In week one of a perhaps futile effort to capture our feelings and insights in real time, Dave and I will be communicating via email for one game each week, and posting our correspondence the next morning as a way to encapsulate what went down.
Our first stab was game two of the O'Reilly CBE Classic in Kansas City, as K-State handled Gonzaga with ease, setting up a potential can't-miss-classic against #1 Duke tonight.
Here goes nothing...
Nick (in bold, and not by accident): So Dave, Kansas State is no doubt a Final Four contender, but much as been made of Jacob Pullen and whether or not he fits as a point guard. As a '1' is he a help or hamper for the Wildcats?
Dave: I'd say a help rather than a hindrance (and rather than a hamper, which I am putting in bold and underlining to point out a minor mis-usage of the word). His leadership ability and raw emotion are what seal the deal for me. You want that kind of stuff from your floor general. Pullen's a scorer at heart, but he seems eager to run the point full-time and look out more for his teammates.
Uh oh, speak of the devil. Pullen just banged his knee and left the game. Time for Will Spradling at the point. What have you seen from the freshman so far this year?
Nick: Feel free to respond with, "thanks for the utterly useless and superficial remark," but Pullen is really auditioning for the next level. Last season he proved he could score off the ball with Denis Clemente serving as the team's primary ball handler. This season he's got to show he can efficiently share. So far his assists are up, scoring is a tad down, but he's shooting at a slightly higher percentage (44 percent). Long term Pullen should be imploring Frank Martin to let him bring the ball up the court, but if Spradling's minutes go up (and I think they will) you probably see Pullen once again play on the wing - which makes the Wildcats better, but stunts Pullen's growth as a player.
I was about to scream at the TV that David Stockton received preferential treatment to make the Zags roster, much like John Wooden's grandson down at UCLA, but I am reconsidering that. Dude has a 4-to1 assist-to-turnover ratio (sure it's early) but you know he's got good genes and isn't going to make a lot of mistakes.
OK, moving away from West Coast Conference bit players, Elias Harris looks a bit overmatched against the size of Kansas State, no?
Dave: Harris definitely looks out of sync right now. You wonder if he's relying on his athleticism too much. And against KSU that really something that will work. You have to be tough as nails in order to go inside and score with regularity on this Frank Martin team. Harris usually has a significant athletic advantage over his opponents, but that isn't the case tonight. I'd expect him to struggle all game.
Curtis Kelly, yanked earlier in the game, looks energized. Thoughts on impact on this team?
Nick: Well getting yanked early in your first game of the season following a three-game suspension looks ominous, but on the court this guy is as important as Pullen. Both Kelly and Jamar Samuels give passive players fits. You’re seeing it right now with Harris – he just can’t get his offensive game going largely because of the Wildcats physical play. On the whole, Kelly offers a more on the offensive end than Samuels, and Wally Judge just isn’t developing like many thought the All-American would. I just am worried Kelly is a complete imbecil– Frank Martin is the last college basketball coach I would dare piss off.
Very surprised that Gonzaga has 26 points in the half. Kansas State is just so much bigger and Elias Harris currently has an 0fer on the night. It's really all Sacre inside and Gray getting into the lane. The Bulldogs might actually have a shot here if they can get out on the Wildcat defenders.
Dave: Sacre is a riot. I think Betty White has a more polished post game. I'm not impressed with his footwork to say the least. Thankfully he's got that 15-foot jumper in his arsenal. And back on Harris, the guy is really starting to look like a detriment for the first time in his college career. I love his potential but every time he touches the ball something bad happens. Tough position for Mark Few to be in.
Nick: If Sacre is Betty White, then does that make Elias Harris Estelle Getty? A quick search of Wikipedia suggests she’s the most fragile of the Golden Girls posse.
Anyway, the Wildcats have 16 turnovers at the 14 minute mark, and zero of those come from the freshman Spradling. I think this kid is going to find himself in a starting role soon. Could he hold up during a Big 12 schedule?
Dave: Okay, so Pullen just flipped over the front row trying to save an errant ball. A few more plays like this and Spradling will get that starting point guard role before we know it. And if Dogus freakin' Balbay can start on a top Big-12 squad, then I see no reason why Spradling can't.
The shots for KSU keep on falling from everywhere. This one screams blowout now, which is a bit of a shame. Zags down by a bunch. Wondering if this is great for Kansas State, or just bad for Gonzaga?
Nick: It’s awful for the Zags, just not enough weapons and K-State was hitting wide open shots, not off-the-dribble-prayers. This game was easy to illustrate: both teams attempted 57 shots, Gonzaga made 19, Kansas State converted on 29. Heck it looked like 5-on-4 at times, but now we get the match-up we hoped for.
In 100 words or less, who wins tomorrow night: Kansas State or Duke? And why.
Dave: Arguably the two best teams in college hoops. How great is this? After careful examination, or just a knee-jerk reaction, I'm going to roll with Duke in this one. Mason Plumlee was an absolute beast on Monday night, and he might just be the x-factor once again when these teams square off. I also noticed plenty of lapses in Kansas State's defensive execution against the Zags in the first half, and stuff like that just can't happen against a Mike Krzyzewski coached team. I like the Blue Devils to attack KSU early down low, get them in foul trouble and edge out a close victory.