Probable Starting Lineups
G Micheal Morris 6-4, 215, Sr
G Stephan Gilling 6-2, 190, Fr
G Cory Lewis 6-0, 175, Jr
F Jason Smith 7-0, 230, So
F Michael Harrison 6-9, 215, Jr
F Dramane Diarra 6-8, 245, Sr
G Lance Harris 6-5, 190, Jr
G Clent Stewart 6-4, 195, So
G Cartier Martin 6-7, 220, Jr
G Akeem Wright 6-6, 190, Jr
Fresh off a solid 77-65 victory over IUPUI, the 2005-06 Colorado State University mens’ basketball team will be looking to do something that has never been done in the history of the school as they travel to Manhattan, Kan. to face Big 12 opponent Kansas State on tonight (7 p.m. CST, broadcast on the CSU radio network, televised in Kansas on FSN-Midwest, and in Denver/Fort Collins on tape delay at 11:30 p.m. on FSN-Rocky Mountain).
CSU has never opened a season with seven consecutive victories. Their 6-0 start tied the all-time school record set by the 1971 team and it has resulted in an early season top-10 RPI rating and in the team receiving votes in both the Associated Press and ESPN USA Today/Coaches Poll.
Kansas State enters the game with a 5-1 record having opened the season with four consecutive victories including a 68-56 win over MWC member New Mexico. The Wildcats lost their first game last Saturday at Washington State 58-57, but returned to winning ways on Monday evening with an 89-60 pasting of Longwood University (believe it or not, a Division I program from Farmville, Va.).
CSU head coach Dale Layer said of Kansas State, “I think they’re a lot like Colorado from an athletic perspective. There not an up-and-down, high-octane team like Colorado or Auburn. They’re a little more of a half-court team with a lot of athleticism. They’re a little undersized inside. They’re a very good mid-range jump-shooting team.”
The Wildcats are led by Cartier Martin, a 6-7, 220 lb guard/forward who averages 20.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Junior guard Lance Harris averages 13.5 points per game and David Hoskin chips in 11.7 per game.
“Cartier Martin is as talented a player as we’ve seen,” Layer said. “He’s probably an NBA player. Kansas State will put him everywhere -- the 2, 3, and 4 positions.”
CSU is looking to continue their success away from Moby Arena that they established with a road win over Northern Colorado and a neutral court win over Denver earlier in the season. But it certainly won’t be easy.
“I talked to (New Mexico coach) Ritchie McKay and he said the environment at K-State is not intimidating. But New Mexico was up 11 at the half and got beat by 12. Their crowd got into it and gave them momentum. Kansas State will try to use their athleticism, get the crowd into it, try to get a few runs. They’re an emotional type of team. When their emotions are flowing, they are an extremely gifted team.”
And what can Layer do to effectively counter Kansas State in a hostile road environment?
“You try to be judicious with your timeouts on the road. You‘ve got to use them on the road a little more. You’ve got to slow the tempo a little offensively. And we’re going to do some things to defensively to get them back on their heels hopefully.”
CSU associate head coach Bill Peterson was responsible for the Kansas State scouting report and he described Kansas State’s offense in great detail.
“They use an old-fashioned flex offense, where they screen down, run a baseline cut, and reverse the ball back and forth until they get a good shot. When they win, they overpower their opponents and create good shots with their physical play. They try to push it inside and bully you.”
And regarding the keys to slowing down Kansas State’s very efficient half-court offense?
“Cartier Martin is their best shooter,” Peterson continued. “We can’t let him catch it and shoot it. We’ve got to make him become a dribbler. Lance Harris is a guy who can really shoot and drive so we’ve got to take away his open looks. We can’t help off of Martin or Harris or they’ll kill us. We’ll help off the other guys. We have to get their non-shooters to shoot a little more.”
Offensively, look for CSU to try to exploit their significant size advantage on the inside.
“We’ve got to get the ball inside and be strong there,” Peterson said. “If Stuart (Creason), Jason (Smith), and Michael (Harrison) have good games, then we’ll win. We imagine that Kansas State will double the post defensively, so we’ll need one of our guards to step up and hit some outside shots.”
Smith saw his scoring average drop after the IUPUI game but still leads the team at 19.8 ppg. and 9.5 rpg. Four other players are averaging in double figures, led by shooting guard Sean Morris at 13.5 ppg. Creason is averaging 10.3 ppg, point guard Cory Lewis is averaging 10.2 ppg, and power forward Harrison is averaging 10.0 ppg. Lewis leads the team in assists at 4.4 per game. Senior wing and defensive stopper Micheal Morris is second on the team in rebounds (6.4) and leads the Mountain West Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio.
So, in short, the Rams need solid post play and need a guard to step up and shoot well tonight. And if all goes well, those shooters will help the Rams roll a seven on the come.