The Alabama Crimson Tide have no way of knowing what kind of opponent they will face when they play the Kansas State Wildcats. Bruce Weber’s KSU team was involved in an ugly and scary brawl at the end of regulation against the Kansas Jayhawks on Monday night.
By Matt Zemek
Two players, Jordan Love and Antonio Gordon, were suspended for multiple games, but neither player is a member of the Wildcats’ starting five. Purely in terms of the rotations Weber uses and the lineups he wants on the floor, this won’t disrupt the Wildcats a lot.
The real question surrounding this game: How will Kansas State respond in its first game after that brawl? The Wildcats were beaten soundly by Kansas, meaning they have lost three of their last four games by 14 points or more (but with a 16-point win over West Virginia mixed into their last four contests). Will that anger them and give them a sense of clarity entering this game? Maybe… but Kansas State could also play this game as a team which knows it lost control against Kansas and doesn’t have a firm sense of itself. KSU could be dispirited, OR it could be very determined. We don’t know. Obviously, Alabama has to prepare (as any team would) for the opposition’s best shot. Let’s see what the Crimson Tide ought to focus on:
1 – Run
That’s it. Run. Run Kansas State ragged. Alabama has gradually gotten better at pushing the tempo in its games, sustaining energy, and forcing opponents to keep up. The basic Nate Oats template, if applied on a continuous basis in this game, should be able to create a victory. Alabama is a more talented team playing better basketball than Kansas State. The Tide should try to impose their strength on Kansas State and not overthink the task at hand.
2 – Next Man Up
Javian Davis was injured late in the win over Vanderbilt on Wednesday. While the injury wasn’t viewed as extremely serious, the prudent move would be to sit him for Saturday in a non-conference game and trust that other players can pick up the slack. This is a good moment to test the depth and quality of Alabama’s bench. Oats can – and should – use this game as a chance to see what he has in his rotation, which could unlock some discoveries which will come in handy during the SEC Tournament, a time when bench minutes become especially important and players need to be treated carefully over the course of several days.
3 – Turnovers
Alabama committed 25 turnovers against Vanderbilt and got away with that display of carelessness. Kansas State has not scored in the 70s in eight of its last nine games. The Wildcats are not an especially explosive team. Alabama can’t feed KSU easy points. A game with only 10 to 12 turnovers has to be at the top of Nate Oats’ “to-do list” if he is mapping out priorities for his team against Kansas State.