Kansas State had a tremendous season last year, winning the Big XII regular season title and spending much of the season in the top-20 of the AP polls. Who returns from that team and what is their role on this season's squad?
Coming into this season, Southwell and Gipson were expected to be leading scorers. Williams needed to be a sort of "do everything" type guy while playing major minutes. Spradling was to be a veteran guard who needed to hold down the point until freshman true point guard Jevon Thomas joins the team at semester break. Johnson just needed to be an energy guy who could put up about six points and grab five or six boards in 10-15 minutes.
The Wildcats have had some early struggles on the year, with a season-opening loss to Northern Colorado and losses to Charlotte and Georgetown in Puerto Rico. What went wrong in those games? Is there a particular weakness that Ole Miss will look to exploit?
It's pretty easy to pinpont: This team doesn't shoot well, collectively. Southwell and Spradling are a combined 13-of-51 (25.5%) from 3-point range. Freshman shooting guard Marcus Foster leads the team from long range at only 34.1% (15-of-44).
Past that, Gipson missed early games with a concussion, which just decimated an already paper thin front line. It forced Johnson into a lead role - something, frankly, he may never be suited for, even by his senior year. It left guys like 6-7 (and thin) freshman forward Wesley Iwundu to try and handle major rebounding duties. All of that led to problems for an already short, not very physical team getting dominated (a la Georgetown).
Also, at times, this team doesn't appear to have good chemistry. Maybe that's just a result of so many young guys trying to find their place all at once - along with seniors trying to do the same since the best two players from a year ago - Rodney McGruder (graduation) and Angel Rodriguez (transfer to Miami) - are no longer on the team to lead.
Ole Miss has had trouble on the road under Andy Kennedy. What will the atmosphere be like in the "Octagon of Doom?"
Hard to say, actually. It has been pretty amazing to see how the "Doom" name has stuck so well in the minds of folks nationally considering there really only was about one season or perhaps two seasons that Bramlage Coliseum really rocked out. The 2009-2010 Elite 8 season stands out for me; that atmosphere was phenomenal. I give much of that credit to the group having some huge personalities in Denis Clemente, Jake Pullen and Jamar Samuels; plus, the team was obviously very good.
How do Kansas State fans feel about the job Bruce Weber has done thus far?
That's part of the reason I don't know what to expect from the crowd from night to night. Flatly, the fan base is undecided about Bruce. It may sound crazy considering he's coming off the first Big 12 championship in school history and the first conference title since 1976-77, but that's where it's at because many K-State fans are uneasy that Weber may repeat his Illinois history (things start great and tail off).
The awful start to this season, no matter the reasons, have basically wiped away most of the goodwill that Weber earned a year ago. He now has to show obvious progress, recruit at a higher level than this staff is doing currently, or probably both all at once, to win back some of those fence-sitting fans who are leaning away from him at the moment.