Matchup: Kansas State Wildcats (2-1) vs. Charlotte 49ers (2-1)
Where: San Juan, Puerto Rico
When: Thursday, 9:30AM
The Kansas State Men’s Basketball team travels to Puerto Rico to play in the Tip-Off Classic which begins on Thursday. Head Coach Bruce Weber and his Wildcats are entering the tournament after a 71-58 victory over Long Beach State last Sunday.
K-State matches up against the Charlotte 49ers in the first game. If the Wildcats can win, they will face the winner of Georgetown vs. Northeastern. Georgetown is a powerhouses in college basketball, the Northeastern Huskies aren’t. Expect the Wildcats to play against the Hoyas.
The Wildcats won this tournament two years ago under Head CoachFrank Martin. While Kansas State does still have some upperclassmen who made that trip to Puerto Rico, much of their roster is made up of different players.
The Opponent: Charlotte 49ers
The Charlotte 49ers, led by Head Coach Alan Major, are coming off a 83-69 win against Southern Conference opponent Elon. Shawn Lester came off the bench to score 24 points and lead the 49ers’ scoring. Guard Terrance Williams added 16 points and 8 assists.
Keys to Puerto Rico Tourney
Weber’s squad has seen some ups and downs early on this season, and finding stability seems to be a battle for them. The tournament requires them to play three games in three days which will wear the players down. If K-State hopes to win the tourney, they’ll need to keep a consistent, steady pace.
Front Court Presence:
Having Thomas Gipson and D.J. Johnson around the glass will make a huge difference for the team. Gipson is coming back to the team after missing the first two games. He struggled offensively in his last game, scoring no points in 19 minutes, but did have three rebounds. His scoring will come in time, but just having him on the court will a big help by taking pressure away from the backcourt players. Johnson has done a nice job so far, he’s hitting 57.9% of his field goals which leads the team.
The neutral site isn’t going to have an overwhelming, hostile crowd to overcome. The crowd will be rather subdued. The gym is much smaller than Bramlage and will not provide much atmosphere. Gipson, Shane Southwell, and Will Spradling have all played in Puerto Rico before so they’ll know what it’s like to play here. This will be an nice experience for the freshmen, who can now ease themselves into playing away from home.
Freshman guards Foster, Wesley Iwundu, and Nigel Johnson are maturing very quickly. Foster is the furthest along and has scored a stack of points earlier on for this team. Iwundu can score anywhere on the court, and the Johnson can provide a spark as well. If this trio plays well in San Juan, then look out. If not, the ‘Cats could be in a little bit of trouble to have to rely on just Southwell and Spradling to score most of the points, and neither player has proven that they can shoot well on a consistent basis. If all the pieces should come together for the Cats, then this could be fun.