Many college basketball coaches will tell you that it matters less who starts the game than who finishes it.
This certainly will be true for the Kansas State Wildcats this season. The Wildcats will open the 2021-22 season Wednesday night at home against Florida A&M.
The Rattlers will use a set lineup with all five starters returning from last season. K-State, on the other hand, will have a lot of interchangeable parts this season, with the only certain starters (when they’re healthy) being sophomore point guard Nijel Pack and sophomore center Davion Bradford. Super-senior Mike McGuirl is probably a starter, just for continuity’s sake as well.
Pack led the Wildcats in scoring last year at 12.7 points per game. He also led in assists per game (3.8), 3-point shooting (40.5 percent) and free-throw shooting (79.4 percent). Bradford added 7.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. McGuirl was second in points (11.8) and assists (3.6) per game.
Beyond that, the Wildcats will be moving players in and out of the lineup, depending on which player is hot and whether a big or small lineup will be featured by the opponent.
“This might be a year where every game might be a little different unit,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said, “depending on how they play. Every day, it could be who we’re playing, how somebody’s playing, your energy, your attitude.”
K-State likely will be looking to field a smaller, quicker lineup against Florida A&M, which is entering its first season in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Experience will be key, especially with the Rattlers moving from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference this season.
“It’s extremely important,” said Florida A&M coach Robert McCullum, who was an assistant coach at Kansas State in 1990. “Of course, the expectations will be higher because of that. I’d rather have the experience, and it’s a great group of guys.”
The Rattlers are led by senior guard MJ Randolph, who was named to the Preseason All-SWAC second team after averaging 15.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game last season. Randolph was named to the All-MEAC First Team in the Rattlers’ final season as a member of the conference.
–Field Level Media