The Wildcats aren't as good as the Wildcats of the early 2010s, but they are still a Bruce Weber coached team. As a Bruce Weber coached team, they play hard nosed defense, and that might be an issue for the Bulldogs.
Despite their status as one of the best shooting teams in the nation, the Bulldogs have struggled a tad bit with their shot in their past two games. They shot 44 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three in a come from behind win over West Virginia. At the Battle in Seattle against a less than stellar opponent, the Bulldogs had their worst offensive game of the season. South Alabama limited Gonzaga to 40 percent shooting from the floor and they were just 2-of-14 from beyond the arc, scoring a total of 68 points -- the lowest output of the season.
Meet the opponent
Kansas State Wildcats (7-3), Kenpom #85, RPI #178
The Wildcats play an absolutely ugly brand of basketball. In most of the games they play, there will not be a lot of points. They score 66 points per game, good for 301st in the nation. They allow 60 points per game, good for 9th in the nation. Don't worry - the shooting statistics make it even more miserable. The Wildcats shoot 41 percent from the floor as a team, good for 301st in the nation. Opponents average 40.1 percent from the floor as a team, good for 63rd in the nation.
What limited points they do score come from freshman guard Marcus Foster. Foster averages 14.4 points and 3.7 rebounds a game. But he works hard for those points. He is only shooting 38 percent from the field and specifically 35 percent from behind the arc. He takes a lot of shots to get there as well, averaging 12 field goal attempts a game. The offense runs through Foster at some point during the play, with his usage percentage sitting at a team high 26.9 percent.
Kansas State is also a pretty short team. The tallest player is sophomore forward D.J. Johnson, standing at a towering 6'9. He also only sees 18.4 minutes per game. Accordingly, rebounding can be a bit of an issue, but over the Wildcats latest five-game winning streak they have worked hard for their wins. Kansas State has a plus-12.8 rebounding margin in their past four games and are averaging 16.8 offensive rebounds during that same streak.
What to watch for
ANGEL NUNEZ!!!!!! No really, the game against Kansas State should mark the first appearance of Angel Nunez in Gonzaga gear and his timing couldn't come any quicker. Ignoring the back seat coaching we all like to do, Mark Few pretty much ran a six player rotation against South Alabama. Most members of this esteemed community weren't too happy about it, and from everything the players are talking about, Nunez will give the Bulldogs some athleticism that they don't have much of at disposal right now. Plus, as David Stockton said, he is another five fouls to give. In reality, seeing what Nunez is capable of will be the most interesting part of the game. No one, not even the folks over at Card Chronicle can really say much about Nunez's game, because he played a total of 55 minutes for the Louisville Cardinals as a freshman. He is long, he is athletic and he is quick. He will be a boost to this team, and the most exciting thing about it all is seeing how much of a boost he will be.
One of the other big stories circling the Gonzaga camp is the health of Kevin Pangos' toe. Pangos claimed he will be alright earlier in the week for the game, but foot injuries can take a long time to heal. Since I've played a bit of pick-up basketball in my day I obviously know what I am talking about here. I am well aware in a game of running around, making hard cuts and equally hard stops, foot injuries slow every aspect of your game. Whether or not it accounts for Pangos' poor shooting as of late is anybody's guess, but the Bulldogs need to bust out of their recent shooting slump if they want to win.
The Bulldogs will have big opportunities for Przemek Karnowski and Sam Dower to do their dirty work down low. Most likely, the long range shots aren't going to be falling. Opponents shoot only 24.9 percent from three-point against the Wildcats, the third best shot defense in the nation. Pangos, Bell, Barham, Dranginis, etc., we can shoot with the best of them. But the best of them have tried to shoot against the Wildcats and generally fail. As of late, the Wildcats defense has been clamped down and harrying opponents even more than usual. During their five-game winning streak, opponents are averaging 51 points off of 36 percent shooting.
This is the last non-conference game before conference play starts up. Kansas State aren't the feared team they were during the Frank Martin days, but they aren't a bunch of uncoordinated blobs running around the court either. Mark Few didn't schedule too many tough games this year, so the Bulldogs need to take advantage when playing on the road and get a nice win for the resume.