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Getting to know: Kansas State basketball

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Kansas State's Kamau Stokes (3) is pressured by Texas' Kerwin Roach Jr. (12) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, in Manhattan, Kan. Kansas State won 65-62.

Kansas State's Kamau Stokes (3) is pressured by Texas' Kerwin Roach Jr. (12) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, in Manhattan, Kan. Kansas State won 65-62.

At the beginning of the season, not many people predicted Kansas State would emerge as a team that could earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament — let alone a leader in the Big 12 Conference.

But a few months into the season and the Wildcats have posted a 12-1 record heading into the Sunflower Showdown matchup against Kansas at 8 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN 2).

“They are off to a great start, not pretty good,” KU coach Bill Self said. “They’re better than they were last year.”

Ranked 33rd by KenPom, the Wildcats don’t have any signature wins from a soft non-conference schedule, but they earned a three-point win over Texas in their Big 12 opener.

The Wildcats, off to their best start since 2009-10, feature a balanced offense with six players averaging at least 9.5 points and a defense that’s tough to score against.

If you didn’t see it beforehand, KUSports.com’s Matt Tait is hosting a gameday chat prior to the Sunflower Showdown at 3:30 p.m. You can submit questions beforehand.

Interesting note: With a strong emphasis on defense, the Wildcats rank seventh nationally in scoring defense (58.8), 15th in field goal percentage defense (37.7), 27th in steals (8.5) and 35th in turnovers forced (16.1).

Series history: Kansas leads 191-93. The Jayhawks have won the last three matchups. Their last loss in Allen Fieldhouse was in 2006.

Vegas says: KU by 12.5.

KANSAS STATE STARTERS

No. 3 — G Kamau Stokes | 6-0, 165, soph.

None by FOX Sports KC

  • Stokes missed the final 12 games of last season after suffering a partially torn patellar tendon in his left knee. The Wildcats had a 4-8 record when he was sidelined.

  • He’s transformed from a scoring point guard into a true point guard. He’s averaging 4.38 assists with only 27 turnovers this season. Plus, he’s scoring 10.7 points per game on 41 percent shooting from behind the 3-point arc.

  • The Baltimore native only takes 21 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com. That’s the lowest percentage among any of players averaging more than six minutes per game.

  • In the past three games, he’s averaged 14.3 points and 6.0 assists.

  • QUOTE: “If you look back at his history, and probably why he wasn’t recruited at a higher level, he was more of a shooting guard than a point guard,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “Slowly but surely, he’s trying to figure that out.”

No. 5 — G Barry Brown | 6-3, 195, soph.

Kansas State guard Barry Brown (5) gets to the bucket against the Jayhawks during the second half, Thursday, March 10, 2016 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas State guard Barry Brown (5) gets to the bucket against the Jayhawks during the second half, Thursday, March 10, 2016 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

  • In three games against Kansas last year, Brown scored 27 points on 9-of-32 shooting (5-of-18 from deep) with five steals and five assists.

  • Brown is much more efficient this season, averaging a team-best 12.1 points on 42 percent shooting. He’s shooting 32 percent (16-of-50) from the 3-point line, but only 60 percent from the free-throw line.

  • A quick defender, Brown has recorded 30 steals through 13 games. None of his teammates have more than 17.

  • His father, Barry Sr., played two seasons at Jacksonville and was a two-time All-Sun Belt pick.

  • QUOTE: “He’s been the most consistent,” Weber said earlier this season. “He’s been in the gym the most. I don’t know if he’ll be in there tonight but he’s in there almost every night and that’s why he’s making shots.”

No. 25 — F Wesley Iwundu | 6-7, 205, sr.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pulls up for a shot against Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu (25) during the first half, Thursday, March 10, 2016 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pulls up for a shot against Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu (25) during the first half, Thursday, March 10, 2016 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

  • A stat stuffer, Iwundu is averaing 11.9 points with 5.4 rebounds on 46 percent shooting. He’s added 40 assists and 13 steals, averaging 28.5 minutes per game. He’s a much more efficient shooter, as detailed in this Draft Express video, which projects him as a second-round pick.

  • He’s 52 points from crossing the 1,000-point plateau and becoming the 27th player to reach that milestone.

  • According to hoop-math.com, Iwundu is converting on 63 percent of his shots at the rim for layups or dunks.

