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Men's Hoops Preview - Kansas State at (9/11) Kansas Jayhawks

#EMAW travels east in search of what would be a season-defining road win against the perennial Big 12 favorites.

How inappropriate. Probably how we'll feel today, too.
How inappropriate. Probably how we'll feel today, too.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State Wildcats (12-9, 5-3 Big 12) step into the famed Phog Allen Field House to take on the Kansas Jayhawks. This game signifies the mid-point of the conference slate for K-State. The Jayhawks recently picked up a narrow 64-61 victory at Big 12 basement dweller TCU on Wednesday evening.

K-State last action was an ugly streetfight of a 65-69 loss in the Octagon of Doom against West Virginia. K-State clearly showed a bit of aversion to physical play, as well as complete unpreparedness for such a high level of full-court defensive intensity from Huggy's crew. Check here for Luke Thompson's recap in my absence. The loss dropped us to 5-3 in Big 12 play, and situates us all alone in 4th place in the race, a half-game back Iowa State and West Virginia, and a full game in front of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Know Your Opponent

The Jayhawks (17-3, 6-1 Big 12) are currently all alone at the top, a full-game up on Iowa State and West Virginia. KU has dropped games to Kentucky (duh), a loss to Hilton Magic, and somewhat inexplicably, at Temple. But we all know the impact that Allen Field House has - the closest game they've played at home is a 6-point win over Florida back in early December.

Kansas is clearly a case of the whole being better than the sum of its parts. They're a top-35 team in both Offensive and Defensive Adjusted Efficiency, while not being even top-50 in hardly any specific categories. Defensively, the Jayhawks pressure the ball, but interestingly enough, they're in the bottom third of Division I programs in terms of forcing turnovers. Their defensive profile exhibits characteristics of tough, on-ball pressure, with the goal of forcing you into difficult shots. What some of us might call "straight-up" defense.

Collectively, KU is pretty average at shooting the ball across the board, but they're one of the best three-point shooting clubs in the country at 39.3%. Inside the arc, they're actually a relatively poor shooting team, at 45.4% - a bottom-100 rate.

But, this game is in Allen Field House (as if it needs to be mentioned again), so we should expect them to shoot about 78% from the floor. I'm sure fouls will be called at about 2:1 ratio, too; which will be very difficult to adjust to after the last outing against WVU.

Keep in mind, we are on a 1-game winning streak against the Beakers - an OT win in Bramlage last February.

Keep a close watch on:

KU has a bunch of really good players, but the ones to watch will be Junior forward Perry Ellis, Freshman forward Cliff Alexander, and Sophomore guard Frank Mason. Ellis - a former Gatorade Player of the Year in Kansas - is a solid post player that can step out to 18 feet, and anchors their inside/out attack with 12.6ppg, 6.6rpg. Alexander has been an on-again/off-again player throughout his frosh campaign so far while coming off the bench, but has the capability of posting bigger numbers, including a 15-point, 9-rebound effort at Texas, and a 13-point, 13-rebound outing at home versus Oklahoma. Mason leads the attack from the perimeter, and leads the team in scoring at 12.9ppg. He also leads the team in assists (4.1apg) and steals (1.3spg), and is deadly behind the arc a 45.5% on the season.

Offense/Defense Strategy:

Man-to-man from both, motion offense from both. As I mentioned, KU focuses on solid straight-up defense and making their opponents take difficult, guarded shots (as opposed to overplaying and creating turnovers). It'll be very important for K-State to be effective with their screens to create as much separation as possible, get screens going to the basket instead of lazy cross-screening outside, and attack, attack, attack. Thomas Gipson needs to play big inside, and get some help from Malek Harris and Stephen Hurt to be successful. If Marcus Foster can't start hitting some outside shots, this one might be over quick.

The Wildcat defense du jour is always man-to-man. KU really takes advantage of miscues and executes at a level that is truly elite. Defense needs to be strong from the get-go, and we're going to actually need to double quickly and even overplay to create some havoc. With the three-point shooting capability of Mason and others, rotating to help-the-helper on the perimeter is key.

Probable Starters

Kansas State Wildcats:

Nino Williams, 6-5 220 Sr**
Thomas Gipson, 6-7 265 Sr
Wesley Iwundu, 6-7 205 So
Marcus Foster, 6-3 210 So
Jevon Thomas, 6-0 185 So

**NOTE: Nino has been listed as doubtful, and all rumors are pointing to him not playing today due to a minor knee injury against West Virginia. If he doesn't start, your guess is as good as mine for his replacement, but it'll probably be a true three-small lineup with G Justin Edwards.

Kansas Jayhawks:

F Perry Ellis, 6-8 225 Jr
F Jamari Traylor, 6-8 220 Jr
G Kelly Oubre Jr., 6-7 200 Fr
G Frank Mason III, 5-11 185 So
G Wayne Selden Jr., 6-5 230 So

3 Keys To The Game

1. Don't Be Intimidated

Tough proposition to make given the venue - it affects everyone that plays there - but we can't beat ourselves right off the bat. If K-State can at least come out and trade punches early (or even get to a quick start), and maintain into the middle stretches of the first half, it will give us a chance. It's unfortunate we probably play without Nino, because his leadership would be key in keeping the team settled down on the floor. Whoever we plug into his spot is going to have not experienced this environment before.

2. Offensive Efficiency

KU is going to score points almost every time down the floor. We need to do the same. Deliberate ball movement, good execution of the motion offense, and attacking the basket to at least draw fouls puts us in the best position to keep putting points on the board. They're not going to force a ton of turnovers, so we need to make sure we're not doing it for them.

3. Play K-State Brand of Basketball

We're not going to go into AFH and run up and down the floor. We need to take the air out of the ball and focus on a 60-70 possession game. If we get into a 70 or 80 possession game, the tempo is going to be too fast for us to keep up. ~50 shots, with 10 turnovers, and maybe 50% shooting from the floor, 75% from the charity stripe sounds like a stat line that would keep us in the game.

All stats by, or by the respective university's sports information.