K-State ready for early challenge

11/12/2012 6:38 AM

11/12/2012 6:38 AM

There will be plenty of opportunities for Kansas State to find out what type of a team it is before Big 12 play starts.

There’s the obvious — games at George Washington, against Gonzaga in Seattle and against Florida at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Then there are the not-so-obvious tests, games where a slip-up could raise all kinds of red flags early in the season.

Like Monday night, against Lamar (0-0) in the first game of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

“A lot of us, we’ve played in Big 12 games so we know how tough that can be,” K-State senior guard Martavious Irving said. “You need to play games like this.”

Alabama-Huntsville will play North Texas in Bramlage Coliseum following K-State’s game, with the winners facing each other on Tuesday. The winners of the four regionals advance to New York to play in semifinal games on Nov. 21.

“It’s a good test and it’s big for us,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “You get two wins and you get to go to New York and play some pretty high-level teams in Madison Square Garden.”

Lamar has two exhibition victories and reached the NCAA Tournament last season in coach Pat Knight’s first year, but lost four starters off that team.

“I’ve known Pat since probably (he was in) junior high, I go back that far,” Weber said. “I watched him as a player, then I saw him get into the coaching profession. (Lamar) was pretty good last year but they lost a lot of important guys.”

The Wildcats have a distinct size advantage against Lamar — K-State could start 6-foot-10 sophomore forward Adrian Diaz and 6-11 senior forward Jordan Henriquez against the Cardinals, creating matchup problems for a team whose tallest starter is 6-8 senior forward Stan Brown.

K-State started 6-5 sophomore forward Nino Williams in Friday’s regular-season opener, an 85-52 win against North Dakota.

Lamar’s other two starting forwards — Rhon Mitchell and Amos Wilson — are both 6-5.

“We’ve got a size advantage early here against some of the teams we’ll face,” Weber said. “We need to rotate those big guys in and out and that should be a handful for a lot of teams.

“If we can be consistent and play as hard as we have been we have a chance to be good but we’ve got a long ways to go.”

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