As many expected, the Big 12 tournament final is an all-Kansas affair. The top-seeded and seventh-ranked Kansas Jayhawks knocked off Iowa State 88-73 on Friday behind 23 points from Perry Ellis.
The second-seeded and 11th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats proved their mettle by upending the third-seeded and 14th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys 68-57. Rodney McGruder continues to be clutch for the Wildcats as he paced the team with 25 points.
You can catch the final at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Kansas swept the regular season series, but we all know how difficult it is to beat any team three times—let alone a quality squad like the Wildcats.
Here's what the Jayhawks have to do to make it three in a row, and what the Wildcats have to do to break their in-state rivals' dominance.
Jayhawks Keys to Victory
Make Free Throws
The Jayhawks' athleticism off the dribble and size inside will give them their share of free-throw opportunities. They must be productive once they reach the line.
In the first matchup, the Jayhawks eeked out a 59-55 victory. The game was close because of their inability to make free throws.
They made just 13-of-21 attempts in that game, and it nearly cost them. The Jayhawks won't want to cut it that close again this time.
Get Ben McLemore off
McLemore is the best pro prospect in this game—and probably in the nation. The Jayhawks are simply a better team when he performs at a high level.
The freshman guard has scored 20 or more points in nine games this season, and the Jayhawks are 7-2 in those contests. That includes the 30 points he hung on the Wildcats in the teams' second matchup, a 83-62 blowout in favor of the Jayhawks.
If McLemore is on top of his game, it will be difficult for the Wildcats to win.
Wildcats Keys to Victory
Hit the Glass
Kansas State is not an especially solid rebounding team. They rank only seventh in the conference in this category. The Jayhawks out-rebounded them in both games, but they destroyed the Wildcats on the glass 39-20 in the blowout.
The Wildcats must do a better job on the boards to have a chance to win this game.
A Second Scorer
Who will score the most points in the final?
When this team is at its best, McGruder's consistency is complemented by a second scorer. Against Oklahoma State, Angel Rodriguez stepped up with 17 points to add some density to the Wildcats' attack.
They will need Rodriguez or another player to back up McGruder's scoring on Saturday.
If McGruder is the only formidable scorer, the Wildcats will be overcome by the wealth of scoring options the Jayhawks boast, and they won't keep pace.