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College Basketball Pick
As with most in-state battles, these teams don't like each other. The only thing Kansas fans care about is basketball and if they can't beat Kansas State twice per year, it's a disappointment no matter where they land at the end of the year. The Wildcats can usually brag about football, but this might be the closest they've been in a long while to having a shot at dismantling the Jayhawks reign in the Big 12.
KSU has been solid for the past few years, but even in their best season, they still came up short. In the 2009-10 season, they ended up as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but still lost to Kansas three times and were four games behind them in the Big 12. That's how frustrating it is to compete with a basketball-only school.
That's why this game is big. Both teams are 4-0 in conference play and K State only has one more loss than the Jayhawks. Those two losses came against Michigan and Gonzaga, two Top 15 schools, so you can't put them at fault. They already beat both Oklahoma's, West Virginia on the road and most importantly Florida at a neutral site. Not a lot of people had faith in new coach Bruce Weber, but he has already taken a preseason non-ranked team to the Top 15 half-way through the season.
Kansas may have lost their best player from last year in Thomas Robinson, but they also picked up one of the best freshman in the country in Ben McLemore. The Jayhawks haven't lost a step which shows in their 16-1 record. Their only loss came against Michigan State on a neutral court. Outside of their biggest win at Ohio State, they haven't really looked all that great. In Lawrence, they needed overtime to beat Iowa State and just this past weekend needed the last two minutes to pull away in Texas.
As expected this year for KU, senior Jeff Withey has taken up a bigger role with the team, comparable to that of Cole Aldrich. Both centers became successful big men in their final two years. Withey is averaging 13.1 PPG, 8.2 REB and a ridiculous 4.6 blocks per game which is second in the nation. As a freshman, McLemore seems to improve every game and is a problem for any defense. He's averaging 16.4 PPG and 5.4 REB as a guard. The rest of the starters are filled with athletic, yet not always reliable, seniors in Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson and Kevin Young.
The Wildcats have a top senior of their own leading the way. Rodney McGruder is once again their leading scorer with 15.5 points per game. The only problem is that he's the only one averaging double digits on the team. Guards Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling will need to play smart in the backcourt because McLemore and company get a lot of their points from the fast break. Spradling might be the X-factor in this game. He has the ability to shoot lights out, but also goes unnoticed at other times. He had his best game of the year against Florida with 17 points. A similar output might be needed for the Wildcats to grab a win. He has five three-pointers made in the last two games.
Whereas the Jayhawks only have six players that average over 15 minutes per game, Kansas State has eight. They may not be able to win with athleticism, but depth could be a big factor in this result. This is a rare chance for the Wildcats to get into first place with a big win in Manhattan.
Predicted Score - Kansas 65 Kansas State 59
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