Note: my answers at BOTC should be up by the time this post is published. If not, I'll edit the post to link to them when they are.
1. Marcus Foster has fairly pedestrian numbers, but he's also a Freshman and at times has looked really good out there. What is your confidence in him both this year and going forward?
Foster is still fairly inefficient and inconsistent, but that's expected for most freshmen. I can live with the inefficiency, because K-State doesn't have anybody who's consistently a better option. With Rodney McGruder's departure, one of K-State's biggest questions was finding a go-to scoring option. Foster is becoming that, and has been playing better as he's gained confidence. Going forward, even if he consistently improves each year at the rate you'd expect for returning players, he's probably not an early-entry risk. At 6'2" and 200 lbs., he's a tweener at the next level. In short, K-State's probably going to get a lot of value out of a three-star player..
2. Kansas State's defense has improved quite a bit from last year to this year. What do you think are the reasons behind this?
Probably mostly a tribute to Bruce Weber and Chris Lowery, who have fielded some ferocious defenses over the years. Since 2004, Weber's teams haven't finished worse than 56th nationally in points-per-game. Under Weber and Lowery, K-State pressures the ball and passing lanes less than K-State did under Frank Martin, so while the defense doesn't feel as disruptive, it's also less prone to getting beat for easy baskets. Some of the holdovers had to learn that "TRY HARDER!!!!" is a less effective defensive strategy than what Weber and Lowery emphasize, so additional coaching time has probably been the biggest factor.
3. Obviously the offensive numbers don't look great, but you also had to replace two of your best players from last year's team. How tough has that been and what are some big reasons for the offensive struggles?
This team has no consistent outside shooters and no consistent post presence inside. Thomas Gipson and DJ Johnson work hard, but they're both way undersized. When you can't stretch the floor with outside shooting and you don't have anybody taller than 6'7" (Johnson is listed at 6'9", but let's say I'm skeptical), getting the ball in the hoop consistently probably won't happen. If Foster hadn't turned into a player who can create some offense on his own, I shudder to think how bad this offense would be.
4. Not being a native Kansan, I personally don't really care about the K State rivalry or even really consider you guys rivals. But I am curious as to how the average K State fan sees the rivalry, and how you guys see it.
I'm not a native Kansan either, and I didn't get it initially, either. Of course, when I came to K-State in 2002, the status quo was similar to what it is now: K-State dominated in football, KU dominated in basketball. It seemed like there was an uneasy acceptance of that; KU fans could live with the football drubbings as long as they got their revenge on the hardwood, with the opposite true for K-State.
(editors note): whoops. I originally missed a whole paragraph in this answer. Sorry to all. Here's the second part. Better late than never, I guess:
Your viewpoint is pretty understandable. I don't consider KU a rival in football other than as an in-state nuisance that we occasionally have to recruit against. And it's kind of hard to point to another school as your rival in basketball when you've only beaten them something like two percent of the time over the last 20 years. That said, there's undeniable dislike between the two fanbases in general, and if either of the main sports gets more competitive, the rivalry feeling will probably become more pronounced. But as long as Bill Snyder is in Manhattan and Bill Self in Lawrence, I think the current stasis is likely to continue.
Beyond that, though both programs use their counterpart for recruiting synergy, there's not all that much impact.
5.Speaking of, how do you think Saturday's game will go and who do you think comes out on top?
KU should win this game, possibly fairly handily. Not only do the advanced numbers peg KU as a significant favorite (82% win probability), but the matchups for K-State are generally terrible. We'll likely have Thomas Gipson guarding Joel Embiid, giving up about five inches of height and a ton of athleticism. Shane Southwell probably draws Perry Ellis for most of the game, which may give K-State a slight advantage on offense by drawing Ellis out to the perimeter, but Ellis has the upper hand when KU has the ball. And true freshman Wesley Iwundu is probably the other option against Ellis, and I'll just feel bad for the kid if he has to guard Ellis for very long. K-State's best hope is it can take advantage of KU's relative weakness at point guard. Jevon Thomas has only played in four games, but he's been a disruptive on-ball defender. Our best hope is that he makes it a little more difficult for Tharpe and Mason to get KU's offense running and maybe forces a few turnovers. Foster will probably see a fair amount of Selden, and I guess we'll put somebody on Wiggins and hope he doesn't score 40. Unless K-State has a great day shooting the ball from the outside, its post players stay out of foul trouble and can hold Embiid and Ellis (and others) in check, and Thomas makes life miserable for KU's point guard, K-State isn't going to win this game. And that's a lot of "ifs" that aren't very likely to happen at the same time.