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K-State vs. Kansas Preview: The real Sunflower Showdown resumes

These games where both KU and KSU are in the top 15 when they meet in Manhattan are far too rare, so let's cherish this one and look back at the others.

This is from the OU game, so it should be at least 10 times crazier tonight when the Jayhawks come to town.
This is from the OU game, so it should be at least 10 times crazier tonight when the Jayhawks come to town.

You may have heard that Kansas State and Kansas are playing in a very important basketball game tonight at 7 p.m., (also known as 8 p.m. CT K-Stater time, 6 p.m. Big E time, 5 p.m. Anon time and 7:30 a.m.? Mr Happpy Mushroom time tomorrow). Along with Wichita State, these two teams made the state of Kansas almost inarguably the most dominant state in college basketball right now. It's a beautiful thing.

The Wildcats are ranked 11th in the latest AP poll (13th Coaches), while the Jayhawks are 3rd (2nd Coaches), meaning the only person who doesn't think this game has huge national implications is Ken Pomeroy (8th and 44th? Behind Bucknell?!?! Really?!). All is as it should be, and I can't wait to watch this nationally tele....This game is only on locally? I'm going to have to go to Buffalo Wild Wings (maybe?) or watch it on ESPN3 on my computer? This is blasphemy.

It's not like it's a huge shock that this is a big game. Sure, K-State was only receiving votes, but it's a big rivalry game and KU was ranked 7th in the preseason. Yet the ESPN networks decided they'd rather show Pitt at Providence, Michigan State at Wisconsin and Kentucky and Alabama, not to mention the egregious choice of Texas-Oklahoma for Big Monday. Do you know which one of those teams was ranked in the preseason AP Top 25? Oh, right. Neither.

Anyway, most of you will probably still get to watch this on your TVs if you're not making the trip to Bramlage, so I'll try not to get too hung up on my frustrations with disrespect and all that. The important thing is I will be able to watch another hugely critical game between Kansas State and its biggest rival.

As you know, this doesn't happen very often. In fact, this is only the third time in my life K-State and KU have both been ranked when they met in Manhattan, and just the second time they've both been in the top 15.* So before we preview tonight's game, let's take a trip down memory lane to remember these epic battles. Feel free to add your memories of older games in the comments.

*Is one team more to blame than the other? Maybe. But there's no reason to point fingers here. Who really cares, right? I don't even really remember. Let's just move on.

Jan. 30, 2008: No. 22 Kansas State 84, No. 2 Kansas 75

You may remember this one. I think it snapped some sort of streak or something. I can certainly recall that I was watching in the basement of my parents' house (which is weird, because I wasn't a blogger yet) since I would be departing for a semester abroad about 2 weeks later.

A lot of people going into this game were saying we had a chance, since we had these guys named Bill Walker and Michael Beasley, fans seemed to be excited, and the ‘Cats were riding a five-game win streak. But personally, I still found it kind of hard to believe.

After all, this was KU, and beating them seemed even more unfathomable than beating Nebraska in football before 1998. So when K-State took a 38-36 lead into halftime, I remained unimpressed.

Slowly, though, Beasley and Walker continued to wear down a solid KU defense on their way to 47 combined points as the ‘Cats grinded away on the other end to build up a 12-point lead midway through the second half. I started to sense the faint, unfamiliar feeling of belief as Mario Chalmers and especially Russell Robinson kept missing jumpers.

But the elation didn't really set in for good until Walker's game-clinching dunk in the final minute. It was at that moment I knew I wasn't going to sleep for quite some time, even though my Mom already had, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to call up some friends and make the 2-hour drive up to Aggieville.

I didn't do it, though, instead basking in the glory that would have been significantly magnified if Twitter had existed at the time. As a postscript, a little more than two months later I was absolutely thrilled to be living in a country where KU won a national title in the middle of the night and no one even noticed.

Jan. 30, 2010: No. 2 Kansas 81, No. 11 Kansas State 79 (OT)

This one is actually more memorable for me, since it was during a year when I was living in Manhattan and I was able to go to the game. As you may recall, ESPN gave this game the respect it deserved by bringing College GameDay to Manhattan. I'd probably be willing to wager that's the craziest Bramlage has ever been before noon.

Sure, Kansas State had suffered a disappointing loss to Okie State just a week before, but they'd also beaten No. 1 Texas on that same court, so I felt a lot more confidence. Plus, Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente could do anything.

Well, it turned out we got bad Clemente that day, but luckily he was offset by a somewhat rare sighting of a motivated Wally Judge. KU turned to its incredibly annoying shooting guard Sherron Collins, who managed to continually find ways past the K-State defense for layups or getting the ball into Cole Aldrich.

Things got a little tense early in the second half, but I felt pretty sure it was going to be a big win when K-State rallied back from an 8-point deficit. Then things got really tense, and a back-and-forth game came down to Collins, who failed on his first attempt to win thanks to a steal by defensive stud Dominique Sutton.

Sadly, Collins converted a second chance, then K-State embarrassingly allowed an offensive rebound on a free throw, and Jacob Pullen's three at the buzzer served only as a warning of things to come. Of course, we had the last laugh when the Wildcats won one of the most ridiculous Sweet 16 games ever while KU stumbled against Michigan State. Good times.

Jan. 23, 2013: No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 11 Kansas State

That all brings us to today, when Kansas' two best teams (sorry, Wichita State, but you lost to Tennessee. I live in Tennessee. They're terrible.) square off in what will undoubtedly be a full Bramlage Coliseum. Three weeks ago, I would have predicted a dominating win for Kansas, who looked pretty much unbeatable after a string of blowouts in Allen Fieldhouse and a statement win in Columbus. Plus, K-State looked less than sharp despite a win against Florida that seemed (and yes, still kind of seems) like an anomaly.

Since then, though, things have changed considerably. Rodney McGruder has brought the KSU offense to life, and Kansas survived a home win against Iowa State and a road win that sent Texas to 0-4 (take a second to stop and laugh) in the Big 12.

This seems almost too obvious to even type, but this game will come down to defense. Jeff Withey and his remarkable penchant for blocking shots while not getting called for fouls not fouling means Rod's runners will need to be working, and Thomas Gipson will have a much tougher time finding his looks inside.

Jordan Henriquez's best shots (notably the big hook and the 10-15 foot jumper) will remain pretty much unblockable, so a big game for him would be incredibly useful. Obviously, his help on defense in stopping the penetration of Ben McLemore and Travis Releford, among others, would be nice to have.

Elijah Johnson hasn't exactly inspired confidence for Jayhawk fans at the point lately, so if Angel Rodriguez could stay on the floor and get in Johnson's head, it could lead to good things. Withey must not be allowed to catch the ball near the basket, and I'm quite concerned about the damage he could do against Thomas Gipson, especially if JO gets in foul trouble.

The 3-point shooting of Rodriguez and Shane Southwell (I'm trusting Rod until further notice) needs to be on point, and if Will Spradling can just not panic too much and make 1 or 2 (1-9 last year from 3 against KU) against a dangerously athletic defense I'll probably be satisfied. It should go without saying that if we'll be relying on jumpers, the screens, passes and cuts need to be absolutely as crisp as possible.

Much like how I felt about a KSU win over KU a few short years ago, I won't actually believe in the possibility of Kansas State (or any team that is not Kansas, really) winning a Big 12 title it would take a monumental collapse to choke it away. But a win tomorrow (not to mention Saturday at Ames) would certainly be a big step in the right direction.