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Sunflower Showdown Preview

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 21 Saint Louis at Kansas State Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Jayhawks host the Wildcats in the first of as many as three meetings, with both teams coming off relatively impressive wins. Texas’ demolition at the hands of West Virginia last night took some of the sizzle out of KU’s win over the weekend, but a 9-point road win in Big 12 play is nothing to sneeze at regardless of opponent. K State, meanwhile, is fresh off the obliteration of West Virginia, maybe the result of the season thus far.

Kansas has seen versions of this K State team before: a team that scores just enough to win while letting its defense do the rest. But stylistically, they are going about it a bit differently. For starters, they’re taking a ton of threes, roughly 40 percent of their shots. They aren’t shooting them very well (33.2 percent), but with that much volume even a slight upward deviation can result in a big night from three.

Other than that, K-State is relatively nondescript offensively. They turn it over a lot, which could be helpful to the Jayhawks in terms of easy opportunities at the other end, but overall it is a lot of meh.

Defensively is where they should be causing some issues. They rank 9th nationally in forcing turnovers, roughly 25 percent of opponent possessions, but like their offense, they’re relatively nondescript otherwise. They are awful on the defensive glass, so maybe expect some 2-big lineups tonight, but the big key is going to be on how many possessions Kansas can actually get a shot off.

Like with KU’s offense, if K State can force turnovers and get some transition opportunities, that will help the Wildcats offensively just as much as it will defensively, given some of the issues they’ve had putting the ball in the hoop.

Players to Watch

Xavier Sneed, 6-5 senior guard

Sneed has taken a step up in usage without a loss in efficiency, and he’s been K State’s steadiest performer this season. He’s one of the better perimeter defenders in the Big 12 as well.

Mike McGuirl, 6-2 junior guard

McGuirl is the Wildcats’ leading 3-point shooter, making 45.5 percent of his 44 attempts. He’s mostly a floor spacer, but a dangerous one obviously. Luckily, his size makes it a little less likely that he’ll be able to have the type of game from deep that K-State will need to pull off the upset.

Cartier Diarra, 6-4 junior guard

Diarra seems like a safe bet to be the winner of the Perry Ellis “haven’t you been in college for 10 years award” next year, but as for this year he’s been quietly impressive for the Wildcats. His assist rate is over 40 percent, which takes some of the sting out of his unseemly turnover rate. He’s also been impressive defensively.

The Pick

Kansas is favored by 16 tonight, and while I think the Jayhawks should have little trouble winning, especially at home, that is a ton of points for me to feel comfortable with given the issues they have had scoring. I like a slow down, grind it out affair that frankly both coaches probably prefer. In the end Kansas has a little too much talent, so give me the Jayhawks 66-56.

2020 record ATS: 7-8