PREVIEW: Men’s basketball hops back into non-conference play on Monday

Freshman guard Selton Miguel attempts to get the offense going while guarded by Baylor senior guard MaCio Teague in the Wildcat's 100-69 loss to the Bears on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of Scott Weaver | K-State Athletics)

After starting Big 12 Conference play at 1-1, the men’s basketball team jumps back into non-conference play for their next two games. The Wildcats take on Jacksonville (6-3) on Monday afternoon before getting a week off to prepare for their next game against Omaha (2-7) on Tuesday, Dec. 29.

The Wildcats started off their season just about as bad as they could have with a 1-5 record. That included a loss to NCAA Division II opponent Fort Hays State and a close battle with Kansas City for Kansas State’s only victory.

Things began to look up for the Wildcats after their frustrating start following two straight wins, including a road victory to open conference play that showed signs of life for head coach Bruce Weber and company. However, Saturday’s 31-point loss to Baylor was perhaps the last thing K-State fans needed when they were getting ready to take their finger off the panic button. If the Wildcats can’t come away with a win in Monday’s game against Jacksonville, fans might be ready to smash that button.

Jacksonville coasts into Manhattan with a 6-3 record overall. Coming off of a close 73-64 loss to Miami on Saturday, the Dolphins proved they can compete with anybody. The team’s other two losses were a two-point loss to Campbell and a 98-65 demolishing at Georgia’s hands.

K-State’s biggest challenge against Jacksonville will be shutting down 6-foot-8 junior forward Xavier transfer Dontarius James. He averages 18.6 points per game and has 10 blocks in nine games. James will be a good test for K-State’s young core in the post — including true freshman forward Davion Bradford.

Besides James, Jacksonville will put out a young squad, much like K-State. Two sophomore guards — Arnold Mo and Trey Sides — and two redshirt sophomore guards — Tyreese Davis and Diante Wood — are near the top of the list for the Dolphins in minutes per game.

In total, Jacksonville has three other players after James who average double-digits in scoring in junior forward Bryce Workman at 11 points per game, Wood at 12.4 points per game and Davis at 12.3 points per game.

K-State looks to continue the trend of getting its young players to step up. Freshmen guards Nigel Pack and Selton Miguel average 9.3 and 8.4 points per game, respectively.

Meanwhile, senior guard Mike McGuirl continues to lead the Wildcats in scoring with 12.4 points per game, making him the only Wildcat to average over ten points per game.

Sophomore forward Antonio Gordon looks to stay hot on Monday after he was a perfect nine-for-nine while scoring a career-high of 23 points in the lopsided loss to the Baylor Bears.

Following this outing, K-State has seven days off, before getting in one more non-conference game against Omaha to close out 2020. Monday’s game against Jacksonville tips off at 1 p.m. on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.