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Kansas State Wildcats at Kansas Jayhawks Basketball Preview

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2017 opens up with the Sunflower Showdown at 8 PM on ESPN2.

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas has its first home game of the Big 12 season, welcoming in another Big 12 team with just one loss. Like TCU, Kansas State hasn’t played a tough schedule (they are just 1-1 against KenPom top 100 teams, and ranked 346th in noncon strength of schedule at KenPom) but they sit at 1-0 in Big 12 play and have put together an impressive start to the season.

Offensively, the Wildcats have been basically the national average across the board, which results in a pretty well above average offense. They are turning it over at exactly the national average, they don’t crash the boards well, but they are making 54 percent of their twos and 37.7 percent of their threes. They don’t attempt many threes, but they make enough. They don’t have a ton of size inside, but they probably can cause Kansas some problems, as we will see in a bit.

Defensively, K State has allowed more than 1 point per possession just twice this season, and are top 10 in both turnover percentage forced (23.7 percent) and 2-point percentage allowed (40.2 percent). As we saw against TCU, though, there is a huge difference in forcing Hampton and Gardner Webb to turn the ball over and forcing Frank Mason and Devonte Graham to do so. I think Kansas State has a legitimate defense, but I don’t have high hopes for their ability to hold Kansas under a point per possession.

Players to Watch

DJ Johnson, senior forward

Johnson, a 6-9 bruiser, is shooting 66 percent from two, has been one of the nation’s best rebounders, and is drawing quite a few fouls. He’s also committing 5.1 fouls per 40 minutes, so the best move against him might be to just get him off the floor.

Dean Wade, sophomore forward

Wade is shooting 61 percent on twos and 42 percent on threes, a big jump from the 51 percent and 28 percent he shot last year. He’s not terribly assertive, taking just 16.5 percent of the team’s shots while on the floor, so he’s not going to win the game by himself, but he can certainly chip in enough to make things difficult. One thing Kansas has that most teams don’t, however, is big men and wings who can follow him outside if need be.

Wesley Iwundu, senior forward

Iwundu essentially functions as K State’s point forward. He was 5th in the league in assist rate last year and has a 20.7 percent assist rate this season. He already has set a career high for threes attempted in a season (34 so far), though he’s shooting just 32 percent. He’s efficient inside, however, shooting 52 percent with a 23 percent usage rate. He doesn’t give K State a lot of rebounding from that spot though, which Kansas can hopefully take advantage of.

Things to Watch for

  1. Turnovers: Kansas State has forced a ton so far, and will commit some of their own. Kansas could use some free points off turnovers and would love to avoid giving K State some free ones, obviously. Also, with K State’s poor defensive rebounding and KU’s overall offensive talent, any possession where Kansas doesn’t come away with a shot is a huge missed opportunity.
  2. Point guard matchup: Barry Brown was legitimately horrible last year. He hasn’t been great, but he has been servicable this season. If he can hold his own with Mason the Jayhawks could be in some trouble.
  3. Defensive rotations: Speaking of which, KU needs to shore up their defensive rotations badly. Too many times against TCU either the big man messed up a hedge on a screen and roll or Mason/Graham simply let their man into the lane like they were inviting them.

The Pick

It goes without saying this is the toughest opponent K-State has faced thus far - by over 50 spots in KenPom in fact. The jump up in competition should hopefully provide KU with a little run early in the game (although that obviously didn’t happen against TCU). K State could give Kansas some trouble inside, but Kansas really has a monster edge in the backcourt. I’ll take the Jayhawks 79-67.