Tournament loss to TCU. A couple weeks after the game (March 24th) Foster was dismissed by Weber, who said Foster (and freshman Tre Harris) “didn’t live up to the standards that we expect from our players.” He played a lot worse overall in his sophomore season, but still led the team in points (12.5 per game). And although the loss of Marcus Foster is undoubtedly a painful blow, the loss of senior forwards Nino Williams and Thomas Gipson may be even harder to overcome. They didn’t score as much as Foster (11.4 and 11.3 ppg respectively), but they were the heart and souls of this team and played like it. They were constantly hustling for loose balls, knocking down big shots, and most importantly, being leaders both on and off the court (unlike Foster). They weren’t as talented as Foster, but their hard work ethic and effort on the floor will make them a tough forward duo to replace. The other two players (Nigel Johnson, Jevon Thomas) may seem miniscule compared to the first three, but they were valuable assets to last year’s team that would (most likely) have played a bigger role in the 2015-16 team. Nigel Johnson, a rising junior, really didn’t blossom into a star until the end of the season. When K-State made their surprising late season run, it was Johnson leading the way in those two upset wins over Kansas and Iowa State. He scored 20 points against Kansas (on 8-11 shooting) and then scored another 17 the next game against Iowa State (on 7-13 shooting). Granted, he still only averaged 5.2 points per contest. Still, it looked like he was headed towards a starting role this year before he decided to transfer out for his final two years of eligibility. The other minor player leaving is rising junior point guard Jevon Thomas. Thomas wasn’t much of a scorer (4.5 ppg) or shooter (28.6% three point percentage) but he was the leading passer (3.3 apg) in just over 25 minutes per game. Also, he sported a positive assist-turnover ratio (1.3) something that Foster (.9) didn’t have. He played older then he was, and will definitely be missed at the point next year.

Who’s In:
Throughout his illustrious coaching career, Bruce Weber has always been seen as a very, very solid recruiter. And although recruiting is a huge part of the game in any level, it’s especially important to do in the Big 12, one of the toughest conferences in all of college basketball. Weber didn’t disappoint fans in 2015-16, as he went out and grabbed quite a few rock solid recruits. The grand total comes out to nine, with four of those nine recruits being ranked. The other five (Coribe Ervin, Arlando Cook, Kamau Stokes, Evan Beucler, Barry Brown) are all unranked. However, almost all of them have something to bring to the team as early next season. Ervin is a high energy defender, grabbing steals and dominating in the open floor. Arlando Cook is a great midrange player at the power forward position. He’s also a great athlete and should be able to contribute down low rather quickly considering he’s already played a year at junior college (Connors State College). Kamau Stokes is an excellent shooter at the point guard position. He also has a great first move and likes to distribute the ball to bigs off the dribble. Evan Beucler, although a redshirt and a walk-on, could be another guy to step in and contribute right away. He’s a crafty player in the lane who also showed range out to the three point arc in high school. The final unranked recruit is also the most exciting. Barry Brown, although looked past by all other Big 12 coaches, caught Bruce Weber’s eye early. A high energy player, Brown is an extraordinary athlete at the shooting guard position. He’s also an above average defender and strong in the open floor. His shooting (both midrange and three point) could use some work, but this is still a guy that could very well average 15-20 minutes per game because of his hustle and defense alone next season. The other four recruits (Dean Wade, Ron Freeman, Isaiah Maurice, Dante Williams) are all ranked by at least one of the two main recruiting sites (maxpreps.com, ESPN.com). Dean Wade doesn’t have a very high ceiling, but also has a low bust chance as well. This is because he knows his game, and Bruce Weber knows that he knows his game (as confusing as that is). Wade’s a good sized forward who loves to shoot the three and is exceptional in the midrange. He also showed capability on the defensive end as well, using his height and quick feet to his advantage. I don’t see Wade doing much in his first season (10-15 mpg at best) but his shooting and defensive prowess should show eventually. Ron Freeman, although a little undersized (180 pound small forward), is a very, very strong offensive player. He can beat defenders in just about any way, whether that’s off the dribble, behind the arc, or from the midrange; he can do it all. His defense could use some work, but this is a 10-15 ppg scorer waiting to happen. Maurice, although not ranked as high as any of the other three recruits (2 star), may have the best chance of seeing significant minutes next season. Weber has shown throughout his career that he values hard work. What does Maurice do? Work exceptionally hard on both sides of the floor. A strong presence inside (6-9, 210 pounds), Maurice is hard to stop once he’s set up shop inside. To make matters worse (for defenders at least) he can also hit threes if left open. This guy could be a difference maker as early as next season. The final recruit is also the teams highest ranked: four star center Dante Williams. Tall (7 foot) but lanky (220 pounds), Williams knows how to use his height to his advantage. He’s capable of hitting jumpers out to 15-20 feet, but does his best work inside. He’s also a reliable defender and rebounder who’s not afraid to do the dirty work inside.

