After three straight losses and a season-ending injury to star freshman Bill Walker, some might consider the K-State men’s basketball team to be creeping toward basketball hell.
But hell – in the form of Missouri coach Mike Anderson’s “40 Minutes of Hell” coaching philosophy – doesn’t arrive until Saturday. The Wildcats (10-6, 0-2 Big 12) will try for their first conference win of the season when they take on the Tigers on Saturday.
Anderson, a first-year coach at Missouri who had a previous stint at Alabama-Birmingham, has wasted little time in trying to establish his style of play. He’s converted the Tigers into a high-energy, tenacious bunch and has upgraded the talent level by signing highly regarded junior college players such as Stefhon Hannah and Darryl Butterfield.
Full-court pressure, half-court traps and an up-tempo fastbreak game have become the norm in Columbia, Mo., since Anderson took over. It’s a system that Anderson adopted from his mentor Nolan Richardson, who used the strategy in leading Arkansas to a national championship in 1994.
So far it seems to be paying off for Missouri.
The Tigers are off to an 11-4 start and have a pair of quality non-conference wins (Arkansas and Mississippi State) already on their rÃ©sumÃ©. For K-State, a team that has had problems with fatigue at times this season, Missouri’s relentless pressure could create some problems.
“(The system) has been really good for Mike, and it’s been really good for Nolan,” coach Bob Huggins said. “I think when you have the personnel to play like that, it’s a good way to play.”
In its last game against Texas Tech on Jan. 8, K-State struggled against man-to-man defense in the half court. The Red Raiders pressured the Wildcats into turnovers, forced them into taking difficult shots and held them to just 52 points. This time, the Wildcats will likely face tough defense all over the court.
“If you’re going to play Missouri, you’ve got to get ready for their pressure,” Huggins said.
Though the Wildcats have lost their first two games in conference play, Huggins balked when asked if his team is feeling a sense of urgency.
“I’m not sure what urgency means,” Huggins said. “It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint. We’ve got 15 games to go.”
Sophomore guard Cartier Martin said the team plans on trying to control the pace of the game – if possible – and will look to get good shots, something the Wildcats have failed to do consistently this season. He also said that playing a transition type of game might benefit the Wildcats and could help them get out of their recent shooting funk.
“I think it’ll definitely help our field goal percentage if we can get some points around the basket and not have to rely on so many jump shots,” Martin said. “It might trigger our ability to shoot the ball a little bit better.”
And if things don’t go right, are the Wildcats afraid of “40 Minutes of Hell”?
“For the last three days it’s been pretty rough. We’ve already been through hell,” Martin said. “So I’m sure coach Anderson is not going to put us through as much hell as coach Huggins has.”