PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- A year ago, Buchi Awaji played in 31 games for Southern Miss. Two years before that, he wore a Kansas State jersey in 25 contests. Overall, he's shared a court with six players that will take part in Thursday's NCAA Tournament game between the Golden Eagles and Wildcats.
A man who has played for both Frank Martin and Larry Eustachy, Awaji recently shared his analysis of the upcoming elimination game between his two former schools and offered a prediction on which team will advance to the Round of 32.
You hear a lot about the similarities between these two teams. How much are the actually alike?
Well, they're both rebounding teams. As much as Frank Martin stresses rebounding at K-State, Larry Eustachy stresses it at Southern Miss. I'm not sure who has better rebounding stats between the two teams, but it's probably close. Defense, too. They're both defensive teams. Offensively, K-State might … well, not might. I think K-State is better offensively, but defense wins games.
You played at Southern Miss just last season, so I assume you still know most of the guys on the roster. Who's the team's best defender?
I would say the best defender is Torye Pelham. He rebounds the ball well and he really defends well. He has some nice size and good footwork. What makes him a good defender is that he's about 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7 and he can still guard a point guard. He's strong, so that's a big plus for them.
Will they use him on Rodney McGruder?
I'm pretty sure they'll have him guarding Rodney. Yeah, they'll have him guarding Rodney. That will actually be a good match up. It will be a fun one to watch.
So what's the biggest difference between the teams, as far as the coaches and the cultures go?
Obviously, Frank Martin is more intense. He's a more intense coach. Frank Martin demands more from his players. He expects more from his players. Coach Eustachy, he demands a lot from his players too. I would just say Frank Martin demands more. Frank Martin has more offensive plays. He's more structured as a coach. He's more organized and stuff. I'm not trying to say Larry Eustachy isn't organized, but Frank Martin has more plays and pretty much dissects the game. Larry Eustachy just relies on his defense and tries to out-rebound teams and tries to get the second opportunities. He doesn't allow the opposing team to get those second opportunities on their offensive side. That's what he's about.
Which Southern Miss player is the biggest offensive threat to K-State?
The biggest one is Darnell Dodson, the transfer from Kentucky, or Neil Watson. He can get hot, too.
Neil is in his first year there. Have you had the chance to see him?
I've never met Neal in person. I've only talked to him on the phone, but I watch him play. I know his style.
What's Dodson's game like?
He pretty much does everything, all the little things. He's not big, but he has heart. He's willing do go in there and do anything to get the loose ball. He passes well, he defends well and he's a streaky scorer. If he gets going, he can really fill up the stat sheet. He goes in streaks.
Does Southern Miss have any answer for K-State's size?
Keith DeWitt (6-foot-11) was expected to come in, play well and get a lot of minutes, but he hasn't played much this year (27 minutes all season). They don't use him that much. Maurice Bolden, he's a four. He's a key factor to the team offensively and defensively. He's about 6-foot-10. He'll probably match up with Jamar Samuels. Him and Jamar will match up pretty well.
Before I let you go, give me a score predicition. Who you got on Thursday?
In my bracket, I have K-State by five points. I'll go with that again. K-State by five.
How are you doing, man? What's new in your life?
I'm good. I work at the Cochran Law Firm. I'm just trying to make a living. I might pursue the basketball things again this summer. I'll just go from there.
Wait. You work at the Cochoran Law Firm? Like, Johnnie Cochran's law firm?
Yes, sir. I've been here for about a year.
Who runs that place these days? A relative of Johnnie Cochran?
Some of his partners. He had partners here before he passed away. They just took over. I love it, though.