Last week, a three-team race for the Big 12 title narrowed itself to two. With double-digit wins, both Kansas and Missouri finished off sweeps of Baylor, giving them each a two-game lead over both the Bears and Iowa State in the conference standings. They each stand at 10-2 with six games remaining.
From 20,000 feet, the goal is simple: with a game remaining against each other, if Kansas or Missouri wins out, the race is settled. But with Kansas favored to take out the Tigers in Lawrence, Missouri probably needs the Jayhawks to lose another game somewhere along the way. Kansas doesn't lose at home, and two of their three remaining road games are against Texas A&M (3-9 in conference) and Oklahoma State (5-7, though they did knock off Missouri in Stillwater); almost by default, then, Missouri's best hope for a Kansas loss before the February 25 rematch comes tonight in snowy Manhattan.
After a establishing a long winning streak against their in-state rivals, Kansas has found the going a bit tougher in recent trips to the Little Apple. Kansas State handed the 20-0 Jayhawks a loss in 2008, took a 19-1 Kansas team to overtime in 2010 and destroyed a 24-1 Jayhawks squad by 16 points last year. The Octagon tends to rock when Kansas comes to town, but it is unclear what damage this current K-State team can do. The Wildcats have lost three of five in conference play, including a home loss to bottom-rung Oklahoma and a frustrating loss to Texas in Austin on Saturday.
Kansas Jayhawks (20-5) at Kansas State Wildcats (17-7)
|Pace (No. of Possessions)
|Points Per Possession (PPP)
|Points Per Shot (PPS)
|True Shooting %||57.7%
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
|Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm||11.2
Defensively, these two teams are quite similar. They both make a living off of leveraging you into poor shots and cleaning up the rebounds. Kansas is better on the defensive glass, and KSU forces a couple of more turnovers, but peripherally speaking, the styles are pretty close. Offensively, however, KU has a pretty significant edge. Kansas' bigs, Thomas Robinson in particular, are more skilled offensively, and KSU doesn't have a guard with nearly the all-around talent as Tyshawn Taylor. However, in a road environment, Bad Tyshawn can show up from time to time, and if KSU can force some turnovers and create second-chance opportunities for themselves, Bramlage Coliseum could take it from there.
Ken Pomeroy Stats
|KU Offense vs KSU Defense Ranks
|KU Offense||KSU Defense||Advantage|
|Off. Reb. %||79
|KSU Offense vs KU Defense Ranks
|KSU Offense||KU Defense||Advantage|
|Off. Reb. %||4
Top Five Players
Thomas Robinson (6'10, 237, Jr.) -- 31.3 MPG, 18.1 PPG (55% 2PT), 12.1 RPG, 2.6 TOPG
Tyshawn Taylor (6'3, 185, Sr.) -- 32.7 MPG, 16.8 PPG (51% 2PT, 43% 3PT), 5.1 APG, 3.7 TOPG
Jeff Withey (7'0, 235, Jr.) -- 23.6 MPG, 9.2 PPG (55% 2PT), 6.3 RPG, 3.2 BPG
Travis Releford (6'6, 207, Jr.) -- 31.1 MPG, 9.2 PPG (61% 2PT, 36% 3PT), 4.2 RPG, 2.0 APG
Elijah Johnson (6'4, 195, Jr.) -- 31.7 MPG, 8.9 PPG (60% 2PT, 29% 3PT), 3.7 APG, 2.8 RPG, 2.0 TOPG
- Kansas State
Rodney McGruder (6'4, 205, Jr.) -- 31.6 MPG, 14.6 PPG (50% 2PT, 35% 3PT), 5.3 RPG
Jamar Samuels (6'7, 230, Sr.) -- 24.9 MPG, 9.6 PPG (48% 2PT, 23% 3PT), 6.1 RPG
Will Spradling (6'2, 180, So.) -- 30.5 MPG, 10.4 PPG (39% 2PT, 39% 3PT), 2.6 APG, 2.3 RPG
Thomas Gipson (6'7, 275, Fr.) -- 19.1 MPG, 8.1 PPG (50% 2PT), 5.3 RPG
Jordan Henriquez (6'11, 250, Jr.) -- 17.0 MPG, 6.0 PPG (53% 2PT), 4.6 RPG
Kansas' Biggest Advantages
This is an interesting game in that both teams hold pretty large advantages over one another. Kansas holds more, however. The Jayhawks are strong enough on the offensive glass to take advantage of some occasional glitches by the Wildcats; as good as Jamar Samuels is at pulling in offensive rebounds (his Offensive Rebound rate of 12 percent is better than that of either Thomas Robinson or Jeff Withey), he can fall out of position on defense. His defensive rebounding rate is only 16 percent (for means of comparison, Robinson's is 33 percent), and if he isn't blocking out and playing his part, Robinson will have a field day. When the two teams met in Lawrence last month, Robinson and Travis Releford combined for as many offensive rebounds (11) as Kansas State's entire team.
Kansas holds some significant advantages on defense as well. KSU is not a very good shooting team, and Kansas has one of the best Field Goal Percentage defenses in the country; the Wildcats shot just 32 percent from the field in Lawrence last month. And as good as Kansas State is at forcing turnovers, they tend to give away a lot of their gains in the ball control department. Every KSU regular averages at least one turnover per game, and primary ball-handlers Angel Rodriguez, Martavious Irving and Will Spradling combine to average 5.2. Elijah Johnson had three steals in the first contest.
Kansas State's Biggest Advantages
Despite what their 18-point loss in Lawrence might suggest, KSU does have some advantages to exploit. While Kansas has improved significantly in the ball-handling department as the season has progressed, they do still experience some issues from time to time. They committed four turnovers in the final two minutes against Missouri (15 in the game), and despite their overall dominance, they committed another 19 turnovers at Baylor last week. Tyshawn Taylor averages 3.7 turnovers per game (he had eight against KSU last time), and Robinson and Withey can both lose control at times (they combined for 11 of the turnovers in Waco).
Meanwhile, Saturday's odd game aside (KSU shot zero free throws in the final 27 minutes at Texas; for the game, Texas drew 17 more fouls and shot 36 more free throws), Kansas State is one of the best teams in the country at drawing contact and getting to the line. They aren't very good from the line (263rd in the country), but they can get you in foul trouble, and Kansas' depth is suspect.
Keys to the Game
- The Glass. It is pretty easy to figure out the recipe for a Kansas State win here; it follows the path of most KSU home wins. Kansas State hits the offensive glass as hard as it can, bigs like Samuels and Gipson generate and-one opportunities, Bramlage becomes The Octagon Of Doom™, and road teams lose composure for brief spells. KSU does not have enough experience and offensive talent to count on simple execution to generate enough points; it didn't work in Lawrence, and it won't work tonight. But they are long and physical enough to hit the glass, even if they did a terrible job of it the last time they played Kansas. If they win the rebounding battle, they will have a chance to pull the upset.
- Ball Control. Both teams are prone to occasional glitches in the ball-handling department. Because of its dominance on the glass, Kansas was able to overcome a pretty poor ball control game last time against KSU (13 assists, six steals, 19 turnovers); that might b a more difficult proposition in Manhattan.
Ken Pomeroy's projections say Kansas takes this one, 70-66. That is probably about right on average, but I think the actual result will be ten points in either direction. If KSU plays well, and the Octagon becomes a factor, KSU takes this one, 71-65. But if Kansas takes the crowd out of it early, and the Wildcats are forced to overcome some offensive droughts with no second-chance opportunities, this one could get out of hand, in the neighborhood of 75-61. I'm losing confidence in KSU, so I'll predict the latter. Surprise me, Octagon.