  • Pronunciation: Ah-one-DOO. Against KU last year, Iwundu totaled 33 points (11-of-20 shooting), 12 assists, 11 rebounds and 13 turnovers in 101 minutes.

  • QUOTE: “Even on his high school team his senior year, he’s never been ‘the guy,’” Weber said. “He’s always been ‘the other guy.’ Somebody used the analogy of Batman and Robin, and he’s never been Batman. He’s always been the sidekick.”

No. 32 — F Dean Wade | 6-10, 230, soph.

None by K-State Basketball

  • A former prep star at St. John, Kansas, Wade is averaging 9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds on 54 percent shooting, including a 42 percent mark from deep. Wade has added 27 assists to 11 turnovers, 13 blocks and 11 steals. He’s posted a double-digit scoring total in five of the last six games.

  • According to hoop-math.com, Wade is converting on 77.4 percent of his shots at the rim for layups and dunks. About 39 percent of his shots this season are at the rim, which makes him a difficult matchup with his ability to stretch to the 3-point line.

  • Wade struggled against the Jayhawks last year, scoring 11 points (3-of-11) with 6 rebounds in three games. Of course, most of the time he was matched up against Perry Ellis.

  • He was the first in-state signee for Bruce Weber and the first in-state KSU player since 2010.

  • QUOTE: “We want him to shoot the ball,” Stokes said. “We want him to be aggressive. A lot of people can’t guard Dean because of his size and versatility. When he’s aggressive on offense, that helps us a lot.”

No. 4 — F D.J. Johnson | 6-9, 237, sr.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) disrupts a shot from Kansas State forward D.J. Johnson (4) during the first half, Thursday, March 10, 2016 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) disrupts a shot from Kansas State forward D.J. Johnson (4) during the first half, Thursday, March 10, 2016 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

  • A bruiser in the paint, Johnson leads the Wildcats with 6.8 rebounds per game. He’s averaging 11.8 points on 66 percent shooting, adding a team-best 23 blocks after only swatting 29 shots last year. He ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 1.8 blocks per game.

  • He’s recorded two double-doubles this season and ranks among the Big 12 leaders in several categories: field goal percentage (first), rebounding (8th), offensive rebounding (7th).

  • Against KU last season, Johnson had 30 points (8-of-17 shooting), 10 rebounds and two blocks in 52 minutes.

  • He missed the 2014-15 season because of a broken foot, which required two surgeries.

  • QUOTE: “Johnson is one of my favorite players in the league,” KU coach Bill Self said. “I love his energy and how he plays.”

KANSAS STATE BENCH

No. 20 — F Xavier Sneed | 6-5, 210, fr.

  • A freshman from the St. Louis area, Sneed is averaging 9.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 13 games off of the bench. He’s shooting 49 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep.

  • Sneed converts 71.4 percent of his shots at the rim — which accounts for 25.3 percent of the total shots he takes, according to hoop-math.com.

  • A highly considered football player, Sneed caught 38 passes for 717 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior in high school to help his team to an 11-1 record. He didn’t play in his senior season, opting to focus on basketball.

  • QUOTE: “Sneed, I think, is a guy that gives them a lot, because it gives them a lot more depth off of the bench,” Self said.

No. 1 — G Carlbe Ervin II | 6-3, 202, sr.

  • Averaging 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game. He’s shooting 52 percent from the floor, including 4-of-10 from deep. A strong passer, he’s dished 27 assists to 15 turnovers, adding 12 steals.

  • He transferred to Kansas State last year after playing for two seasons at Connors State College.

  • Pronunciation: CORE-bee. He’s been held scoreless in three of his last five games.

No. 11 — G Brian Patrick | 6-5, 200, fr.

  • A freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Patrick hasn’t played in more than 10 minutes in any game this season. He’s averaging 2.1 points in 5.2 minutes on 41 percent shooting (9-of-22).

  • He’s from the same high school as former K-State standout Mitch Richmond. His mother, Kim, played at Bethune-Cookman.

No. 10 — F Isaiah Maurice | 6-10, 225, fr.

  • He was suspended indefinitely in the middle of December for violations of departmental policy. Weber said in a press release that he hasn’t lost faith in him and could return this season.

  • In 10 games, Maurice was averaging 2.6 points and 2.5 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game. He’s added seven blocks with his height in the post.

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