Did Markquis Nowell fake an argument with Kansas State coach Jerome Tang before alley-oop pass?
By Bryan Kalbrosky,2023-03-24
Kansas State’s Markquis Nowell just had arguably the best game of March Madness thus far, and it was highlighted by one crazy possession.
Nowell, who was rudely referred to as “little kid” after Kansas State defeated Kentucky in the Round of 32, recorded 20 points and a tournament-record 19 assists during the victory over Michigan State. He created, assisted, or scored 69 of the 98 points for K-State.
While he had several incredible moments during the match, the alley-oop pass that he threw to Keyontae Johnson for the reverse dunk was an instant highlight during the men’s tournament.
Watch as the teammates connected for an instant classic:
This was a tremendously impressive basket during the clutch final seconds of overtime, but upon a second viewing, something else stands out.
Don’t look at the dunk and instead watch what Nowell does as he is handling the ball. He looks to the sideline and has an apparent disagreement with head coach Jerome Tang.
On a second watch, it sure looks like Nowell and Tang may have faked their dispute to distract the opposing defense only to find Johnson on the backdoor cut.
During the walk-off interview, Tang was asked about the moment with Nowell. Tang said they were at a “place of fire” and that Nowell was ready for what happened next.
Tang told Richard Johnson that he was calling one play and Nowell was “calling something else” when the guard noticed that Johnson was cutting to the basket.
However, the coach also said during his postgame press conference that Nowell couldn’t tell reporters because then the “next team” would know to expect it.
Good point! You should never tip your hand with trick plays.
Nowell said it was just a “basketball play” between him and Johnson, and they were able to pull it off because they knew Michigan State’s defense likes to play high and tight.
Johnson said that the two have a strong feel for each other.
K-State was one of the most efficient teams in the nation when finishing offensive possessions after timeouts, per Synergy. Meanwhile, only one team in the tournament has scored more points per game on cuts to the basket thus far.
No team in college basketball ran cutters more often (10 percent) than the Wildcats, per ShotQuality. Meanwhile, the Spartans’ defense allowed 1.19 points per possession on cuts to the basket — which ranked far worse than the NCAA average (1.12) in 2022-23.
In fact, Johnson has scored more points when cutting to the basket (117) during this past campaign than the entire Spartans roster managed on this play type (104) all season.
Intentional or not, especially after K-State’s Tang ran a football-inspired formation on an inbound pass, it’s safe to say that the Wildcats do not lack creativity. Regardless of whether it was scripted or if it was improvised, that possession just fully rocked.
Despite the post-game statement from Tang, several fans and analysts all believed that this could have actually been an orchestrated play designed to catch their defenders off guard. Here is why:
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