Heading into the Big 12 Championship game tonight, I don't think anyone needs to ask what's at stake anymore. Not only have the Jayhawks made it this far, they also get to face their in-state rival for a third time. It's time to win this thing. Before I get into some things to watch for tonight, let me congratulate Kansas State for beating a very good Baylor last night. Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente led the way scoring 50 points between them, Dominique Sutton also played well for the Cats, scoring 14 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. A similar performance from those three would be a bad thing tonight.
In case it wasn't already obvious, it is now written in stone that the best two teams in the Big 12 come from the state of Kansas. These two teams finished conference play first and second and now get to battle it out for the other championship awarded by the Big 12. So far this season, Kansas squeaked out an overtime win in Manhattan in their first meeting and pulled away in the second half of their game in Lawrence. In order to go 3-0 against them this year, the Jayhawks are going to need to play better in the 1st half than they have in the last two games.
Keys to the Game
- Do your best to avoid fouling. Kansas State lives at the free throw line, leading the Big 12 in free throw rate this year. They don't shoot for a great percentage but make up for it in quantity. Half of Denis Clemente's game is attacking the basket and hoping for a foul, don't help him here. In the last game, Kansas State also attacked our bigs when they hedged on ball screens. The big guys must avoid picking up cheap fouls outside the 3 point line.
- Kansas State will foul and foul a bunch. K-State's opponents shot 438 free throws this year, KU's opponents shot 308. Not only do they get to the line a ton, they put their opponent on the line. Make your free throws when you get them and take advantage of the reserves when their starters get in foul trouble.
- Clean up the glass. Kansas State grabbed 40% of their misses this year, that adds up to a lot of easy baskets. Keep the second chance baskets low and Kansas will be in good shape. (Perfect set up for Markieff to take home Most Outstanding Player)
- Take care of the ball. As shown in the link above, K-State is a great defensive team when they turn you over. When they don't turn you over, they fall back to middle of the pack. Hopefully the butterfingers we saw yesterday is cured before tonight because if Kansas turns the ball over like that, we'll see an ass-kicking.