Welcome to the last 1-3 games of not really having to care how Kansas does. Savor it. Enjoy it. Kansas takes on Kansas State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, and while I think fatigue in an event like this generally sets in later, K State will no doubt be at a disadvantage thanks to having a tough game with Oklahoma State last night.
It's the third meeting between these two, with Kansas pulling away in Lawrence and holding off the Wildcats in Manhattan. Kansas State certainly needs to win the Big 12 tournament to make the NCAA tournament, while Kansas could lose this game and still likely be the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, so the motivations are a bit different.
Kansas State's biggest problem this season was offense. They finished 8th in the Big 12, scoring just over 1.01 points per possession, and couldn't throw it in the ocean for long stretches. They ended up at 48 percent from two, which is fine, but shot under 31 percent from deep. They also were last in the conference at committing turnovers, but as I have said before that probably isn't as much of an issue with a Kansas team that doesn't force any turnovers. Kansas State relies on the offensive glass to get a lot of points, grabbing 37 percent of its misses, which will be a good test for the Jayhawks this afternoon.
Defensively Kansas State is much better, though still not all that great. They finished 5th in the league in PPP allowed, but some luck helped them out there. K State opponents shot just under 34 percent from three, which was 2nd best in the league, but K State was 10th in allowing threes. Assuming they allow a bunch against Kansas, it probably won't go well. Furthermore, K State allowed opponents to shoot 52.1 percent from two in the league, which was 9th in the Big 12.
Players to Watch
Justin Edwards has been a bit better than I thought he would be when he transferred from Maine, and he shot 48 percent from two and 34 percent from three this season in Big 12 play. He's also the rare non West Virginia player to rack up an impressive steal rate, as Edwards finished 4th in the league in that stat.
DJ Johnson was close to sneaking into my second team all league team, as he finished with a 115.8 offensive rating, 58.3% eFG, and a 15.3% offensive rebounding rate, which was 3rd in the league. He will be a tough test for Landen Lucas.
Stephen Hurt made 3 of his 10 Big 12 threes in the meeting vs KU in Manhattan, but while he's not usually an effective scorer, he is 4th in the Big 12 in defensive rebounding percentage.
One thing I will be watching for is to see if Kansas gives Diallo, Bragg, and Svi some extended minutes (especially the first two). Any of the three could be an X factor in a game in a week or two (or three) and it would be nice to give them a test in a relatively pressure free environment. I don't think playing those three would significantly impact Kansas's chances to beat Kansas State. Regardless, I think Kansas State will probably come out hot because they have played more recently and will obviously be fired up to play Kansas, but fatigue, KU's advantage in talent, and the fact that Kansas matches up pretty well with the Wildcats will combine to give Kansas a 76-66 victory.