This will be first-year head coach Bruce Weber’s introduction to the Sunflower Showdown.
Kansas State started off the season with losses to Michigan and Gonzaga, both currently ranked in the Top Ten, but went to new heights as a basketball team when they upset No. 8 Florida 67-61 in Kansas City on December 22.
The Wildcats are currently on an eight-game winning streak because of the leadership and strong play from senior guard Rodney McGruder. They could present the Jayhawks with problems tonight.
Kansas has been playing close games with teams that are clearly not as talented.
The Jayhawks struggled to win at home against Temple on January 6, only winning 69-62. They again struggled at home on January 9 against Iowa State, when they were forced to hit a buzzer-beater to tie the game at the end of regulation. The Jayhawks defeated Iowa State 97-89 in overtime. On January 19, Kansas also struggled to take down a Texas team that is currently 0-5 in Big 12 play.
The energy in the Coliseum will be electric tonight and should give the WIldcats a significant home-court advantage.
McGruder has been leading this Wildcat team with 15.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez is currently averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 assists per game. Then there is junior guard Will Spradling, who is always a threat because of his three-point shooting.
There are two aspects that need be looked at when talking about this Kansas State Wildcat team.
- Kansas State is solid defensively and good on the boards. Defensively, this is key, because it will give Kansas center Jeff Withey fewer second attempts down low. A specific player who may be a threat to Withey inside could be senior forward Jordan Henriquez, who will come off the bench.
- Another key for the Wildcat defense will be to shut down standout freshman guard Ben McLemore, who has been averaging an astounding 16.4 points per game.
Kansas State prides itself on spreading the ball around. The Wildcats are averaging 16.1 assists per game. The Wildcats will need to make every possession count and are take quality shots.
Just because Kansas has been struggling does not mean it is not a good team. The Jayhawks are No. 3 in the nation right now and find ways to win games in crunch time.
We will see if Kansas State can knock off Kansas for the first time in two years.
Catch Kansas (16-1) at Kansas State (15-2) Tuesday night at 8 ET on ESPN3.