Rivalry Week Version 2.0 starts now. The Kansas Jayhawks ended the month of January with back to back games against their two biggest rivals - the Missouri Tigers and Kansas State Wildcats - one at home, one on the road. Well, the first week of March, and the last week of the regular season, will see the return matchups in those two rivalires. The Jayhawks will play host to Kansas State Wednesday night. There are so many factors surrounding this game - rivalry game, playing for the Big 12 title outright, Senior Night for Sherron Collins - but we are only going to talk about the game itself right now. There will undoubtedly be talk of the rest in the next couple days.
When Kansas traveled to Manhattan on January 30, what we saw was maybe the Big 12 game of the year. It went back and forth, back and forth. One team threw a haymaker, the other team took it and threw one of their own. But, it was the gutty play of Sherron Collins downt he stretch, in a game in which he struggled through the first half and much of the second and he cramped up late in the second half and overtime, that put the Jayhawks over the top. His layup and free throw to win the game at the end of overtime was just another notch in the belt of his already all-time great career. It wasn't just a one man show in Manhattan, though. Collins got help - and lots of it - from big man Cole Aldrich to the tune of a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Marcus Morris contributed double figures, as well, with 13 points and 10 rebounds. It was a close game throughout, with the lead never going more than eight points one way.
Since that game, Kansas State actually has a better record than Kansas. They have won seven straight in Big 12 play and moved to 11-3 in conference, nearly locked up the two seed in the Big 12 tournament and giving themselves a chance, with two more wins and two more Kansas losses, at a tie for the Big 12 championship. They have steadily climbed in the polls to a school record high number five in both polls this week. It is also pretty commonly agreed upon by many writers and radio personalities that this Kansas State team would beat the 2007-08 team with Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. For their sake, they better find a way to hold onto Frank Martin and get him resigned.
There isn't a much better starting five in all of college basketball. The starting five of Pullen, Clemente, Sutton, Samuels and Kelly (Colon starts and Samuels comes off the bench, but Samuels plays nearly ten more minutes a game) account for over 81 percent of the Wildcats points on the season. 81 percent. Compare that to the 73 percent that Kansas gets from their starters and you can tell which team has more depth and production from that depth. The talent off the bench is there for Kansas State; it just seems it's not being realized by the players. Wally Judge continues to struggle, (and find the court) McGruder, Irving and Henriguez-Roberts minutes have all quickly declined, as have all of their production. If there is one definitive weakness to this Kansas State team, it is when two or three starters go to the bench for any period of time. That said, these are 18-22 year olds who play no more than twice a week, so really, should there ever be any "fatigue" for any team? Just look out for foul trouble.
Some things don't change. Kansas State went into the first game with Kansas wanting to "ugly it up," play physical and out-tough the Jayhawks. They tried mightily and succeeded for much of the game. That has continued to be their M.O. ever since. They ranked first nationally then in free throw attempts, they ranked first nationally as of today in free throw attempts. (30.9 per game) That is unlikely to change anytime soon. While undersized a bit on the inside, the Wildcats have the tenacity and phsicality to make up for it. The teams are so evenly matched at ever position the floor. Look for lots of bumping and banging.
Where the game will be won. When Kansas State misses a shot, it has to, and it cannot be stressed enough on the 'has to' part, be rebounded by a Kansas player. The Wildcats had 21 offensive rebounds in the first game and that lead to second chance points galore. The worst part of it, though, were the mutliple rebound opportunities in one possession. If they rebound like that this time around, it will be another fight to the end. If the Kansas bigs show the same energy and will to get those rebounds that the Wildcats did in January, they will be sitting in good shape.
Best Win(s): Dayton, Xavier, @UNLV, Texas A&M, Texas, @Baylor, Missouri
Worst Loss(es): Ole Miss
Informative Kansas St. Links
Player rotation from their Yahoo! team page:
Player Rotation: Usual Starters—F Dominique Sutton, F Curtis Kelly, C Luis Colon, G Jacob Pullen, G Denis Clemente. Key Subs—F Jamar Samuels, G Martavius Irving, G Chris Merriewether, C Jordan Henriquez-Roberts.
|NCAA Tourney Champions||1||0|
|Conf Tourney Champions||4||0|
|Overall Record||401-146 (0.733)||67-27 (0.713)|
|Conference Record||177-53 (0.77)||30-16 (0.652)|
|NCAA Tourney Record||24-10 (0.706)||1-1 (0.5)|
|Close Record||63-56 (0.529)||11-9 (0.55)|
|Blowout Record||153-21 (0.879)||23-3 (0.885)|
|Overtime Record||15-10 (0.6)||3-2 (0.6)|
|Career Team Stats|
|Field Goal Pct||0.472||0.437|
|Free Throw Pct||0.693||0.667|
|3-pt Field Goal Pct||0.366||0.333|
|Points per game||76.0||76.6|
|Rebounds per game||38.3||40.2|
|Assists per game||16.7||14.8|
|Turnovers per game||15.2||14.5|
|Fouls per game||19.4||20.5|
The Important Numbers from the First Game
Field Goal Percentage - KU 50%, Kansas St. 43.3%
Three Point Percentage - KU 50%, Kansas St. 33.3%
Offensive Rebounds - KU 16, Kansas St. 21
Turnovers - KU 17, Kansas St. 13