Last night Kansas State beat Texas A&M 88-65 in Manhattan, notching an impressively easy win over a quality opponent. Indeed the big story under the heading of “KSU hoops” is undoubtedly the pronounced post-Beasley success of Frank Martin‘s team. At 14-2, the ‘Cats are currently a strong number 9 in colleague Ken Pomeroy‘s ratings, a lofty status powered by an offense that, like a diesel engine, is far more powerful than glamorous. Martin’s team is merely “good” in terms of hitting their shots from the field, but they are “outstanding” when it comes to crashing the offensive glass. Just ask the Aggies: Mark Turgeon‘s group could only gather in 54 percent of the available defensive boards last night, as Kansas State recorded 88 points in a 74-possession game. This is an exceptionally effective team.
Said team will not, however, be winning major style points anytime soon. Indeed Kansas State games are historically foul-riddled. Last night marked the second consecutive K-State game to feature 70 or more free throws in just 40 minutes of “action.” Granted, A&M demonstrably helped achieve that result: The Aggies are in fact one of the most proficient teams in the nation in terms of drawing fouls. (By the same token it’s also true that the Big 12 as a whole hears more whistles than do other major conferences.) But the Wildcats’ similarly foul-rich game against otherwise normal Missouri last Saturday suggests that a good deal of the stylistic pull in these contests can in fact be traced to Martin’s team.
Certainly a big part of the Kansas State offense is predicated on getting to the line, which the ‘Cats do better than any team in the country besides the aforementioned Texas A&M Aggies. In their first two conference games, however, Martin’s team is, incredibly, operating at an FT deficit relative to their opponents.
I realize that stars like Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, who last night combined to score 39 points, are the face of this franchise, but in one very important sense the emblematic K-State player is actually seldom-glimpsed reserve Wally Judge. The 6-9 freshman from Washington, D.C. obviously has potential–he was a 2009 McDonald’s All-American–but as one of the newest members of a roster with no shortage of frontcourt talent, Judge has been used by his coach mostly as a handy source of non-starter personals. And so we find that Judge is one of the most foul-prone players in the nation, averaging an astounding nine whistles per 40 minutes. (By comparison observers shake their heads ruefully at the lost possessions that result when stars like Dexter Pittman or DeMarcus Cousins average five or six fouls per 40.) Last night Judge picked up four fouls in seven minutes of playing time.
This year Judge and his teammates are on pace to do some serious damage to the record book. If you had the uncommon wisdom and foresight to purchase the book, you’re already familiar with the lower 89 percent of the following teachably Big 12-heavy table, but what’s happening in Manhattan this year constitutes breaking news where frequent-fouling is concerned.
The Big 12 commissioner is apparently OK with free throws
Highest opponent FT rates: Kansas State 2010 and all major conference teams, 2009
Conference games only; K-State 2010 figures through games of January 12
Kansas State 2010 0.81
Kansas State 2009 0.52
Texas Tech 2009 0.49
Oregon 2009 0.47
Oklahoma St. 2009 0.45
Seton Hall 2009 0.43
Baylor 2009 0.43
Georgia Tech 2009 0.42
Colorado 2009 0.42
Sure it’s early–“way early“–in the conference season, but the numbers here are so escape-velocity outlandish that when they come back down to earth they can still smash records. At 70-plus free throws per 40 minutes, these are no longer “games” in the commonly accepted sense of the term. These are free throw shooting contests leavened by the occasional sprint to the other end of the floor.