10 Reasons Kansas State Can Upset Kansas and Take the Big 12
The Wildcats have bounced back from the two losses they suffered three weeks ago and are currently on a four-game winning streak. Could Kansas State finally snap the Kansas Jayhawks' chances of winning their ninth-straight regular-season Big 12 championship title?
A win at Kansas on Monday night, something the Wildcats have not been able to do since 2006, would put Kansas State in good position to take the Big 12 regular-season title.
Here are 10 reasons why Kansas State can upset Kansas and take the Big 12 this season:
10. Spreading the Ball Around
Kansas State’s offense is notorious for the spreading the ball around on offense. The Wildcats are averaging 15.7 assists per game, which is 30th in the nation.
Sophomore point guard Angel Rodriguez leads this Wildcat squad with 4.7 assists per game and helps fuel this talented team’s offense.
A majority of the time, this team passes the ball around until it gets a good look at the basket.
With strong guard play from Rodriguez, Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling, this team is going to be tough down the stretch as they continue to feed each other the ball up around the perimeter.
Kansas State prides itself on sharing the wealth and playing team-oriented basketball. This is why the Wildcats have been successful over the past three seasons.
9. Defensive Play from Jordan Henriquez
Before the game against Texas on January 30, Jordan Henriquez was coming off the bench. He is now in the Wildcat starting lineup as the main big man.
His physical defensive play has helped this Wildcat team.
Henriquez did not record a single rebound in a 79-70 home win over Iowa State on Saturday, but overall has been helpful on the boards in Big 12 conference play.
In the Wildcats' 10 conference games, he has averaged 4.1 rebounds per game. In six of those games, Henriquez came off the bench.
He leads his team in blocks per game with 1.8 and plays a big role defensively for this team.
Henriquez will be the man in charge of shutting down Kansas star center Jeff Withey Monday night in Lawrence.
He does not look good statistically or play as many minutes as other players, but when he is out on the floor, he is beneficial to his team.
8. The Wildcats' Schedule
Kansas State has a favorable schedule going forward.
It will travel to Allen Fieldhouse to take on Kansas on Monday, but after this game, the schedule thins out.
They will not have to play Kansas or Iowa State again. These are two teams that have presented the Wildcats with problems.
If Kansas State can get the big win at Kansas, it can afford to lose one more game and still have a one-game lead in the Big 12 conference standings.
7. Bruce Weber's Coaching Experience
First-year head coach Bruce Weber has his Wildcat team playing well and has the chance to capture a Big 12 regular-season title in his first season.
Weber went on to win the Big Ten regular-season championship in his first two seasons with Illinois. How fitting is it that Weber is in this position again with Kansas State, and that he's battling it out against Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks?
Weber’s team is talented, and with his coaching experience, he could help lead this Kansas State program to a regular-season title. Kansas State has not won a conference championship since 1977 when it played in the Big Eight Conference.
6. Will Spradling's Toughness
Junior guard Will Spradling is by far the toughest player on this team and can be extremely lethal when he catches fire.
Spradling is known for his scrappiness after loose balls and his ability to shoot the basketball.
He has proved to be one of the toughest players on this team, as was evident when he broke his nose against Texas on January 30 and returned in the second half with no protective mask.
Spradling is currently averaging 8.3 points and 2.7 assists per game.
He puts his body in the way of everything and makes crucial baskets for this Wildcat team.
The only thing Spradling needs to work on is his scoring consistency.
He may score 15 points one game, score no points in the next one, then score 15 points again. This is the trend he had against Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa State in January.
Spradling has to make sure he can put points up on the scoreboard each game and not just sporadically. This Wildcat team needs him going forward if it wants to win the Big 12 regular-season title.
5. A Struggling Jayhawk Team
Remember about two weeks ago when the nation thought Kansas was one of the best teams in college basketball and would run away with the Big 12 regular-season title?
