The most surprising aspect of Kansas State’s hot start in men’s basketball is the high scores.
Heading into Monday’s CBE Classic against Missouri, K-State is averaging 84.6 points a game after averaging 63 a year ago.
That number seemed unthinkable before the season. Consider that the Wildcats lost their top three scorers in the offseason and now start a freshman at point guard. Yet, they are putting the ball through the hoop with impressive efficiency. They are running, they are passing and they are having fun doing both. It’s a reversal from last season, when they slowed the pace and tried to win with the lowest score possible.
“I don’t want to have bad shots at the end of the shot clock,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “I want to get things going right away. I want to get it up the court. The one thing we have done a really good job of is kicking the ball ahead.”
A shorter shot clock — now 30 seconds instead of 35 — has helped matters. But so has team chemistry.
Last season, the Wildcats abandoned Weber’s motion offense and focused on simply getting the ball to their top scorers. Role players often disappeared. This season, the Wildcats are constantly moving and encouraging each other to shoot when they are open.
Dean Wade is a perfect example of the improved teamwork. Becaue he’s a freshman from St. John, Kan., many predicted he would struggle to immediately make the jump from Kansas’ Class 2A level to Division I. He even doubted himself, and in practice and exhibition games he played it safe and deferred to teammates.
They told him to stop and began pleading with him to shoot in practice. Every time he touched the ball, they yelled at him to shoot. He is now K-State’s third-leading scorer, averaging 13.3 points.
The Wildcats have yet to play a marquee opponenet, but four K-State players — Justin Edwards, Wesley Iwundu, Barry Brown and Wade — average more than 12 points. A fifth, Stephen Hurt, averages 9.7.
“We have a lot of scorers, but we also have a lot of unselfish people,” Edwards said. “We move the ball, and we know each other’s game. We help each other. Like I said, we are unselfish. We don’t care if someone scores a lot or a little. We just want to win.”
K-State is eager to take that approach away from Bramlage Coliseum this week to the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. It will take on Missouri at 6 p.m. on Monday at the Sprint Center in a semifinal game. On Tuesday, it will face either Northwestern or North Carolina.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett