MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - In some ways it's easy to see why Kansas State has lost just four times this season and won 11 of its last 12.
In other ways? Well, that's a bit of a mystery.
At least statistically speaking, Kansas State is feast or famine. The Wildcats (13-4, 3-1 Big 12), who host West Virginia (10-7, 2-2) in a 1:30 p.m. (ET) game today in Manhattan, Kan., are first in the league in fewest points allowed and 3-point shooting percentage defense and second in overall field goal defense.
Obviously K-State can guard a little bit.
On the flip side, though, the Wildcats are also dead last in every shooting-percentage category - field goals, 3-pointers and free throws. They don't score much and don't block shots (ninth in both) and aren't especially proficient in steals (sixth). Those last are often areas in which truly good defensive teams excel.
The logical extrapolation from all of those numbers is that Kansas State probably just slows the pace and grinds teams down. At least Bob Huggins sees it pretty much that way, although that's not meant to disparage the program that he coached for a year before arriving at West Virginia in 2007. If anyone can appreciate a hard-nosed defensive team it is Huggins.
"A lot of times scoring averages are related more to how fast you play,'' Huggins said. "It's not that they don't get out and run when they have opportunities, but they don't play as fast as a lot of people play. There's not as many possessions.
"But they still do a great job. They gang-guard you. They do a great job with help and sitting in gaps. If they're going to give up anything it's going to be perimeter shots.''
Thus the low shooting percentages to which Kansas State is holding opponents - just 39.9 percent overall and 26.7 on 3-pointers. It's not necessarily that teams shoot any differently from the perimeter against K-State than against anyone else, but if the Wildcats can cut down on the number of inside shots that are surrendered, shooting percentages are naturally going to decline because teams are shooting a higher number of longer shots.
How that affects West Virginia today is anyone's guess. On one hand, it would appear that a team like Kansas State that clamps down on the inside and forces teams to shoot from the perimeter would be susceptible to a perimeter-oriented team like West Virginia. On the other, if a team isn't much of a threat on the inside, the Wildcats can commit more defensive resources to the perimeter.
And West Virginia doesn't have much of a threat inside.
"No,'' Huggins said. "Unfortunately we don't.''