Wednesday's Preview: #22 Kansas State at #15 Kansas

    
January 4th, 2012
Wednesday's schedule features two match ups of Top 25 teams, but only one ranks among the better rivalries in college basketball. #22 Kansas State (11-1), winners of six straight games, takes on #15 Kansas (10-3) in Lawrence in the first of two meetings this season. And despite its rivalry status this is a series the Jayhawks have dominated of late, winning seven straight and eleven of twelve before the Wildcats won 84-68 in Manhattan last February. The key for Frank Martin's team is a simple one: limit the paint touches for junior forward Thomas Robinson (17.7 ppg, 12.2 rpg), as he's near unstoppable when given the opportunity to go to work around the basket.

Jeff Withey has also been an important figure for the Jayhawks up front as he's shown the ability to be a key contributor at times. But he played just eight minutes against North Dakota, as Bill Self sent the message that the junior needs to be more aggressive if he's to continue to get minutes. This may also apply to junior Kevin Young, who only played six minutes against North Dakota, and while he only averages ten minutes per contest against the deeper front courts of the Big 12 Young will have to step up. What these two can do to help out Robinson on the glass tonight could determine the outcome, as K-State has the edge on depth and rebounding margin up front.

Jamar Samuels (11.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg) is the leader in the front court for the Wildcats, and he's allowed to step out and do more work on the wing thanks to the presence of Thomas Gipson (10.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts (7.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg). Kansas State out-rebounds their opponents by a margin of 7.1 rebounds per game, while Kansas has a margin of just plus-0.9. Kansas State is also good at attacking the offensive boards, grabbing 15.2 which is good for a offensive rebounding percentage of 42.3%.

Turnovers, especially among the guards, will also be key as Kansas has struggled with taking care of the basketball at times. Senior Tyshawn Taylor (15.3 ppg, 5.2 apg) is also averaging 3.8 turnovers per game, and he's had some absolute clunkers this season in this regard. But he's turned the ball over six times in the last three games, which is quite the improvement when compared to his 12 turnovers in the games against Ohio State and Davidson that preceded that stretch. Elijah Johnson (10.2 ppg, 3.7 apg) and Travis Releford (8.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg) are the other starters on the perimeter, with Johnson being the best at taking care of the ball when looking at assist-to-turnover ratios.

Kansas State averages 14.7 turnovers per game, which is slightly higher than Kansas' 14.6 average, but the Wildcats have a "better" distribution of those mistakes as no one averages more than 1.9 per game. Guards Will Spradling (11.8 ppg, 2.7 apg) and Rodney McGruder (12.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) handle the majority of the offensive duties for the Wildcats while Martavious Irving (6.2 ppg) is one of the better defensive guards in the Big 12. And a player to watch as a reserve is freshman Angel Rodriguez, who has scored in double figures in four of the last five games. If he can bring scoring punch while playing in control, K-State will be that much tougher to beat.

The other Top 25 matchup pits #20 Marquette against #9 Georgetown at the Verizon Center, with the winner remaining undefeated in Big East play. Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder have been two of the best players in the Big East, but what they get from Vander Blue could be the difference between a good season and a special one. It will also be interesting to see what Davante Gardner, who played very well against Villanova after being removed from the starting lineup, can do against Georgetown's Henry Sims. Sims is a tough matchup within Georgetown's system due to his ability to step out and make plays, and having perimeter players like Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson doesn't hurt either.

Duke plays a non-conference game before diving into ACC play and it won't be an easy one either, as they take on Temple in Philadelphia. The Blue Devils have to have an answer defensively for Ramone Moore, and senior Juan Fernandez had back-to-back games of 20+ points before scoring 11 in the Owls' win at Delaware. The question for Temple is whether or not they've got the bodies inside to keep Mason Plumlee off the glass. If not, beating Duke will become an even tougher task. In the CAA it's time to find out just how good Ron Hunter's Georgia State team is, as they visit a red-hot VCU team. Devonta White has helped lead the Panthers to a 10-3 start but with a strength of schedule of 344, we'll learn a lot more about their staying power tonight. 

Indiana State/Northern Iowa is a key game in the Missouri Valley race with UNI already having two losses in league play, and in the Atlantic 10 Saint Louis visits Dayton in the Flyers' first full game without the injured Josh Benson (torn ACL). Those are both key contest when considering where those final at-large bids could go come Selection Sunday. Illinois' trip to Northwestern would qualify for that distinction as well, with the home team having never been to the Big Dance. Yancy Gates returns to the rotation as Cincinnati hosts Notre Dame, so that should be interesting to watch. And lastly, top-ranked Syracuse visits Providence as the late Dave Gavitt will be honored. The city is naming a street in honor of Gavitt, who founded the Big East Conference. Can Ed Cooley's team ride the emotion to what would be a historic upset? Not so sure about that.  

Top 25 Games
9:00 PM (1) Syracuse at Providence (ESPN3)
7:00 PM (3) Duke at Temple (ESPN2)
7:00 PM (20) Marquette at (9) Georgetown (ESPN2)
8:00 PM (22) Kansas State at (15) Kansas (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Eastern Kentucky at (18) Murray State

NCAA Division I Games
6:00 PM Xavier at La Salle
7:00 PM Hofstra at Delaware
7:00 PM Auburn at Florida State (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Illinois at Northwestern (BTN)
7:00 PM UNC Wilmington at Northeastern
7:00 PM Delaware State at North Carolina State
7:00 PM West Virginia at Rutgers (ESPN3)
7:00 PM George Washington at St. Bonaventure
7:00 PM Pennsylvania at Lafayette
7:00 PM FGCU at Kennesaw State
7:00 PM Florida A&M at Ball State
7:00 PM Tulane at UCF
7:00 PM Notre Dame at Cincinnati (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Columbia at Colgate
7:00 PM Towson at Drexel
7:00 PM Saint Joseph's at Duquesne
7:00 PM USC Upstate at East Tennessee State
7:00 PM James Madison at William & Mary
7:15 PM Belmont at Jacksonville
7:30 PM Coppin State at Howard
7:30 PM Stetson at Mercer
7:30 PM Richmond at Charlotte
7:30 PM Georgia State at VCU
7:45 PM Lipscomb at North Florida
8:00 PM Southern Illinois at Bradley (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Mayville State at North Dakota
8:00 PM Texas Tech at Oklahoma State
8:00 PM Tennessee at Memphis
8:00 PM Tulsa at Houston
8:00 PM Southeastern Louisiana at Texas-Arlington
8:00 PM UTEP at Marshall
8:00 PM Stephen F. Austin at Texas State
8:00 PM Lamar at Texas A&M-CC (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Saint Louis at Dayton
8:00 PM Indiana State at Northern Iowa
8:00 PM Eastern Illinois at SIU-Edwardsville
8:00 PM East Carolina at Southern Miss
8:00 PM Rice at TCU
8:00 PM Nicholls State at UTSA
8:05 PM Wichita State at Evansville
8:05 PM Illinois State at Missouri State (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Texas at Iowa State
9:00 PM Iowa at Minnesota (BTN)