Who to Watch:
Bruce Weber has his work cut out for him next season. Really only three solid players from last season are coming back (Justin Edwards, Wesley Iwundu, Stephen Hurt) and none of those guys are proven offensive stars yet. The most likely to step up is Justin Edwards. Edwards has been at K-State for only a year (transferred from Maine) but he looked solid at times in his first season of Big 12 competition. Also, you can’t forget that in his lone season at Maine he averaged 16.7 points per game and shot over 43% from the field. A fierce slasher and solid defender, Edwards isn’t going to beat you from outside (27-29% each of his two seasons), but he is a hard guy to stop in the open floor (5.4 free throw attempts per game at Maine). He’s also a capable midrange shooter out to 15-20 feet. Still, the numbers from last season don’t lie. He had his moments (16 points against Iowa State, 15 against UMKC) but ended up averaging just 6.3 points per game with a couple rebounds and assists mixed in. The scariest part? He’s the highest scoring player returning to the team. Weber doesn’t need him to average 18-20 points per game next season, but 13-17 certainly wouldn’t hurt. Another big returner is rising junior Wesley Iwundu. Iwundu showed a lot of potential in his freshman season (6.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 46.1% FGP, 23.6 MPG) but took a step in the wrong direction in his sophomore season. He saw more minutes per game (25.2 per game) but wasn’t as effective from the midrange (40.2% FGP) and was more hesitant attacking the glass for boards (3.5 per game). With the graduation of his two forwards from last year (Williams, Gipson) Weber will need Iwundu to gain some confidence for next season. The last big player coming back is Stephen Hurt. Hurt averaged only 4.2 points and a few boards last year in just over 13 minutes per contest, but showed he can do more than that in his one season at Lipscomb (11.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg). Weber doesn’t need 12 and 8 from him next season, but 8 to 11 and a few boards certainly could help this team gain some respect from other opponents inside.

Final Projection:
It should be an interesting year for K-State, to say the least. Talent-wise, this is easily the worst KSU team Weber has ever had to coach. They return only a couple decent guys from last year’s, well, decent team, and will need to rely heavily on their solid incoming class to take some of the weight off the three main returners (Edwards, Iwundu, Hurt). K-State has been a rock solid program in the Big 12 for a couple years now, but they might have back to back losing seasons here for the first time in over a decade.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Kamau Stokes, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Justin Edwards, Senior, Guard, 6.3 points per game
Wesley Iwundu, Junior, Forward, 5.8 points per game
Isaiah Maurice, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Stephen Hurt, Senior, Center, 4.2 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 63.0 (283rd in the nation, 9th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.8 (99, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.3 (183, 8)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.4 (248, 9)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.4 (326, 10)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.5 (202, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.6 (231, 6)
Rebound Margin: 1.4 (132, 7)
Assists Per Game: 13.0 (141, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.3 (242, 9)

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#138 Dean Wade


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