The Kansas Jayhawks may have won their 9th straight title, but had to split it with their in-state rival Kansas State. That matchup has found itself in Kansas City, as both the Jayhawks and Wildcats will once again play for Big 12 glory, this time in the form of an auto bid. Despite getting swept in the regular season, Kansas State comes into this game with the same kind of determination of beating Kansas as they always do. Kansas on the other hand, is more focused on a higher seed, but would gladly want to get three wins in a row against Kansas State. While the respective offenses differ, both have fared well in the Big 12 Tournament and will be pitted against each other in what will surely be an entertaining game, riddled with fouls nonetheless.
When: Saturday, March 16, 6:00 PM ET
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO
No injuries to report.
Strength: Offensive Efficiency
Kansas State is a hard team to defend at times, as they can hit from almost anywhere. In the Wildcat's last four games, Kansas State has taken 47% of their shots inside the paint, where they have hit 46.7%, and 53% of their shots outside the paint, where they have hit 40.4%. Of those outside shots taken, 76.8 of those were three-pointers in which they hit 38.7% of them. Against Kansas this year, Kansas State has taken only 35% of their shots inside the paint where they it 43%. The other 65% was taken outside, where they hit 34%. That trend will likely continue in tonight's game.
Weakness: Interior Defense
Interior Defense been a problem for Kansas State all year and will be an even bigger problem as they are playing against one of the best interior offenses in the country. In the Wildcat's last four games, Kansas State has allowed teams to take 49% of their shots inside the paint where they hit an astonishing 53.6%. If you factor in how good Kansas has been inside the paint lately, 62.3% in their last five games, you can do the math and see that won't be pretty, for K-State at least.
F Justin Wesley (Finger-Questionable)
Strength: Offensive Efficiency
While more of a trend than an all year statistic, Kansas has shot fairly well from anywhere on the court. In the Jayhawks last five games, Kansas has taken 51% of their shots in the paint, where they have hit 62.3%, and 49% of their shots outside the paint where they have hit 43%. Since Kansas State has defended well outside the paint lately, 30.3% in their last four games, it is a no brainer where Kansas will be taking their shots.
Weakness: Outside Shooting Inconsistency
Going up against such a good outside defense as Kansas States', there is not reason why Kansas should be taking the mid-range jumper, especially since they have been very inconsistent taking that shot. In the Jayhawks last five games, from West Virginia to Iowa State, Kansas has hit 59%, 27%, 32%, 48% and 42% respectively outside the paint. Going for the mid-rang jumpers won't kill the Jayhawks, but it would be ill-advised.
Trending Up: Frontcourt
Boy, how many people saw F Perry Ellis (5.6 PPG-3.8 RPG) having the best game of his young career? Ellis came off the bench to score 23 points, grab 6 rebounds and steal two balls. Ellis has been playing great in the month of March, averaging 10.2 PPG and 5 rebounds. F Jamari Traylor (2.2 PPG-2.3 RPG) has been enjoying tournament success as well, averaging 6.5 PPG in the Big 12 Tournament. As for C Jeff Withey (13.5 PPG-8.4-RPG-3.9 BPG), well, Withey has just been Withey.
Trending Down: F Kevin Young
Unfortunately, F Kevin Young (7.6 PPG-6.6 RPG) has been contributing to the coming out of Ellis, by giving him more playing time. In the month of March Young has been averaging just 6.6 PPG and only 3.6 RPG in 19.6 minutes per game. If Young can't contribute offensively and efficiently soon, we may be seeing more and more of Ellis. Which isn't that bad of a thing, it is just for Young.
Both teams have been playing fantastically since the two have met which will provide with a very entertaining game, especially since both can benefit so much with a win. The key for Kansas State would be to limit the Jayhawks production in the paint, while Kansas needs to keep the Wildcats from getting hot beyond the arc. Statically, this game leans in Kansas' favor, what with the sweep in all, but the Jayhawks have found ways to disappoint, and in a neutral court like Kansas City, there is no clear favorite. The only guarantee this game can give is that the Champion will be from Kansas and hold a regular season title.