I caught with up Kellis Robinett, KSU beat writer for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, for a lil’ Q&A.
Kellis, a proud Kansas grad (Yup, a Jayhawk), worked in southeastern Idaho as a sports scribe the same time I did. Consider this a reunion of sorts.
Ryan Collingwood: Last December at Manhattan, Kansas State handled WSU 86-69 in a game where the Wildcats scored 39 points off of turnovers. If healthy, though, this will be the exact Washington State club when it faces KSU in Pullman on Friday night. What are you expecting this time around?
Kellis Robinett: The atmosphere will be totally different with the game shifting from Bramlage Coliseum to Friel Court. That, obviously, will be the biggest change. Most of K-State’s players say they have never been anywhere near Pullman. When asked what he expects to see while there, Jacob Pullen said “a tree somewhere and a Walgreen’s on the corner.” The Wildcats know nothing about the area or the arena. It will be interesting to see how they handle the long trip and new setting.
When you heard Reggie Moore — Washington State’s sophomore point guard who’s also one of the Pac-10’s best–was injured (wrist) along with primary post DeAngelo Casto (foot sprain), how much gleam was lost? Casto is probable for Friday and Moore is still listed as day-to-day.
Not much, to be honest. This is K-State’s first true road game of the season, and it is part of the Pac 10/Big 12 Hardwood challenge. This is an important game with or without those two players. Now if Klay Thompson was out with an injury, that would make this one a lot less appealing.
While Kansas State is ranked No. 5 and the Cougars are picked to finish fifth in another down Pac-10, there is one glaring similarity: Both clubs are led by arguably their conference’s best players in KSU guard Jacob Pullen (16 ppg) and WSU in Thompson (23 ppg).
I expect a high-octane matchup. Pullen has a lot of respect for Thompson, and he usually plays his best defense against players he respects. Last year in the NCAA Tournament, when he went up against Jimmer Freddette, he played the game of his life.
Kansas State is holding teams to a paltry 64 points a contest and has more than one capable big (Curtis Kelly is one of the best in the Big 12 and has some help). Would you say a sizable frontline and defense are what Frank Martin is hanging his hat on?
K-State’s frontline has actually underachieved to this point. Wally Judge hasn’t made the big improvement coaches were expecting, Freddy Asprilla has played one good game and Curtis Kelly was benched for a few games. But yes, defense has always been what he hangs his hat on.
Junior guard Faisal Aden, a junior college transfer, is averaging around 20 points a game for a team that ranks third in the country in FG percentage. Who is KSU’s nicest addition?
So far, it has been Will Spradling. A freshman guard from Kansas City, he has proven capable of running the point and hitting three-pointers.
Coming into the season some pundits were saying depth was the chink in KSU’s armor. Agree? If not, then what?
I disagree. When K-State pounded Gonzaga last week, the Wildcats beat the Bulldogs with their depth. They substituted players at every opportunity and wore down Gonzaga until it had nothing left in the second half. In tough games, Frank Martin loves to use his depth. If there is a chink in the armor it is free-throw shooting. K-State has been awful at the foul line this season.
With Apple Cup weekend going on, KSU won’t be the only purple-clad unit to invade the Palouse. This should have the feel of February Big 12 road game. That said, how do you think this group will handle its first true road test this season?
Hard to say with a few fresh faces, but I believe the Wildcats will turn in their top performance of the year. K-State veterans love playing on the road, and have been excited about this trip for a while.
Kansas State has already faced some worthy adversaries in top-ranked Duke, then-No. 12 Gonzaga and Virginia Tech. Washington State’s 5-0 record consists of opposition with a combined 12-21 mark. How much are you expecting this to benefit KSU in this situation?
I put absolutely no stock in a team’s schedule. If you are a good team, it doesn’t matter who you play.
K-State 71, Washington State 63