Even though anything can happen in a game like this, if there is a tonic to fix the Jayhawks, it’s probably welcoming the worst team in the league to Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas State beat Iowa State in their Big 12 opener but hasn’t won a conference game since - and only kept one of those losses within single digits.
While the offense will no doubt be buoyed by the return of Nijel Pack, the fact is the Wildcats still rank 10th in the Big 12, scoring under 0.9 points per possession. They also rank last in the Big 12 in 3-point shooting at around 26 percent, although the way the luck monster has gone lately they’re probably due for a 10-23 effort or something. They also rank last in turnover percentage, 7th in offensive rebounding, 8th in getting to the line, and 8th in 2-point shooting.
Defensively though is where Kansas could really get a shot in the arm. K State ranks 10th in the Big 12 in defense by a fairly hefty margin, gives up a ton of 3-point attempts, lets teams shoot almost 58 percent from two, doesn’t force turnovers, and loves fouling. Given the issues Kansas has had getting to the rim (237th nationally) and scoring there (181st) this could be quite the boon to KU’s offensive numbers. (Of course, when your main post option takes turnarounds while being double teamed instead of trying to dunk, then maybe no opponent could fix it.)
Players to Watch
Nijel Pack, 6-0 freshman guard
Pack is shooting 42 percent from three and 50 percent from two this year, which is pretty impressive for a guy with one Power-5 offer. He also leads the team in assist rate and barely turns it over. As mentioned above, the offense is probably due for an uptick with him back in the lineup.
Mike McGuirl, 6-2 senior guard
McGuirl has failed to back up his really good season last year, shooting just 38 percent on twos and 32 percent from three. He’s increased his assist rate so far this year, however, and if he can tap back into his form from last year he can still be a quality Big 12 player.
Dajuan Gordon, 6-4 sophomore guard
Another guy who isn’t quite living up to what he did last year, Gordon is under 25 percent from three this season, but still over 50 percent from two. He’s also been a pretty good perimeter defender (comparatively speaking).
I see Kansas favored anywhere from 18 to 18.5, but either way I am going to take Kansas State to cover. The stats say Kansas should win by around 20, especially if we think their defense is due for some improvement (which I do), but my eyes disagree and like an idiot I am going to go with my eyes. I’ll say Kansas 74-61 in a game that is close for a nauseating first half before the Jayhawks pull away.
2021 record ATS: 13-3