Just a few weeks ago, when Kansas beat K-State in Manhattan, the Jayhawks looked as if they were going to run away with the Big 12 and that the 2nd installment of the Sunflower Showdown was going to be pretty routine. Fast forward to today and Kansas finds themselves one game behind Kansas State and desperate for a win at home.
I don't believe anyone saw this level of struggle coming, then again, I don't think anybody saw countless streaks broken or a three game losing streak, so perhaps we should get used to the extraordinary. K-State has been on fire lately winning their last four games and are in position to take a two game lead over Kansas and company in the Big 12. Kansas is frustrated, disoriented and overall unfamiliar with the situation that they currently find themselves in. The Jayhawks can get back in the hunt for a share of the Big 12 with a win over K-State at home.
When: Monday, February 11, 9:00 PM ET
Where: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, KS
No injuries to report.
An interesting aspect of the K-State offense is that they are one of the few teams that start four guards. That rotation proved very successful for Missouri..... in the regular season anyway. The starting four guards Rodney McGruder (15 PPG-5.3 RPG), Angel Rodriguez (9.9 PPG-4.7 APG), Will Spradling (8.3 PPG-3 RPG) and Shane Southwell (7.9 PPG-3.9 RPG) are also the Wildcats four highest scorers. The starting backcourt takes 43% of their shots in the paint, where they hit 44% and take 57% of their shots outside, where they hit 34%. The Starting backcourt takes much of their outside shots beyond the perimeter where they hit 37% from three. The Jayhawks perimeter defense was pummeled by Oklahoma (hit 52%). That means K-State could have a field day.
It may come off as hypocritical to criticize K-States weak offense, when the Jayhawks offense has been the lowest in the Bill Self era, but K-State has had a problem with offense for 15 years and this year, sadly, is no different. K-State has moved up to only 4th best in Big 12 in terms of PPG, and Kansas has moved down to just 6th. Overall, K-State has averaged just 68.8 PPG and .434 FG PCT all year.
No Injuries to Report
Strength: G Ben McLemore
So far in Big 12 play, G Ben McLemore (16.3 PPG-5.2 RPG-2 APG) has been the only reliable player on the KU roster, even C Jeff Withey (13 PPG-8.2 RGP-4 BPG) has spent some time on the bench because of foul trouble. During Big 12 play, McLemore has averaged 17.1 points, 5,4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.2 fouls and 2.6 turnovers per game. McLemore has hit 44% from three and 53% from the field in conference play.
Weakness: Basic Fundamentals
Kansas is in a bad way, and most of their problems are just simple errors like turnovers and fouls. Since the Jayhawks three game slide began, fouls have gone up 69%, turnovers have gone up 54%, giving up 2nd chance points has also gone up 60%, opponents offensive rebounding has gone up 48% and opponents overall rebounding has gone up 52%. Goes to show you what can happen in a span of three games. This unfortunate trend of fouling won't end against K-State, as this game is known for fouling. That could doom Kansas if McLemore or Withey find themselves on the bench frequently.
Trending Up: G Angel Rodriguez
Since nothing seems to be getting better for the Jayhawks, I thought it might be fitting to highlight of pro on K-State's roster. Rodriguez hasn't been a prolific scorer all year, but has been on fire as of late. In Rodriguez' last 5 games, he has been averaging 11.4 points, 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals and has hit 41% in the paint.
Trending Down: Confidence
This may not be fair to list "confidence" as a "trending down", but there is something off on this Jayhawk team. Withey and McLemore have found themselves in foul trouble, G Naadir Tharpe (5.5 PPG-2.5 APG) and G Elijah Johnson (9.3 PPG-4.7 APG) don't seem confident enough to lead the point and G Travis Releford (11.9 PPG-3.7 RPG) has averaged just 5.6 PPG during the Jayhawks losing streak. Facts being thrown around like "first 3 losing streak since 2005", "first loss at home in 33 games" and "Worst team Kansas has put on the floor" certainly doesn't help the teams confidence.
If you like offense, this isn't the game for you. Both teams have struggled offensively during Big 12 play and have largely depended on their defenses to find success. The mentalities of the respective ball clubs will play a huge roll in this game, a team who is riding a four game winning streak and in first place vs. a team who is on a three game skid looking to climb back on top. Home court advantage could play a huge role, not just in this game, but going forward. If Kansas can beat K-State, KU will be back in the mix having their last five of eight games at home. The only bad thing is those three road games are all VERY difficult. This game has a lot more than just bragging rights riding on it, this game could set the table for the eventual Big 12 champion much like the border war last year. That's right, IF Kansas can't win this game,the Big 12 title will be tough.