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Kansas Vs. Kansas State: Previewing The Wildcats

The Sunflower Showdown is what they like to call this one.  Kansas vs. Kansas State and this one is set with the backdrop of a visit from ESPN's College Gameday to Allen Fieldhouse.

Yes the Wildcats have had their struggles and the chemistry seems a bit off.  But they did just beat Baylor fairly easily at home and some would say that talk of their demise might be a bit exaggerated.  No this isn't a team likely to win the Big 12 and get a #1 seed.  They do however have the ability, if they pull things together, to beat a good team on any given night and find their way into the NCAA tournament come March.

Frank Martin and his band of purple men come to down.  Let's preview the Wildcats.


AP Poll
SOS Projected

The Players

The Wildcats are a team that many will be familiar with and of course they are led by senior guard Jacob Pullen.  Pullen has gone from preseason all american to a suspended and outspoken senior attempting to lead when things were crumbling around him.  All that said he leads the Wildcats with 17.9 points per game while also adding over 3 rebounds and 3 assists per contest.  Since Big 12 play began his scoring average has improved and he is still a very dangerous scorer for Kansas State.

Now from here on things get a little crazy. Watching one Kansas State game Frank Martin went 11 deep by the 14 minute mark in the first half.  He has a bench and he's not afraid to use. it. 

Curtis Kelly is a player that has certainly been part of the disappointment this year averaging just 10 points and 5 rebounds in a season where his leadership and play on the interior was expected to provide a big boost to Kansas State.  The trouble with Kelly has been consistency.  At times he shows what was expected and at times he falls of the map.  Which Kelly shows up will be big for Saturday's game. 

Rodney McGruder is another guard to watch as the 6'4" sophomore guard is second on the team in scoring at 11.2 per game while also leading the team in rebounding at 6.7 per game.  McGruder is a solid three point shooter for Kansas State checking in at 40% from beyond the arc and he's a player that should continue to develop nicely for Frank Martin.

My vote for player with the chance to go off is Jamar Samuels.  I don't often pick a "big" for this but Samuels, a 6'7" forward gave Kansas trouble a year ago and was the 6th man of the year in the Big 12.  He does have the ability to step out, he has the ability to bring energy to the court and can be a pesky force on the interior on a given night. 

Another interesting player in this one is freshman guard Will Spradling.  Spradling has taken on the tall order of replacing Denis Clemente or so it would seem.  It's a shared responsibility to an extent but Spradling does set the offense more often than not and he's maturing at a fairly rapid pace for a freshman.  He's a smart player, can score if you don't give him the attention he deserves and for what it's worth Bob Knight loves this guy.

After Spradling you get into an assortment of bench players including much maligned Wally Judge, guard Martravious Irving, Nick Russell and Jordan Henriquez Roberts.  You could also throw Victor Ojeleye  and Shane Sou(h)twell in the mix but I'm not sure Southwell count since they can't spell the name right on the jersey. 

The biggest concerns in this group for Jayhawk fans would have to be Judge for his potential that he hasn't been able to reach.  Roberts for his size on the interior and that occasional spark he provides and Irving for his outside shooting and defensive capabilities. 


Trending Cats

If you had to pick a longterm direction it's without a doubt a downward trend for Kansas State.  This was a team picked to win the league and a team that started as a top 5 team.  Now they sit 14-7, 2-4 in the league and are honestly fighting for an NCAA tournament bid.

Leadership was the problem it would seem.  Pullen and Kelly served suspensions and when things weren't going well Frank Martin was storming around yelling for leadership and receiving none.  Something happened Saturday at home and Martin said something that I think could make a difference.  Martin put leadership on him as a coach.  Martin is still a borderline psycho on the sideline, which I actually like, but he owned the issues and didn't push them off on the players. If that's the new approach, the players did respond in the form of a win over Baylor.  Yes it's Baylor, but going into the game could you really point to the Wildcats being better?

Year to year the Wildcats are worse in nearly every category than they were last season.  The defense has held up the best as they still play a tough physical brand of basketball and that's a style that at times has given Kansas problems.  Offensively the dropoff is pretty steep and that starts with a turnover percentage that is in the bottom tier of the NCAA.

Offensive Averages:

80th / 7th
72nd / 5th
11th / 2nd
FG Pct
162nd / 12th

Defensive Averages:

96th / 7th
33rd / 5th
41st / 2nd
FG Pct
61st / 12th


Prediction Time

Kansas v Kansas State.  My short answer, Kansas wins.  Going into it a little deeper the Jayhawks do have to be careful.  Tuesday night was a clean game and it allowed the Kansas offense to get moving.  This won't be that type of game.  This is going to be physical and at times ugly.  Those are situations where Kansas can find themselves in a lot of trouble. 

The Jayhawks need to turn things up on the defensive end to take advantage of the Wildcats turnover problems and find easy buckets in transition.  Defensively the Jayhawks can't get caught up in the foul fest that can ensue or else the Morris twins and others might find themselves far less effective as tends to be the case when you sit on the bench. 

There are plenty of obstacles and traps that the Jayhawks can fall into in this one and with the circumstance surrounding the week, it's very possible.  The good news is it's in Allen Fieldhouse and Kansas hasn't lost too often there in the last few years.

Kansas-state K-State 73.5 43.7 60.6 36.5 40.4 16.0 24.4 14.6 16.0 6.3 4.7 21.1
Kansas KU 82.1 51.4 67.1 37.3 39.2 11.6 27.6 18.2 14.0 8.6 4.8 17.9
Kansas-state K-State Opponents 64.6 40.5 68.0 35.2 31.5 10.8 20.7 10.8 16.5 7.0 3.1 22.1
Kansas KU Opponents 62.5 38.5 69.7 27.9 31.9 11.2 20.7 10.6 15.9 6.2 2.7 19.7