TUCSON, AZ - MARCH 17: Head coach Frank Martin talks to Rodney McGruder #22 of the Kansas State Wildcats during their game against the Utah State Aggies in the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at McKale Center on March 17, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
In the their last game against Alabama the K-State Wildcats received some unlikely scoring efforts from two role players but unfortunately one of their headliners continued to struggle.
Frank Martin and his Kansas State basketball team scored a very impressive 71-58 win over Alabama last Saturday in the Sprint Center in Kansas City but one player in particular needs to step his game up. The Wildcats best returning player from last season scored only two points and was yanked quickly from the game on several occasions by Frank Martin. At times during the game it appeared that McGruder had an open look to take a three pointer but instead he chose to either drive the basketball or kick it out to a teammate which would seem to indicate a lack of confidence in his shooting
Against the Crimson Tide, McGruder only attempted one three pointer, a miss, which gave him a total of two makes in his last 20 three point attempts. For the season he is averaging only 20% from long range, a major departure for a player who his first two seasons averaged over 40% from behind the arc. It is pretty obvious that for the Wildcats to compete and win when conference play rolls around they need McGruder and his outside shot to be on more times than off.
The game against Alabama also represented his lowest amount of minutes played this season as it appeared that Martin was unhappy with his ball handling and defense at times during the game. Since this is McGruder's third year in the program under Martin, you would like to assume he is mentally tough enough to handle the bench time he was given last Saturday along with the corresponding tongue lashings dished out. This has to be somewhat of a concern, even if ever so slight, as Wildcat fans have seen some players in recent years respond to the coaching style of Martin while others have faded away. The hope is he is more like Jacob Pullen and less like Wally Judge.
If you're a positive K-State fan you could make the argument that your team is 7-1 and your returning 3rd Team All Big 12 performer from last season is still there just getting ready to turn back into the player everyone expected.
Ofcourse on the flip side a negative person could say that McGruder greatly benefited from the open looks afforded to him with Pullen getting the bulk of attention from opposing defenses and he is not able to take the next step up the totem pole.
For K-State and their fans they better hope the person with the positive outlook is correct and not the negative since if McGruder continues to struggle it may mean the difference between an NCAA Tournament appearance and a NIT bid.