Every Big 12 Game has been an adventure for Kansas this season and that could easily be the case again in this in-state rival. Kansas State lost a couple tough Games, but got back on track with a win on Wednesday against Oklahoma State. For the Jayhawks, they haven’t even been playing that well at home, already losing to Texas Tech and scraping past what many believe is the worst team in the Conference in Iowa State.
These teams played two tight Games last year and all signs point to this one being the same. Kansas has relied greatly on the three-point shot and that’s led to inconsistencies in the early season combined with a defense that doesn’t stand out in any areas and struggles to rebound. LUckily, Kansas State doesn’t rebound either, also with a lack of size in the paint. Similar to a lot of KU’s previous opponents, it wouldn’t be surprising if K State came out in zone and stayed there if the Jayhawks are cold from deep.
But while Kansas relies a lot on the deep ball, that doesn’t mean this offense is any less efficient, ranking in the top 10 in the country in adjusted efficiency and effective field goal percentage. If they are on, not many can beat them, it’s when they’re off is when things go haywire. That said, there’s a reason their three Conference wins have been by a combined 15 points. The Jayhawks have given up at least 78 points in every Conference Game and that’s another worry.
Kansas State is similarly inconsistent from scoring 91 points at Iowa State to failing to surpass 70 in Games against WVU and Texas Tech. If the Wildcats can land somewhere between those two, that’d be good enough. The problem for the Cats is that they don’t have the size to take advantage of KU’s biggest weakness. They’ve rolled with Dean Wade in the post most of the season and while he’s 6-foot-10, he’s previously played forward. To go with that, the rest of KSU’s starting lineup is 6-foot-5 or less with Makol Mawien the only relevant bigger player off the bench (6-9). The Wildcats get balanced play from Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Xavier Sneed and so far that’s been enough to win a couple Conference Games. Brown most recently went off for 38 points in the win on Wednesday and he’s going to have to play big for his team to stand a chance.
As for the Jayhawks, this may be one of the only Games of the Big 12 season in which they have a size advantage. Unfortunately, Udoka Azubuike hasn’t been able to dominate against smaller teams and that was seen in his nine points and six boards against Iowa State. The Jayhawks are run through Devonte’ Graham at point with Svi Mykhailiuk and LAgerald Vick on the wings. against below average defenses, one of those guys has always been able to come through and lead the way. But when all of them struggle to convert from distance, the result is what happened against Texas Tech when the Jayhawks finished 6-of-26 from three.
That inconsistency has resulted in Kansas being hard to bet on, even against weaker defenses. If KSU’s guards can find success on the offensive end, similar to what Iowa State did, there will definitely be a chance to keep this Game competitive into the final minutes.
Our Pick – Kansas -12