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    Kansas State was 15-1 and 4-0 in the Big 12 after defeating Oklahoma State on Jan. 10, but then the grind of the league’s schedule took its toll. The Wildcats picked up just two wins from seven at one point. But they bounced back late in the schedule, rattling off four-straight victories near the end of the regular season. K-State will have a favorable seed in the NCAA Tournament with its sights set on winning the program’s first national championship.

    In the regular season, Kansas State notched marquee Ws over Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, TCU, West Virginia, Nevada, and Baylor twice. The Wildcats played one of the top-20 most difficult dockets in Division I and are plenty prepared for the grueling nature of March Madness. The question is: are they capable of cutting down the nets?

    Last National Championship: None

    Last Final Four: 1964

    2023 Title Odds: +5500 (as of March 9, 2023)

    Why Kansas State Will Make a Run

    The Wildcats can play some serious defense. They’re especially effective at defending the three-point line, holding opponents to a 29.5-percent mark from distance, which ranks 12th nationally. Markquis Nowell, Keyontae Johnson, and Nae’Qwan Tomlin make for one of the most formidable defensive backcourts in the country – Kansas State is better equipped than most to deal with teams that like to score from deep or otherwise utilize the perimeter.

    It’s more than just perimeter defense that makes this three-headed attack so intimidating. They’re the team’s top-three scorers, Nowell is third in Division I in assists per game (7.7), and Johnson and Tomlin are both in the Big 12’s top 10 for rebounds per game (7.0 and 5.9, respectively). This trio is this team’s fuel and quite a handful for any opposition to handle.

    Why Kansas State Will Exit Early

    Nowell is not the most efficient shooter on the planet. He takes 12.5 field-goal attempts per game but only makes 4.7 of them. That’s 37.6 percent, and that’s not great. Bad shots give you a chance at points, but they’re usually no different than a turnover. There will be a lot of teams in this tournament that would relish an opposition offering them those opportunities.

    Shooting as a whole could be what stops this team from winning it all. Kansas State shoots middling percentages from the field and beyond the arc. The team also prefers to play with an up-tempo style but only gets up an average of 57.8 field goals per game, good for 175th in the country. Those two facts don’t make a lot of sense to me – what benefit are the Wildcats getting from playing the 40th-fastest adjusted tempo in college basketball, according to KenPom, if they’re only attempting an average amount of shots?

    What It’ll Take to Win

    When Nowell has shot better than 37 percent from the field, Kansas State is 15-1. In games when he’s shot worse than that, the Wildcats are 8-7. As mentioned before, the guard can have a tendency to take tough looks and rack up the misses, and it puts KSU in a tough spot when he does. He must be on his best behavior for Kansas State to win the national championship.

    The Wildcats aren’t the best shooting team, but they do well from the charity stripe – their 74.9 percent mark is tied for best in the Big 12. Their aggression and love for driving hard to the hole means they draw a lot of fouls, and with that serving as a staple of their scoreboard-stuffing strategy, they’ll need the benefit of the whistle. You could say that every team requires some luck and positive calls to achieve the ultimate, and you’d probably be right, but for teams like Kansas State that feast from the free-throw line, it’s even more necessary.


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