Kansas State comes into Allen Fieldhouse in the unenviable position of needing a win to stay in the Big 12 chase. Bruce Weber's men started off hot in the league, but have lost two of their last three games.
This team is a bit different from some recent iterations, but they are a bit of a throwback to the Frank Martin days in that they really thrive on getting to the free throw line to score points. Kansas State's free throw rate is 5th in the entire country, although that has cratered a bit in Big 12 play and they sit just fourth in the league in that statistic.
In a classic case of movable object vs resistible force, Kansas State sits in 9th in conference play and 315th nationally in turnover percentage, while the Jayhawks are 8th in the league and 291st in forcing turnovers. Prior to the TCU game, Kansas had at least been decent at forcing steals, so perhaps the Jayhawks will break out of that funk today facing a K State team that has had trouble holding onto the ball all season.
Other than the free throws, there isn't anything on the offensive end to really trouble the Jayhawks. Kansas State is 4th or below in every offensive statistic you could think of (except assists per field goals made), and while they always could get hot from three, they are last in the league in attempts, so they will have to really break character to pull it off.
Defensively, the Wildcats allow 35.1 percent of their opponents shots at the rim, roughly average nationally, but teams shoot almost 62 percent there, which ranks near the bottom nationally. Add in the fact that the Wildcats didn't play a very tough nonconference schedule, and Kansas should be able to get to, and score at, the rim often today. Kansas State is also last in league play in blocking shots, so maybe we can get out of today without anything too embarrassing happening in that area.
The places to be a bit worried defensively is that the Wildcats are second in forcing turnovers, in just over 21 percent of opponents' possessions, but unlike the last forever years, Kansas has not one but two point guards who are really good at not turning the ball over, and the only player really on the entire team who is a turnover risk is Jamari Traylor, and opponent quality doesn't seem to be a factor in whether he turns it over or not.
Kansas State is also second in the league in opponents three point percentage, although given that they allow roughly an average number of threes and their opponents three point percentage for the season is roughly the national average, I think a lot of that is luck more than anything else, so the Jayhawks should (read: should) have no shortage of ways to score today.
Individually, the big guy to look out for is sophomore guard Marcus Foster, who originally wanted to be a Jayhawk (can't blame him). Foster is a good player, no doubt, but he's basically a spot up jump shooter, attempting 58 percent of his shots from three and roughly a third of them from the mid range. Foster is shooting 40.5 percent from three this year, but just 31 percent in conference play. Kansas will want to treat him like Phil Forte or Buddy Hield today, and normally I would suggest Kelly Oubre face guard him due to his length, but thanks to his combating the flu I wouldn't be surprised to see a mixture of Selden, Greene, and possibly Graham. (one potential darkhorse: Perry Ellis).
The other player is Thomas Gipson. The senior is shooting over 57 percent on twos this season, and is seventh in the country at getting to the free throw line. Those numbers are a bit worse in league play, however, as Gipson is shooting just 46.6 percent in Big 12 play.
Back to back losses for me have dropped me to 12-7-1 ATS, and I really need a win to get back in a groove. The Jayhawks are favored by 11.5 points, which is pretty tough for me to take against anyone other than Texas Tech, but I think after a bit of a lackadaisical effort against TCU the Jayhawks will fire on all cylinders and cover, winning 77-61.