With a chance to go to New York for the NIT season tip-off tournament, the Kansas State Wildcats (3-0) had to handle their business first and beat the Division II Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, who just beat a very good Division I North Texas team. In a pivotal early game, K-State made it look easy. Before the Chargers scored a point, K-State was up by seven. Before the Chargers reached five, Kansas State led by 21.
It was a dominating performance by Kansas State, who starts the season looking fantastic under head coach Bruce Weber. Every active player on the roster scored and K-State scored more than 75 points in its first three games for the first time since 2009-10–the same year Kansas State made a run to the Elite Eight. It was also the best defensive performance defeating the Chargers by 61 points, the largest margin of victory since beating Savannah State by 60, 85-25, in 2008. No player scored more than four points for the Chargers, an offense that turned the ball over 14 times on six assist.
13 players scored for K-State with four ending in double-figures. Shane Southwell led all scorers off the bench with 16 points and nine rebounds, one rebound shy of his first career double-double. Senior Rodney McGruder finished with 11 points and six rebounds. Will Spradling chipped in 10 points and five rebounds, while Angel Rodriguez finished with 10 points, six assist, five rebounds and two steals.
K-State dominated the glass winning the battle on the boards 54-22 and assisted 17 times on 34 made field goals.
With the win, Kansas State starts the Bruce Weber era off 3-0 and will make the trip to New York to play the Delaware Fightin Blue Hens (2-1) in the NIT season tip-off semifinal round at Madison Square Garden next week. Delaware representing the CAA, is a team that Kansas State should beat. Delaware recently defeated the Virginia Cavaliers (1-2) 59-53 to advance to the NIT tip-off semifinals. The Blue Hens did it with good defense holding Virginia to 35-percent shooting from the field. Kansas State hasn’t shot the ball well this year, only shooting 42 percent but no team has scored more than 55 points and has yet to contain the offense of Kansas State. The Wildcats will have a good chance to play a good mid-major squad.
Delaware has a short rotation with junior Devon Saddler leading the way. Saddler averages 16 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assist per game. He also averages five turnovers per outing, which is something K-State can exploit with its ball hawk Rodriguez. Sophomore Jarvis Threatt is probably the most versatile and important piece to the Delaware offense. Threatt averages 14 points, five rebounds, three assist and two steals. Delaware has a good rotation but cannot matchup with the size of the Wildcats. Three starters lineup at 6-2, with the frontcourt rotating a 6-6 and 6-9 forward.
Kansas State has to utilize its size against a smaller lineup. If K-State is able to get past Delaware, they’ll have a chance to build an impressive non-conference resume. The Wildcats already have to face top-25 teams in Gonzaga and Florida in December and will have a chance to face another really good team in November. Pittsburgh and No. 5 Michigan are playing for the right to play in the championship game. K-State has a chance to pick up an impressive early season win if it takes care of business against Delaware.
Michigan, the presumed favorite, will be a tough matchup for Kansas State and so will Pittsburgh. It’ll be a challenge to be crowned NIT champions but it’s something that Kansas State can certainly do. The Wildcats have a tune-up game against the North Florida Ospreys (1-1) at home three days before heading to New York.