ANTONIO REEVES BE AWARE
Oscar Tshiebwe is the name that pops off the page when considering Kentucky, the former West Virginia Mountaineer deserves all the credit he gets. But an equally scary proposition for the Wildcats is trying to find a way to contain Antonio Reeves.
The Kentucky guard joined from Illinois State this season and became the team’s second-best scorer behind Tshiebwe. Reeves is averaging 14.6 points per game and the scariest part of his game for K-State would be Reeves shooting 42% from three.
Three times this season, Reeves has knocked down at least five three-pointers in a game, all against NCAA tournament teams (Howard, Texas A&M, Providence on Friday). K-State has been statistically good at defending the three this season, ranking 15th in the country by keeping opponents at 30% of three.
My eye test of three-point defense has always been weary from the Wildcats this season, and K-State delved deeper into the game by game numbers, struggling with three-point defense in its last nine games. K-State has allowed 214 points from three points in the last nine, and six times the opponent has posted at least seven three-pointers (Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU). They only allowed four opponents to hit the seven threes in a game (Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas) compared to the 12 games prior to this stretch early in Big 12 play. In that 12-game streak, opponents scored 214 points from three. Only twice in games prior to January did K-State allow teams to make seven or more three-pointers, beating Nevada and losing at Butler.
Reeves isn’t the only shooter to watch for at K-State, however, with Sahvir Wheeler shooting 37% from three and Cason Wallace 34% from depth. As a team, Kentucky shoots 35.4% from three, which is better than every Big 12 team except Baylor (37.1%).
K-State three-point defense
The Big 12 season average at 3FG% was 33.96%
K-State’s biggest weakness of 2023 was basketball, and in Friday’s win the Wildcats came ready several times to push the lead to a larger number but allowed Montana State to get back in the game through poor giveaways.
The K-State Wildcats turn over the ball to 20% of their possession in 2023, which ranks 298th out of 363 Division I basketball teams. However, the Kentucky Wildcats are among the worst in the country turn teams over.
Big Blue surrenders his opponents with only 16.7% of possession, which ranks 263rd in the NCAA. If the Wildcats don’t force a steal, they rank among the nation’s worst in the non-steal turnover ratio (348th), according to KenPom, meaning K-State has a chance to fully establish its offense as long as they don’t do it themselves injure.
BLOBs, SLOBs and ATOs
What is all this nonsense? For those confused, BLOB stands for “Baseline Out of Bounds,” which refers to a team’s plays derived from passes from the baseline after a foul or an out of bounds call at their end of the score. SLOB is synonymous with “sideline out of bounds” and ATO is “after timeout”. All of these are games that correspond to designed games that teams can use in inbound situations.
Jerome Tang has been great at his “ATOs” this season, quickly rising through the ranks of the Big 12 as one of the top-ranked game coaches. Bill Self is still the master, but Tang made strong arguments in the first year. The Wildcats weren’t that great with their BLOBs and SLOBs, but last night they converted two beauties. They are pictured below.
Kentucky has allowed .942 points per possession for ATOs this season, which puts Synergy in the bottom 10% of college basketball. Another area where K-State can potentially excel is in SLOBs against Kentucky, which ranks in the bottom 20% of college basketball and is allowing .929 points per possession this season. Below is an example of the ultimate SLOB from K-State’s season, the game-winner against Kansas.
BALANCE THE BRETTS WITH KENTUCKY
Oscar Tshiebwe’s rebounding skills are well known at this point, he had 25 against Providence on Friday night and his career high is 28 in a game. K-State has struggled to prevent teams from hitting offensive rebounds this season and ranked 219th in that category over KenPom.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats of Kentucky are the second-best offensive rebounding team in the country, according to KenPom. When you’re dealing with a team with a deeper roster and superior talent, the scope for second chances is pretty slim.
K-State’s approach to finding a way to limit or slow second chances for Kentucky is important. The Wildcats won’t magically fix their season-long struggles, but they can try to do enough to stop Kentucky.
It will require Nae’Qwan Tomlin to stay in the game and avoid lazy problems, pick spots to be aggressive when it comes to grabbing the board, and most importantly, just find a man and be fundamentally healthy to be.
Thsiebwe is a great player but plays quite physically to try and get the offensive rebound. If he gets a board, let him pass through you and potentially force a loose-ball foul call. It’s a tall order for the Wildcats, but they should be able to find some creative ways to make up for their shortcomings for the Sweet Sixten ticket-punching game on Sunday.
Source : kansasstate.rivals.com