Frank Martin is not known for being a good guy.
He is a nightmare with the media. He verbally abuses his players on the sidelines on a game by game basis. He left Kansas State, the program he built from the ground up, for an extra half million dollars a year. If that sounds familiar to Mountaineer fans, this is where the similarities end. The Miami(YTM) high school program where Martin cut his teeth committed, “The most egregious violations in state history.” When coaches talk about shady dealings and back-room exchanges of goods and services, they don’t talk about John Calipari. The conversation starts with Frank Martin, Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. And yet Martin has always managed to avoid prosecution.
Regardless of means (and its best not to look too close) Martin built a great program at Kansas State. Last year they went 22-11, 10-8 in conference, and advanced to the round of 32 in the tournament. Then karma intervened.
It turns out that Jamar Samuels, KState’s best post player, would be ineligible to play in the Syracuse game because of moneys he received from a former coach.(Martin would later admit that he gives money to former players all the time, throwing both himself and his former players under the bus.) Sure it was only 10 points and 7 rebounds they needed to replace…But it didn’t help, and Syracuse went on to curb stomp them 75-59.
Within days, Martin was on a plane to South Carolina, and Bruce Webber was on a plane to Kansas State. Bruce Webber on the other hand, IS known for being a nice guy.
He may not be hailed as the greatest coach, and yeah he does sound like he just got kicked in the nads, but he is known for doing pretty well with other people’s recruits. And he inherited a hell of a team. Senior big man Jamar Samuels was the only loss of note from last year’s team.
6’7”big man Thomas Gipson has stepped into his place.
Gipson’s scoring and rebounding have improved by a couple(9pts and 6 boards) while his shooting percentage has dropped a bit.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Wildcats ho.]
With Samuels gone, they had hoped that 6’ 11” senior center Jordan Henriquez would step up his game, but his stats have really regressed, possibly due to the defensive attention Samuels no longer commands.
Henriquez remains a decent rebounder and shot blocker.
The real strength of this team is the backcourt. It all starts with 6’4” senior shooting guard Rodney Mcgruder.
Although McGruder is part of a trio of guards(McGruder, Will Spradling, and Angel Rodriguez) averaging around 10pts this year, he was a dominant force in the Big 12 last year, averaging 16 pts/game. This year his minutes have gone up, but his shooting percentage has suffered, especially from downtown.
5’11” sophomore point guard Angel Rodriguez
leads the wildcats with 5 assists per game (to go with his 12 pts), and streaky 6’2” junior combo guard Will Spradling adds scoring punch from downtown as well as bringing the ball up the court when Rodrigues is on the bench.
Before playing a plucky Delaware team, Kansas State destroyed their other opponents with scores somewhere in the 80-50 range(a lot like Michigan pre-Pitt). Somehow Delaware managed to hang with Kansas State on the boards(their previous opponents hadn’t come close) and actually outscored them in the paint(ditto). Delaware’s star shooting guard Devon Saddler went off for 32 points in the loss, which I think bodes well for Michigan’s talented backcourt. Kansas state basically outshot Delaware from the free throw line, hanging on for a 66-63 victory.
This will be another stiff test for Michigan. Kansas state has a lot of weapons on the perimeter. Without a really dominant scorer on the inside for Kansas State, I expect to see a lot of man defense from Michigan, lest Kansas State’s streaky shooters should get in a groove from the outside.
As a side note, Kansas State players Shane Southwell, Nino Williams, and Olvari Lawrence enjoy a bit of a homecoming in the Garden, as all three were raised in New York. Here’s hoping they have a really terrible Thanksgiving weekend.
In summation, Kansas state has a really strong backcourt, and serviceable big men. This is going to be another nail biter. But Michigan has had a game to adjust to Madison Square Garden: the atmosphere, the rims, and above all else the level of competition. This is not your father's Beilein team.
Few squads are going to be able to match up with Michigan's size and athleticism. I see a higher scoring game than the last one, with Michigan pulling out a 75-73 win.