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K-State to host rival Kansas in midst of taxing stretch

The Sunflower Showdown will be renewed Monday night

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

It isn’t always this way. In fact, it seldom is.

It’s not often that Kansas State (16-7, 5-5 Big 12) and Kansas (20-3, 8-2) renew their yearly rivalry fresh off such vastly different games.

The Wildcats last knocked off then-No. 2 Baylor, 56-54, in Waco, Texas on Saturday, while the Jayhawks saw their 51-game winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse snapped with a 92-89 loss to Iowa State the same day.

It’s also not often that K-State will play as bloodthirsty as it likely will Monday night against the Jayhawks, but here we are.

It’s hard to blame the Wildcats. Their 90-88 loss to KU Jan. 3 in Lawrence continues to live in infamy, and the memory of Svi Mykhailiuk’s uncalled travel to win the game will likely not fade soon.

The memories of a K-State win Monday night wouldn’t either.

The Wildcats and No. 3 Jayhawks are slated for an 8 p.m. tipoff Monday night at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan.

The game comes square in the middle of a grueling three-game stretch for K-State, but the good news for the Wildcats is that they’ve already checked one box with Saturday’s win over Baylor. After Monday night’s tilt with KU, the Wildcats face a road matchup with No. 13 West Virginia on Saturday.

But first things first — and if momentum is any indication, the Wildcats are in good shape for the showdown with KU, especially so after forward Dean Wade’s stellar outing against the Bears.

The sophomore tallied 12 points and six rebounds in the win, including a pair of 3-pointers. He wasn’t bad against KU in Lawrence last month, either.

Wade posted 20 points and three rebounds in that game, by far his best showing this season.

“Most players make their biggest jump between their freshman and sophomore seasons, and he’s obviously made a jump himself,” KU coach Bill Self said after the game. “He’s a good player.”

But for every weapon K-State will throw at KU Monday night, the Jayhawks will have their own. National player of the year candidate Frank Mason averages a Big 12-best 20.4 points per game, and the senior also dishes out 5.2 assists and snares 4.3 rebounds per game.

Freshman Josh Jackson also ranks in the league’s top 10 with 16 points per game.

But beyond Kansas’ standard starting five — Mason, Jackson, Mykhailiuk, Devonte’ Graham and Landen Lucas — the Jayhawks are thin, even with forward Carlton Bragg cleared to play Monday after serving what ended as a three-game suspension.

KU’s lack of depth is no secret, as its bench consists mostly of Lagerald Vick, Dwight Coleby and Bragg — when he’s been available.

K-State isn’t particularly deep by comparison, but the Wildcats could thin KU’s bench even further by doing what has landed them third the Big 12 in offensive free-throw rate: initiating contact. K-State could force Self to task reserves with more minutes than usual if his starters get in early foul trouble.

For the Wildcats, though, aside from the possibility of exacting revenge against KU, this game is about boosting their NCAA Tournament resume.

That’s where Monday night’s game carries the most weight for K-State. The Wildcats secured their best resume win by dethroning Baylor in Waco, and they could render it even shinier with a win over KU.

Such a task would be arduous, laborious and demanding — then again, K-State was a made 3-pointer away from completing it in Lawrence.

Certainly things get easier on the home floor.

Kansas State vs. No. 3 Kansas

Date/Time: 8 p.m. CT Monday

Location: Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas

TV: ESPN

Radio: K-State Sports Network, SIRIUS 84/XM 84

Check out BOTC’s how-to-watch post here.

Probable starters

K-State

Kamau Stokes (12.1 ppg., 4.6 apg.), G

Barry Brown (12.2 ppg., 3.3 rpg.), G

Wesley Iwundu (12.2 ppg., 5.6 rpg.), G/F

Dean Wade (9.3 ppg., 4.7 rpg.), F

D.J. Johnson (11.9 ppg., 6.3 rpg.), F

No. 3 Kansas

Frank Mason III (20.4 ppg., 5.2 apg.), G

Devonte’ Graham (13.4 ppg., 3.0 rpg.), G

Svi Mykhailiuk (10.9 ppg., 3.4 rpg.), G

Josh Jackson (16.0 ppg., 7.0 rpg.), G

Landen Lucas (7.4 ppg., 8.5 rpg.), F