The first installment of the Sunflower Showdown resembles that of the one in 2010 when both teams were in the top 15 and the game took place in front of a raucous K-State crowd. The intensity of this game goes beyond the players or fan bases as both head coaches in this duel are ex-Illinois head coaches who share the same bitterness towards each other ever since a certain Bruce Weber held a "funeral" for Bill Self. Off court drama should be the least of the Jayhawks concerns as recent offensive struggles may indicate trouble for KU, especially when playing on the road. Besides bragging rights the victor of this game will also hold the No.1 spot in the Big 12 and takes an early leg up in the title race.
When: Tuesday, January 22, 8:00 PM ET
Where: Fred Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan, KS
Watch: Big 12 Network
No Injuries to Report
G Rodney McGruder (15.5 PPG-5.2 RPG) may be the star for the Wildcats, but it is the depth that has made K-State so successful. There are only two player, McGruder and G Will Spradling (8.6 PPG-3.2 APG) on the K-State roster that average more than 30 minutes per game and are 9 players that average between 29 and 11 minutes per game. Forwards Nino Williams (6.1 PPG-4.6 RPG) and Jordan Henriquez (5.1 PPG-4.8 RPG) are the most dangerous coming off the bench.
Weakness: Interior Defense
Kansas State hasn't exactly been a juggernaut on defense this conference season, their largest margin of victory has been 13 and their weak inside defense has contributed to that. Over the course of the Wildcat's last 7 games, K-State has let teams hit 52% of their shots inside the paint. The Jayhawks will look to the interior where they are hitting 56%.
No Injuries to Report
The Jayhawks haven't been the solid offensive unit they usually are, but the defense has been as stellar as ever. The defense, arguably, has been the reason why Kansas beat Texas and it will be the best way for Kansas to handle Kansas State. KU has allowed teams to shoot just only 35% accuracy from the field, 32% from mid range and only 38% in the paint. In the Jayhawks last 3 games, opponents are shooting just 35% and since K-State loves to shoot the three, hitting 39%, Kansas must limit the Wildcats production from outside the arc.
Weakness: Big 12 Road Games
No team in the Big 12 plays "good" on the road, but Kansas had a scuffle with a weak Longhorn team that has definitely prompted some concern heading into tonight's game. In the Jayhawks first road conference game, KU was up by only two at the half and struggled all game against a bad Texas Tech team. The Jayhawks cannot get off to a slow start if they expect to win in Manhattan.
Trending Up: Frontcourt
Kansas will need their bigs to play strong in the paint in order to get the win. Luckily, Jeff Withey knows how to take advantage of a a less than stellar interior defense. The big man C Jeff Withey (13.1 PPG-8.2 RPG-4.6 BPG) has been a dominant force in the paint this season, with F Kevin Young (7.6 PPG-6.9 RPG) being just as effective for the most part and his hustle creates opportunities inside.
Trending Down: Kansas Offense
Once again the Jayhawks have failed to score close to their season average of 76 points and the Jayhawks had to rely on their defense to preserve the close win over Texas. The Jayhawks poor offensive output doesn't exactly encourage confidence, but it shouldn't discourage either as this game will be a game more heavily dependent on the defensive end for both teams. If the Jayhawks can score in the paint while defending the perimeter on the other end, Kansas should be in good shape, emphasis on SHOULD.
Kansas needs to enter this game with the intensity that they usually do when facing K-State. If The Jayhawks expect to win, Kansas must also control their emotions in what could be a scrappy and hostile environment. In the last three games in Manhattan, Kansas has averaged 21 fouls and K-State 20 fouls. Most of all, Kansas can't be psyched out. K-States recent rise in the rankings has been in part to teams above them losing. Behind the smoke and mirrors this K-State team isn't anything special but they are a solid team. Perhaps it is the Kansas bias speaking, but I think the Jayhawks will win this game and silence their biggest Big 12 Championship threat.