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Let's Play Football Without Pads! A Kansas v Kansas State Basketball Preview

I personally hate these kinds of games. Games with a lot of contact that doesn't get called are great because I think basketball is supposed to be a physical sport, but the last thing I want to see is a free throw contest with some basketball being played in the intermissions.

Sadly this is probably what we are destined for this evening. The Wildcats are 10th in the nation and 2nd in the league in free throw rate, and are 310th nationally, and the worst in the league, at sending the opposing team to the line. Seven Wildcats draw more than 4 fouls per 40 minutes, and four draw more than 5 per 40. In other words, this should be a great contest of finesse and skill!

For (I think) the third time this year, we have a matchup of the league's best two defenses: Kansas State allows just .96 points per possession in Big 12 play, a mark bested only by Kansas's .926. Unlike the Jayhawks however, Kansas State doesn't have the same type of success on offense, scoring just 1.01 points per possession in Big 12 play. The Wildcats have only five players with an offensive rating over 100, but only three of them play more than 20 minutes per game, and only two have a usage rate over 20%.

Rodney McGruder, my sleeper pick for All Big 12 this preseason, has been K State's best player, but not first team All Big 12 caliber. His three point shooting has fallen to just 35%, down from 41% a year ago. He's drawing more fouls and turning it over less than he did a year ago, but his eFG has fallen to just over 50%, a byproduct of having to take more shots this year vs. last year, when the offense was dominated by Jacob Pullen. McGruder isn't the best example of this phenomenon, but he is a timely one: players with high usage rates and (relatively) lower offensive ratings are much more valuable than players with lower usage rates and moderately higher offensive ratings because of how tough it can be to maintain production and efficiency as your usage climbs. Remember that the next time Tyshawn Taylor gets criticized.

A big key to winning this one will be the battle on the glass. Kansas is 2nd in the league in defensive rebounding, whereas the Wildcats are the best in the league, and fourth in the country, at offensive rebounding. On the other side, KU has struggled a bit on the offensive glass, but Kansas State is among the worst defensive rebounding teams in the conference.

Because Kansas State forces so many turnovers, look for Kansas to turn it over quite a bit tonight. Because this is a matchup of the two quickest paced teams in the conference it could lead to some easy points for Kansas State, but if Kansas turns it over any significant amount less than K State opponents usually do they shouldn't be in too much danger. Contrary to the usual best strategy of the worse team wanting to play more slowly, the WIldcats will want to run as much as possible both to create havoc turnover wise and to prevent one of the best defenses in the country from getting set.

This probably won't be one of the more enjoyable games to watch. Kansas State usually plays Kansas fairly tough in Manhattan, and their frenetic style paired with the number of fouls their games feature doesn't provide the most aesthetically appealing basketball to watch. But assuming that Kansas can keep the turnovers relatively under control and Tyshawn Taylor stays out of foul trouble this should be a win for the visitors.