One of the biggest games in the weekend of college basketball pits No. 2 Kansas on the road against No. 13 Kansas State. Bremlage Coliseum, or "The Octagon of Doom," is one of the most difficult places to play in the Big 12, and fans will be fired up to play their in-state rivals.
The Wildcats already took down then-No. 1 Texas at Bremlage earlier this month, and they look to make it two-for-two against the powers of the Big 12. Of course, the crowd will not be able to carry KSU to victory. They also need to play a great game, and here are a few matchups to pay attention to:
Kansas State Key Matchup: Xavier Henry. The freshman shooting guard has been struggling of late, and to make matters worse, he will be playing in his most difficult environment yet. However, the young Jayhawk has the ability to put up a big game any night. If he just trusts his ability and hits some early shots to gain confidence, KSU could be in for a long night.
Kansas Key Matchup: Jacob Pullen. Pullen was essentially absent in the Wildcats' last couple of games but bounced back to have a great game against Baylor. He is the leading scorer on the team at 19 points per game, so clearly if he has a bad game, the Wildcats will struggle. He got away with having a bad game against Texas (2-15 shooting), but don't expect a win tomorrow if does it again.
Will Kansas be rattled by a treacherous environment? Turnovers will tell the story here. The Jayhawks have averaged 14 turnovers per game in Big 12 play, including a whopping 23 last game against Missouri. They need to correct that fast and be able to run an efficient offense to quiet the crowd.
Sherron Collins, as usual, needs to come up big again for Kansas. He is the floor general and emotional leader of this Jayhawk team. He does not typically get rattled, and he needs to prove that early on in the game so that his teammates follow suit. He also needs to make good decisions with the ball and cut down on the turnovers. If a big shot is needed, everyone on the court will know who is taking it.
Kansas State needs to be very active on the glass, particularly on the offensive end. One key to their offensive rebounding chances is Jamar Samuels. The sophomore averages nearly two offensive rebounds per game, which is pretty good coming off the bench. Creating second chance opportunities will be very important for the Wildcats tomorrow.
Prediction: Bitter in-state rivalry games are always difficult to predict. Kansas State is better than usual this year, but I still give the advantage to the Jayhawks. Cole Aldrich and Marcus Morris have really stepped it up the past couple games, and I expect that to continue. Henry is also key, and I look for him to score in double figure for the first time in three games. They will just be a little too much for the Wildcats to handle.