Kansas and Kansas State will clash once again this season, this time with a Big 12 Tournament title on the line. The Jayhawks will be looking to establish complete dominance over their in-state rival and the entire conference.
Doubters started to emerge after Bill Self’s team went on a three-game losing streak that included a dismal performance against TCU, but the Jayhawks still clinched a share of the regular-season title.
But the Wildcats are the other team with a claim to first place. Now, Kansas has the opportunity to enter the NCAA Tournament after making another statement about its supremacy over the Big 12.
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. ET on ESPN. Here are the keys to victory for Kansas in this game.
Keep the Offensive Momentum Going
The Jayhawks are on fire right now.
After starting the Big 12 Tournament with a 91-63 demolition of Texas Tech, Kansas then cruised past Iowa State with an 88-73 victory.
A large knock on the Jayhawks this season has been their inconsistent offense, but the team has just put up 179 points during its last two games. If the Jayhawks can stay this hot heading into the tournament, they will be dangerous.
With one of the best defenses in the nation, Kansas will be impossible to beat if it maintains momentum on the offensive end of the floor.
Feed Ben McLemore
Kansas’ strategy for staying hot on offense is simple—give the ball to the best player on the floor.
McLemore has already proven that he has the Wildcats’ number. In the first meeting of the season, he had just 11 points, but was 4-of-7 from the floor in the Jayhawks’ 59-55 victory.
In the next game, he was more aggressive with his shot selection and was 9-of-13 from the floor with six made three-pointers and 30 total points. His big scoring night led an 83-62 rout of the Wildcats.
This is the type of performance the Jayhawks need from the fantastic freshman, and he should not shy away from shooting at any point during this contest.
Shut Down Rodney McGruder
Who will be the best player on the floor in this matchup?
Senior leadership is massively important at this point in the season, and the Wildcats have it with McGruder.
The senior guard has led Kansas State in scoring this season with 15.6 points per game. He also chips in and impacts the game in other ways, and he leads the Wildcats in rebounds with 5.4 boards per game.
If the Jayhawks play tight defense of McGruder, deny him the ball and ensure he is boxed out on every shot, the Wildcats will have to drastically adjust their game plan.
Marginalizing McGruder will ensure that Kansas State needs to find other sources of inspiration in the Big 12 title game, and there is reason to doubt the Wildcats' ability to do this.