Kansas State basketball reached the Elite Eight last season behind stars Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson. How will Tylor Perry and Arthur Kaluma help fill those shoes?

Jerome Tang’s first season as a head coach was a resounding success. The longtime Baylor assistant stayed in the Big 12 when he took over the reins of Kansas State, and he brought instant success to Manhattan. The Wildcats started 15-1 and continued to play well en route to a No. 3 seed at the NCAA Tournament. It was K-State’s first appearance in the Big Dance since 2019, and the run that ensued became their just third Elite Eight since 1988.

Tang’s roster ranked 316th nationally in minutes continuity, returning under 20 percent of its minutes from the prior season. Markquis Nowell was among the returners, but few predicted the breakout season he went on to have. Tang otherwise filled out the roster in his image, most notably landing a running mate for Nowell in Keyontae Johnson. That pairing combined for 42 points in a Sweet 16 win over Michigan State.

Heading into Tang’s second year at K-State, he is again working with a relatively clean slate. Nowell and Johnson, most notably, are not returning. However, Tang might have found suitable replacements in transfer additions Tylor Perry (North Texas) and Arthur Kaluma (Creighton). They might be just the pieces needed to star around returners Nae’Qwan Tomlin, Cam Carter and David N’Guessan. 

With Perry and Kaluma replacing Nowell and Johnson, Kansas State hopes to maintain the momentum of last year’s Elite Eight run. A strong campaign in 2023-24 can further the Wildcats’ chances of blossoming into a consistent presence in the new-look Big 12 — and further promote the Little Apple as a top transfer destination.

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Tylor Perry is the ultimate clutch performer

Kansas State earned a No. 3 seed last season, but it entered the Big Dance at only 24th on KenPom. Per the Heat Check CBB Tournament Index, the Wildcats were the second-lowest No. 3 seed since 2013. It begs the question: How did they their seed? One factor was that Kansas State was seemingly unbeatable in close games last season, of which they played many. The Wildcats went 4-0 in overtime during the regular season and 9-3 overall in games decided by six or fewer.

If Kansas State finds itself in similar situations this season, it will not have the luxury of turning to Markquis Nowell in the clutch. That said, there might not be a better replacement for late-game heroics than Tylor Perry. A proven winner at the JUCO and CUSA levels, Perry has been arguably the nation’s best closer over the past two seasons and was the offensive hub for a defensive-oriented group that took UNT to new heights.

Unlike Nowell, Perry is a shoot-first guard; you will not see him lead the nation in assists. However, he is one of the best in the country at making contested shots. Perry gets to his spots, elevates, and shoots at a remarkably high level. Perry took a bevy of tough shots as the late-clock maestro for a slow-moving offense at North Texas and still posted excellent efficiency numbers. (Take a look at the difficulty level on some of the attempts above.) Over the past two seasons, he shot 41.3 percent from three on 445 attempts.

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