It’s time for a little redemption for the Kansas State Wildcats.
We’re almost half-way through the conference slog, and we finally get a rematch with an opponent. Of course that opponent just happens to be one of K-State’s three conference losses, and the only one in the last five conference games - the Kansas Jayhawks.
Since the last meeting between the rivals, the two teams have been nearly equal. K-State has been undefeated since missing a last-second shot to fall to the Jayhawks 73-72 in Lawrence, while Kansas has won three of their last four, dropping a road game to Oklahoma and Trae Young not quite a week ago. Both Kansas schools dispatched their SEC opponent on Saturday (making up half of the winning teams from the Big 12), though K-State had to fight through a rough game against Georgia while KU had a bit easier time against Texas A&M.
KU isn’t much different than when they hosted K-State a few weeks ago. They play basically seven guys in meaningful minutes, led by senior guard Devonte’ Graham, who has posted four-straight 40-minute games since the win over K-State. Lon Kruger and OU showed how to defeat KU’s big man Udoka Azubuike — foul him and force him to make free throws (he’s shooting 37.5% from the line this season). Any one of Svi Mykhailiuk, Lagerald Vick, or Malik Newman can turn one and have an elite-level game for a night, or completely disappear into the background. This is still Bill Self’s worst team maybe ever at KU, even if they are still first-place in the conference.
K-State is pretty remarkably different than the team that went into Lawrence and lost by one point. Yes, the makings were all there, but it just hadn’t quite jelled yet. Now Dean “Wolf” Wade is shooting more often, without losing efficiency, has has put together 5-straight 20+ point games. Barry Brown had an off game against Georgia, but has been on fire in conference games since missing the final shot against KU. Cartier Diarra is still playing above the level expected from a freshman. And even Makol Mawien is finally looking like the answer at the 5-spot (as long as he can stay out of foul trouble).
The pieces are all there. If K-State can play defense like they normally do, and score like they did against each of their last three conference opponents, then K-State can win this thing and end the current six-game losing streak to the guys from down-the-river. They’ll have to stay within themselves though, because the Octogon should be extra DOOM-y tonight. We’ve seen plenty of talented K-State teams get too-hyped for this one and end up losing a game they should win. We need OU-game K-State to be in Bramlage tonight.
On top of everything else, it’s Kansas Day today. So, some extra state pride on the line (not that there wasn’t already plenty).
Tonight’s game, scheduled for a 8:00 p.m. CST tip-off, will be on ESPN/ESPN3 as part of ESPN’s “Big Monday” lineup with Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), “go talk to” Fran Fraschilla (analyst), and Holly Rowe (sideline reporter) on the call. Be sure and check out Jon Morse’s full How To Watch post for more details.
The game can be heard over-the-air on the K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play) and Stan Weber (analyst) on the call (you can also listen online for free at TuneIn.com or at KStateSports.com). Satellite radio is available on Sirius/XM 84, and “Internet” 84.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
Kansas State (16-5, 5-3 Big 12)
G: #2 Cartier Diarra
G: #5 Barry Brown Jr.
G: #20 Xavier Sneed
F: #32 Dean Wade
F: #14 Makol Mawien
Kansas (17-4, 6-2 Big 12)
G: #2 Lagerald Vick
G: #4 Devonte’ Graham
G: #10 Svi Mykhailiuk
G: #14 Malik Newman
F: #35 Udoka Azubuike