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Xavier v. Kansas State- 2010 Sweet Sixteen Preview

You might think it is ridiculous to preview an event 5 years in the past, but to do justice to this game, we fist have to adequately set the stage.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The 2010 Kansas State Wildcats were undeniably the best squad to come out of Manhattan in recent history, and can make a strong case for being their best ever, having received the highest NCAA Tournament seed in KState history. They would finish the year ranked 5th in the KenPom rankings, the only time they have finished in the top 20. After an early loss to Ole Miss, a string of 10 straight non conference wins would follow, including bearting Xavier, UNLV, and Alabama in the span of 11 days, before they slugged their way to an 11-5 mark in the Big 12, the best conference in the nation that season. A third loss to rival Kansas in the Big 12 championship set them up as a two seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Team Fingerprint

Much like their coach, Frank Martin, KState did not wait around for things to happen on defense, but got after the ball as aggressively as they could, forcing turnovers at one of the 25 best rates in the nation. They were susceptible on the glass, giving opponents back over a third of their misses, which was a pattern that had doomed them against Kansas who exceeded that figure all three times. Still, they were no slouches in the lane, holding opponents under 45% inside the arc and being one of the top 20 shot blocking teams in the country. Their three point defense was nothing to write home about (not that you would at this point, given that we are a good half a decade removed from this team playing), so the gameplan would seem to be take care of the ball, try to find looks from deep, and get to the glass.

Offensively, the Wildcats were absolutely vicious on the glass, pulling in 40% of their own misses. The only thing they did better than grabbing their own boards was getting to the line, attempting a hair over a free throw for every two field goals, the fourth best rate in the country. Unfortunately, they were only a shade above abysmal at the line, struggling (and failing) to crack the 70% mark. That is what made the difference when unranked Oklahoma State came to town and knocked KState out of the top 10 when the Wildcats chucked up a 19-33 from the line. Offensively, this was definitely their weakest point, although their heavy reliance on their guards could also run them into trouble from time to time.

Tempo wise, they were a fast team, averaging over 70 possessions a game and were undefeated when they broke 75 possessions in regulation. This is surprising, given the face they had an extremely shallow rotation, getting less than 30% of their minutes from non-starters.

Players

Point Guard- Denis Clemente

Clemente was a 5th year senior and a former Miami Hurricane, having played his first two seasons there before transferring. Clemente was a talented distributor, getting in the top 250 in assist rate and the bottom 250 in turnover rate, but could tend to go searching for his own shot a bit too frequently. His 34% mark from three was a bit down from the year before, but he still saw fit to shoot almost 100 more times from deep anyway. Clemente played the most minutes of anyone on KState in 2010, and shot on 28% of the possessions when he was present on the court. With that in mind, his 49% mark on eFG probably left a bit to be desired, but his 16.6/2.4/4.2 line is nothing to shake a stick at.

Shooting Guard- Jacob Pullen

Pullen was the star of the show for KState, posting a line of 19.3/2.6/3.4, and was reasonably efficient in doing so. He was in the top 100 in ORtg, used over a quarter of the available possessions, and also shot 28% of the time he was on the court. Pullen came in a shade under 40% from deep, and sank over 80% of his free throws as well. Basically, the only hole in his game was rebounding, which is to be expected from a 6 footer in a major conference.

Small Forward- Dominique Sutton

Sutton was out there to do two things: hit the offensive glass like a truck with no brakes, and turn the ball over (no matter which team had it). Sutton ended up with 11% of the misses the Wildcats put up when he was out there, and was reasonably efficient on offense, although he used only 18% of available possessions. Sutton only shot 15 threes all year, so he was not a threat from deep, and at 6'5", did not have height on his side, either. However, he was KState's most effective rebounder on the offensive end, and only Pullen came up with more steals.

Power Forward- Jamar Samuels

Samuels was a bit undersized a 6'7", which led to him generally struggling on the glass at both ends. He did well blocking shots, and was fouled a somewhat staggering 7 times per 40 minutes. Samuels probably got fouled a lot because he shot 56% from the line, although he wasn't without nuance to his offensive game, stepping out and shooting 37% from three on the year. He also did good work down low, shooting 58% there, and, although he was not a major part of the KSU game plan on offense, averaged 11.0/4.9/1.2 on the season.

Center- Curtis Kelly

Fun Fact #1: Curtis Kelly from 2010's closest comp on KenPom is Octavious Ellis from 2015.
Fun Fact #2: I don't want to state things to strongly (for the sake of the children), but I am no fan of Octavious Ellis's. Not even a little.

Anyway, Kelly was a UConn transfer playing his first year at KSU and did the dirty work for the Wildcats. He led the team in defensive rebounding, blocked shots at a top 100 rate, was generally efficient, if not eye popping on offense, and turned the ball over like nobody's business. For one reason or another, Kelly gifted the other team possession nearly twice as often as he set up one of his own teammates. Like Samuels, Kelly got hacked a ton and shot a slightly more respectable 66% from the line. Kelly's line of 11.5/6.2/1.6 didn't necessarily tell the whole story of his importance to a team that was weak on the defensive boards and desperately relied on his abilities there.

Bench

The only names that leap off the bench would be Luis Colon, a 6'10" senior center who got minutes to help on the boards in spite of his limitations on offense, and Rodney McGruder, a freshman guard who shot 41% from three and was KSU's leading bench scorer at 3.9 ppg. Other than that, no one even got a quarter of the minutes available.

Three Keys

Exploit the offensive glass- KSU struggled to hold teams off the boards and kill possessions all year, something Love and McLean could definitely take advantage of with their strength in that department, both ranked in the top 50 nationally in offensive rebounding.

Stretch them with shooters- KState was good at defending inside the arc this year, but pretty much average at defending the three. With Crawford (39%), Jackson (40%), and Redford (42%), Xavier has shooters who can take advantage of this, forcing Pullen and Clemente to work harder on defense, and forcing KState's weak bench into play.

Protect the defensive boards- Xavier was bad at forcing turnovers in 2010, coming in at 302nd in the nation in that category. Kansas State does not turn the ball over at a high rate anyway, so it is essential for X to win the battle when the Wildcats miss. Xavier was 45th in the nation at defensive rebounding and KState was 6th in the nation at offensive rebounding, so both teams strengths were at play.