Big East Coast BIas; Let’s get this one out of the way. Is Marcus Foster playing against his former team as big of a story as everyone is making it out to be?
Eric Rubottom: It is for the K-State fans, and probably Marcus Foster. That’s about it. No one else at Creighton probably cares, K-State HC Bruce Weber probably doesn’t care, and no one on the Wildcat roster knows Foster. Personally, I’m torn. Foster was clearly going to be the dude at K-State before the whole environment became toxic; and I still think he’s a great basketball player. I want him to do well, but not at K-State’s expense.
BECB: Barry Brown and Dean Wade are K-State’s two most-used players per KenPom and both are banged up. Reports are saying both will play, but how much will it change things to not have these two players at 100%?
ER: It’s really hard to tell. Two weeks ago, I’d have told you K-State would be lost without both those guys at least capable of playing impactfully. Then you see the Wildcats have it to a 1-point game late against KU in the Big 12 tourney - and it not look like a complete fluke - without either of them playing. I would still say K-State would have a rough go of it if they’re extremely limited, but my gut tells me we’re going to see Barry and Dean playing at or near full capacity.
BECB: Creighton guard Khyri Thomas won the Big East Defensive Player of the Year award and locked up a number of the conference’s best guards. Assuming he’s on Brown, what can K-State do to try and get Brown the looks he desires?
ER: Khyri Thomas is certainly a great defender and a solid basketball player, but Barry has also gone up against the likes of Jevon Carter, Devonte Graham in the Big 12, so the defensive pressure won’t be a shock. The thing about guarding Barry is you have to do it as a team, because he can dribble drive on a straight line or with a hesitation and finish at the goal, he can hit the pull-up off the dribble, and can shoot from the outside competently enough to pull defenders out to him. He’s a pretty well-rounded offensive player, so Creighton can’t rely on just taking one thing from him.
BECB: After losing Justin Patton to the NBA and Martin Krampelj to an ACL injury, Creighton still hasn’t managed to get their big man situation to a level they would like. Is this something K-State can exploit?
ER: That’s certainly what we’re hoping. Dean Wade creates a matchup nightmare for anyone, and is equally comfortable in back-to-the-basket situations, mid-range, and from the outside (44% 3PFG). Outside of Dean, the Cats really haven’t had a solid inside contributor until recently, relying on the three-man rotation of former Rivals150 player Makol Mawien, Levi Stockard, and James Love. However, Makol Mawien has absolutely come out of the woodwork in the past several weeks, averaging 15ppg over his last 5 games, including a 29 point outburst against the Udoka Azibuike-less Jayhawks.
BECB: Who wins and why?
ER: There are some plausible scenarios: I’ve personally seen Marcus Foster take over a game and drag his team across the finish line while wearing a purple jersey - and I’ve seen the combination of Barry Brown and Dean Wade combine for a 1-2 punch that only the best in the country could overcome. The reality is that I think a 100% Barry Brown and 95% Dean Wade, with an X-factor type contribution from Xavier Sneed, Makol Mawien, or Cartier Diarra, is just too much for the Bluejays to overcome, despite a heroic effort by Foster. I’ll take the Wildcats in a 77-74 affair that is in doubt until the buzzer.