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Who the heck are these guys?
That’s the question I asked myself the first time I looked at Kansas State’s men’s basketball roster back in December. I felt like a Cleveland-native huddled over the newspaper, reading the names of Rachel Phelps’ rag-tag group of ballplayers in the 1989 American cinema classic Major League.
“Dean Wade? Justin Edwards? I’ve never heard of most of them. Kamau Stokes?” I was just as confused as the first time people were hearing the names Willy Mays-Hays, Ricky Vaughn and Mitchell Friedman.
Anyone that’s seen the movie knows the next line and the next thought in my head, “Who are these freaking guys?” I swear, the Janitor from Scrubs says freaking while sitting on a crane, kids. I’d like to think even the people working inside Bramlage Coliseum had no idea who these guys were.
I wasn’t sure they’d even win a game in the Big 12.
Two months later, they’re sitting in eight place in the league with four wins. Three weeks ago, Bruce Weber was a trendy pick for Big 12 Coach of the Year and they even upset the No. 1 team in the nation.
How have they done it?
Simply, they’ve had young players step up in big roles and they play some of the best defense in college basketball. It might surprise you that the Wildcats are No. 15 in KenPom’s adjusted defense ratings.
This isn’t a team that’s going to put up 90 points very often (if ever). They’ve won their games by holding teams below their average shooting percentages, forcing turnovers and owning the boards.
In all four of their Big 12 wins, they’ve held the opponent below 45 percent from the floor and just one shot better than 30 percent from behind the arc. They held Oklahoma’s high-flying attack to 43 percent from the floor and 25 percent from 3-point land.
Only West Virginia has allowed more points per game than Weber’s squad.
Maybe people don’t give Weber enough credit. He’s figured out a way to mold this really young (and not overly talented) roster into a team that can compete almost every night out.
The team’s two leading scorers, senior Justin Edwards (12.3 ppg) and junior Wesley Iwundu (12.0 ppg), are names most people would recognize. Kansas State’s next three leading scorers, Dean Wade (9.7 ppg), Kamau Stokes (9.4 ppg) and Barry Brown (9.0 ppg), are all freshmen.
Honestly, that’s kind of terrifying as I look forward in Big 12 future. These guys have one of the worst statistical offenses in the league right now, but they are so young that it’s hard to fault them.
Kansas State, like the Cleveland Indians, ain’t so freaking bad.
Man, that movie is too good.