Kansas State Wildcats (Last Year: 22-11, 10-8 in Big-12)
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Jordan Henriquez (Sr)/Adrian Diaz (So)
PF: Thomas Gipson (So)/D.J. Johnson (Fr)
SG: Rodney McGruder (Sr)/Shane Southwell (Jr)/Nino Williams (So)
G: Will Spradling (Jr)/Martavious Irving (Sr)/Omari Lawrence (Jr)
PG: Angel Rodriguez (So)/Michael Orris (Fr)
Gone: F-Jamar Samuels, PF-Victor Ojeleye, PG-Jeremy Jones
It is still one of the strangest offseason occurrences in my opinion; Frank Martin leaving Kansas State for South Carolina. Fired Illinois head coach Bruce Weber lands in Manhattan and, to be blunt, needs to prove the last few years of underachieving with the Illini wasn't due to his poor coaching before I can pick the Wildcats to be anything but an average Big-12 team.
Like his recent teams at Illinois, Weber's first season at Kansas State will be sparked by a three-guard lineup headlined by the Wildcats' top returning scorer, Rodney McGruder. As far as go-to scorers go, McGruder isn't the most explosive threat but does have a solid collection of guards around him.
Will Spradling is a scrappy player and capable long-range shooter, while Angel Rodriguez looks to build off a solid freshman season at the point, though cutting down on his turnovers will be key for his development. Martavious Irving and Shane Southwell will be valuable reserves while former St. John's transfer Omari Lawrence looks to work his way into the lineup after being used sparingly a year ago. Freshman Michael Orris is another backcourt option. He originally committed to Weber at Illinois and decided to follow the head coach west to Kansas State after Weber was fired and hired.
Jordan Henriquez might be the x-factor the Wildcats this season. The big man has been an enigma too frequently during his collegiate career as he has more often than not found himself on the bench in foul trouble and unable to consistently make his presence felt. Henriquez and the physical Thomas Gipson have the potential to be one of the more intimidating front lines in not only the Big-12, but the entire country. The 275-pound Gipson made his presence felt inside as a freshman and should be even more of a force this year as he is not afraid to mix it up down low. Keeping both of those guys healthy and on the floor will be essential since Adrian Diaz and D.J. Johnson are both inexperienced backups.
Straight up, I just don't think Weber is that good of a coach. There is some solid talent and depth on this Kansas State team, and if the Wildcats can hover around 4th-6th place in the Big-12, they should be in a good position to compete for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. Let's see how Weber coaches this team up though, huh?
Player to Watch: Thomas Gipson, PF/C
I wouldn't want to run into Gipson in a dark alley, but I really love his ruggedness down low. He averaged seven points and 4.7 boards in just 17.5 minutes per game so those numbers should trend upward as he is expected to see more playing time this year.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/13 vs. North Texas/Alabama-Huntsville (Preseason NIT)
11/21 & 11/23 vs. Michigan/Pitt/Virginia (Preseason NIT)