MANHATTAN — Nothing against the three mid-major opponents Kansas State has faced, but Rodney McGruder views tonight's basketball game against George Washington as the Wildcats' first serious test.
The junior forward thinks that way partially because of the Colonials are from his hometown of Washington D.C., and start one of his long-time friends, Lasan Kromah, at guard. But more than anything, it's what he's seen of them.
"On film, they look like a tougher team," McGruder said. "They get after people, and they have guys who can really score the basketball."
Those are two things Charleston Southern, Loyola Chicago and Maryland-Eastern Shore were unable to do in the first two weeks of the season. Though K-State struggled at times in two of those games, it dominated Eastern Shore with Jamar Samuels and Martavious Irving in the starting lineup.
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Under new coach Mike Lonergan, George Washington will try to frustrate the Wildcats by challenging them to play at their pace.
"They can control the tempo," K-State coach Frank Martin said. "That's their coach's shtick now. He's done that everywhere he's been. They control that tempo. They're not going to get sped up."
K-State will need to be able to ready for that style, because it is going to see plenty of imposing opponents that like to play their way in the coming weeks. Not only is George Washington the Wildcats' first serious test, it is their first of several.
After the Colonials, K-State is at Virginia Tech on Sunday, faces former coach Bob Huggins and West Virginia on Thursday at Intrust Bank Arena and play No. 12 Alabama on Dec. 17 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
It's a difficult stretch of games that will rival the Big 12 schedule, and reveal a lot about this team.
"If you're scared of hard, then you shouldn't be in this," Martin said. "I'm excited. I'm excited to see our team line up and play these."
The challenge begins today.
For Irving, who also has a good friend on George Washington's roster in Bryan Bynes, it is a challenge that has his full attention.
"They look like a very good team that is going to make a lot of noise in their conference," Irving said. "They have a great point guard, a lot of their wing players are good slashers to the hoop and they've got solid bigs."