Coming off their second loss of the season, the Hokies will try to right the
ship at home on Sunday evening against unbeaten Kansas State. The Wildcats have
been to the NCAA Tournament three of the last four years, and they are off to a
good start in 2011-12.
Kansas State has defeated Charleston Southern (72-67), Loyola (74-61),
Maryland-Eastern Shore (92-50) and George Washington (69-56). All of those games
were at home, and the Wildcats haven’t participated in an exempt tournament as
of yet (that will come around Christmas in the Diamond Head Classic). This trip
to Blacksburg is Kansas State’s first true road game of the season.
The Wildcats have a number of players who can score, and they’ll also have a
big weight advantage on the Hokies on the inside.
State Starting Lineup
Virginia Tech recruited point guard Will Spradling very hard. Spradling is
Kansas State’s most reliable three-point shooter. He is 6-of-17 (35.3%) on the
season, though he is capable of shooting at a much higher percentage.
Starting wing Rodney McGruder is part of a pipeline to Kansas State from the
Washington DC AAU program DC Assault. Fellow starter Jamar Samuels also played
for DC Assault, along with former NBA Lottery Pick Michael Beasley. McGruder
started every game for Kansas State last season, and he and Samuels are the most
experienced players on the Kansas State roster.
McGruder shot 40.8% from three-point range last year. Though that number is
down to 26.3% so far this year, it will climb as the season progresses.
Martavious Irving is also a very capable three-point shooter. He scored nine
points against the Hokies in Manhattan last year, all coming from outside the
arc. With Spradling, Irving and McGruder, the Wildcats have a very capable
outside shooting team, and even starting power forward Jamar Samuels is capable
of knocking down the open outside jumper.
Kansas State has a lot of beef inside. Thomas Gipson, at 6-7, 275, is a true
freshman who seems as if he should be redshirting as an offensive tackle for the
Wildcat football program. Gipson has steadily improved since the season began,
and he will be a major challenge for the smaller Virginia Tech front line.
Also presenting a challenge to the Virginia Tech frontcourt will be Jordan
Henriquez (6-11, 250, Jr.), who can either start or come off the bench,
depending on the matchups. He has great size, and he does a good job protecting
the front of the rim. For the year, Henriquez is averaging 8.8 points and 9.3
rebounds per game, while also blocking 13 shots. That’s an average of a little
over three blocks per game.
Virginia Tech has struggled in the paint in their first season without Jeff
Allen. They were even dominated in the paint by Minnesota, and the Golden
Gophers were missing both of their frontcourt starters. That’s not a good sign,
heading into a game against a big, physical Kansas State team. The Wildcats are
averaging 41.5 rebounds per game, and if the Hokies can stay anywhere close to
even on the boards it would be a victory.
Kansas State also plays a similar defensive style as Minnesota. The Wildcats
extend their defense and will pressure the ball all the way out to 21 or 22 feet
away from the basket. They put a lot of pressure on ball handlers, and as a
result they have forced 72 turnovers in just four games.
In Virginia Tech’s game with Kansas State last season, the Hokies lost 73-57
and could never get anything going offensively. Malcolm Delaney had 22 points,
but he also committed nine turnovers while playing the point. Tech was
outrebounded 46-37, they allowed 15 offensive rebounds, and they committed 17
turnovers. That’s a recipe for losing.
The matchups aren’t much better this season, though the fact that the Hokies
have played three more games and this is Kansas State’s first road game could be