The time has come. Basketball season is upon us. And while K-State’s volleyball, equestrian, and other teams have attempted to convince fans that something other than a 9-0 football team is happening in Manhattan, it’s true that new coach Bruce Weber is geared to bring a little excitement to the Octagon of Doom over the next five months. It starts with the University of North Dakota tonight at Bramlage Coliseum. Here’s what you need to know about this year’s tip-off:
Tonight marks the first meeting of K-State and North Dakota. Both squads put seasoned teams on the field, with four starters and at least 12 lettermen returning for each side. However, there’s a difference in what each side has accomplished. The Wildcats finished 22-11 last year while advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament. They’re led by senior guard Rodney McGruder, a unamious Preseason All-Big 12 selection who was recently named one of 50 Wooden Award candidates. It’s a talented squad that should outrebound and outhustle almost everyone on the schedule.
Also taking the court is a Fighting Sioux team that finished 17-15 last year but managed to win the Great West Conference Tournament title. The Great West champion does not receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, and North Dakota received an invitation to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and was defeated by Drake University of Iowa in the first round. They will be competing in the Big Sky Conference this year, whose teams K-State is 14-4 against all-time.
While North Dakota boasts a roster with the height to match up against almost anyone, the game should be one more tune-up for the Wildcats before competing in the NIT Preseason tournament. The physicality of this game will play to K-State’s advantage as UND, unable to match K-State’s quickness, will attempt to stand up the Wildcats and slow down the game. Such a game plan will play to K-State’s strengths, and Bruce Weber should easily record his first victory in Manhattan.