Preview & Prediction: By Blake Hofstad
Surging Kansas State (6-4, 17-7) hosts #16 Kansas (8-1, 19-5) in a rivalry matchup sure to be a good one. This game looked like it would be just another Big 12 victory for the Jayhawks a few weeks ago, but Kansas State has gone on a run, winning their last six to get back into contention. Last season in Manhattan, the Wildcats handed Kansas its first loss of the season. This year won’t have the glamour of last year’s game, but it is almost a must-win for the Tournament chasing Wildcats, while Kansas has almost nothing at stake at this point besides seeding.
There was much speculation as to how the Jayhawks would perform this year. They won the national championship, then lost all of their starters. That can be devastating to a team, case in point, last year’s Florida Gators. But the Jayhawks appear to be Tournament-bound, and not just that, but a high seed. The road team is led by Sherron Collins, the small point guard who has emerged as Kansas’ leading scorer. He scores almost 18 points a game, but also dishes out five assists per contest. Essentially, Collins is a scoring point guard who can pass. Big man Cole Aldrich had a coming out party last year in the Final Four, when he played extremely well in Kansas’ 40-12 stretch to open the game. This year he has developed into one of the dominant big men in the Big 12, as well as one of the nation’s premier shot blockers. The first 19 games of the year, Aldrich scored in double digits, but has only done so in two of the last five. He needs to find his touch. Aldrich and Collins are really the only returning Jayhawks who did anything last year. A quartet of freshman head the Kansas supporting cast. Tyrel Reed and Mario Little are the only members of the cast that aren’t freshman. Reed is a shooting guard who posts decent numbers in every facet of the game; scoring, passing, rebounding, steals and shooting. Little is a wingman who can rebound like a forward but shoot like a guard. The four freshman are Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar, Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris. Taylor is another shooting guard for Kansas, he is second on the team in assists, third in points and third in assist/turnover. Morningstar is a knock down shooter, but unlike many three point specialists, he is not a liability on the defensive end of the floor. The big Morris twins post very similar rebounding numbers, but Marcus is the better scorer of the two. Both are capable from moving out of the paint to hit a long range jumper.
A few weeks ago Frank Martin’s team looked bound for the NIT, if not worse. Denis Clemente is a big reason why they are now in a lot of people’s brackets. He played well in close wins over Colorado and Texas A&M, but his performance in the road win over Texas was special. Clemente poured in 44 points in just 38 minutes. This accounted for over half of K-State’s points. Clemente’s output is overshadowed by big games from Jodie Meeks, Ben Woodside and Ryan Toolson, but nevertheless, great day for Clemente. He leads the team in scoring and is second in assists. Jacob Pullen, the team’s leading scorer until the big day by Clemente, leads the team in assists and steals. He doesn’t have the same shooting touch as Clemente, but that does not stop him; he has taken over 150 three pointers this year, or around six a game. Another shooter highlights K-state’s leading scorers. Fred Brown knocks down 45% of his threes, and is undoubtedly the team’s first choice in a must-make situation. Darren Kent is the team’s leading rebounder. At 6-10, he provides some height to the lineup, but even he can shoot the three. He has played very well the past three games, scoring almost 14 a game. If he can duplicate that performance against the Jayhawks, Kansas State’s chances of pulling the upset increase exponentially. After Kent, Kansas State has only big men. Jamar Samuels, Dominique Soton, Luis Colon and Ron Anderson are all guys whose rebounding prowess is utilized. All average around 20 minutes a game. All get about 5 rebounds per contest. Each one, with the exception of Sutton, boasts over 40% of their rebounds as offensive.
Kansas will want revenge on their rival after the game in Manhattan last year. However, K-State is among the hottest teams in college basketball right now, and a road win won’t be easy to come by. Unfortunately for Kansas State, they don’t have the talent of a Michael Beasley caliber player this year. If they can make their three pointers (they shoot a lot of them), they can win this game. A cold night shooting will spell disaster for the ‘Cats.
Winner: Kansas Margin: 4-7 points
Editor's Early Preview
*Made on 02/06. Full preview by the GameNight staff coming soon!
Kansas had no problem with KSU at home, but the Wildcats have been playing better basketball recently. If Clemente or Pullen get hot, KSU could pull of a surprise win over their dominant in-state rivals.
Early Prediction: Kansas St
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About Blake Hofstad
An avid sports fan, you can nearly always find Blake Hofstad playing, watching, writing or just talking sports. His favorite team is the Wisconsin Badgers, and he is a huge Big Ten and Missouri Valley fan. The two things he hates about college basketball are Duke and the love Duke gets from most media members. You can find more of Blake's work on Onlinesportsfanatic.com.