Boy, have things changed since then. The Jayhawks have now lost three straight games to unranked teams. They have not lost three games in a row since 2005.
Kansas struggled to be clutch at the end of the game against Oklahoma State, which ended a 33-game home winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks went ice cold against TCU and couldn't hit a shot. TCU was winless in Big 12 conference play, but ended up pulling off the biggest upset win in school history. The loss to TCU was one of the worst losses in Kansas school history.
The nightmare continued on Saturday when the Jayhawks could not find a way to stop Oklahoma senior forward Romero Osby and senior guard Steven Pledger from making shots. Kansas could simply not find a way to get the job done once again.
Now Kansas is in second place in the Big 12 standings and will be in desperation mode Monday night when it hosts in-state Kansas State, who is currently first in the Big 12 standings.
Even if Kansas defeats Kansas State, it still has to travel to Oklahoma State on February 20th and to Iowa State on February 25th.
The Jayhawks are not in a comfortable position right now, and we are going to see if this team has it in them to get back on track. Losing four games in a row at Kansas is almost unheard of.
4. Kansas State's Bench Scoring
The Wildcats would not be anywhere this season without their bench.
With Jordan Hendriquez in the starting lineup instead of sophomore forward Thomas Gipson, production off the bench has not been affected. If anything, the production off the bench has been better.
Gipson and senior guard Martavious Irving have been the leaders off the bench and played roles in Kansas State's wins over Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Iowa State.
Gipson has averaged 12.8 points in his past four games since taking the role of coming off the bench against Texas on January 30.
He is averaging 7.8 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game this season.
Irving has come off the bench the whole season and has scored 10 points in each of Kansas State’s past three games.
He is a good backup at the guard position and is averaging 5.0 points per game and 2.3 assists per game.
If Gipson and Irving keep their scoring up, it will make the Wildcats a stronger team down the stretch because of the depth coming from the bench.
3. A Strong Rebounding Game
Kansas State is averaging 37.0 rebounds per game with sophomore forward Thomas Gipson and Rodney McGruder leading the way.
Gipson has 127 rebounds on the season and has averaged 5.5 rebounds per game.
McGruder, who is the true leader of this Wildcat team, has 121 rebounds on the season and averages 5.3 per game.
The Wildcats are a team that has needed to rely on second-chance points this season by controlling the boards.
The rebounding game will be especially important when they play at Kansas Monday night. They will have to control the boards and not let Jeff Withey and senior forward Kevin Young take over down low offensively, as well as defensively.
2. Clutch Play from Angel Rodriguez
Angel Rodriguez, who is only a sophomore, has become one of the floor leaders for this Kansas State team.
He makes key plays when his team needs him most, especially on February 2 at Oklahoma. Rodriguez was shut down offensively for almost the entire game and only scored four points, but two of those points won the Wildcats the game.
He drove to the basket with just seconds remaining and was fouled. He knocked down both free throws and won Kansas State the game, 52-50. This is the type of thing Rodriguez can offer this team.
Rodriguez, since the win at Oklahoma, has averaged 16.5 points in his last two games.
He has also been spreading the ball around by averaging 5.2 assists in Kansas State's 10 conference games.
Rodriguez is averaging 9.9 points per game and 4.7 assists per game this season.
1. The Senior Leadership of Rodney McGruder
What else is there to say about senior Rodney McGruder?
He is the leader of this Wildcat team and is going to have to be the player that takes Kansas State to the next level.
McGruder scored 22 points in Kansas State's win against Iowa State on Saturday and will need to play just as well Monday night at Kansas.
He has averaged 16.5 points in Kansas State's 10 conference games and has been a great rebounder too, as mentioned earlier.
McGruder is averaging 15.0 points per game this season and 5.3 rebounds per game.
With eight conference games remaining, McGruder needs to show up every game and be the game-changer that he is.
Look for McGruder and company to contend for the Big 12 regular-season title until the very last weekend.
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