Tuesday, Jan. 31
8 p.m. ET
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The No. 8 Kansas Jayhawks look for revenge as they welcome in-state rival No. 7 Kansas State to Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.
After a three-game losing streak amid conference play, Kansas responded with a road win against Kentucky in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
The Jayhawks now return home to face the Wildcats, who took down Kansas in overtime two weeks ago.
KSU has won three of its last four and is tied for first in the conference standings.
Can Kansas State get the better of Kansas yet again, or will the Jayhawks come out with vengeance and take down their rival in dominant fashion?
One of the best storylines of the season has been first-year head coach Jerome Tang and his litter of transfers in Manhattan. Kansas State is 18-3 and first in the Big 12, thanks to a 6-2 conference record.
This is a veteran squad that’s 32nd in Division I experience. The Wildcats aren’t a tall or deep group, but they’re physical and aggressive.
The Wildcats attack the rim at the fourth-highest rate and often work in isolation. They draw a lot of fouls and use a fast-paced offense to open up offensive looks.
From a PPP perspective, Kansas State is more dominant out of the half-court, but it runs in transition at an extremely high rate.
Keyontae Johnson leads the way with 18.0 points per game, and has been the perfect complement to Markquis Nowell.
Nowell averages 16.9 points and 8.2 assists per game.
The Wildcats’ aggressiveness and up-tempo nature leads to frequent trips to the free-throw line, but it also sets them back in the turnover department (235th). The offense often goes as Johnson and Nowell does.
Defensively, this is a team playing above its pay grade. The Wildcats’ physicality leads to turnovers at a top-50 rate, but it also leads to foul trouble. They struggle on the offensive glass and are last in conference play at defending finishes at the rim.
They’re the 11th-best 3-point defense in the country, but that’s due for negative regression when looking at the Wildcats’ ShotQuality‘s metrics. They hold opponents to a 28% clip from beyond the arc while SQ metrics projects a 33% rate.
KSU is 90th in off-the-dribble 3s and outside the top 100 in catch-and-shoot 3s.
In Big 12 play, Kansas State is about average out of the half-court and less efficient in transition.
It’s 4-0 in overtime games and has been riding a bit of luck. On the road, the Wildcats are just 3-3.
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After a dominant start to the season — Kansas opened with a 16-1 record that included five straight Big 12 wins — the Jayhawks stumbled to three consecutive losses.
But as Bill Self does, he righted the ship and avoided losing his fourth straight — which would have been a new career record — with a road win against Kentucky.
It’s hard to encapsulate the junior year leap Jalen Wilson has taken. The 6-foot-8 forward takes 32.7% of shots while on the floor and averages 21.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He doesn’t turn the ball over much and his physicality has led to consistent trips to the free-throw line.
Kansas’ offense runs primarily through the pick-and-roll. This forces opposing defenses into tougher decisions, which often leads to finishes at the rim or off-screen ball movement from Gradey Dick on the perimeter.
While the Jayhawks aren’t a great 3-point shooting team, Dick has been a game-changing freshman. He’s shooting 42.7% from 3 and rarely turns the ball over.
Like its in-state foe, Kansas doesn’t have a deep roster. A big reason behind its eventual overtime loss to KSU was foul trouble, as Dick, KJ Adams Jr. and Kevin McCullar Jr. all fouled out. The Jayhawks are outside the top 200 in FTA/FGA.
On the defensive end, Kansas is dominant defending the pick-and-roll. It defends the perimeter well and has been above-average at stopping finishes at the rim, per ShotQuality.
The Jayhawks’ biggest issue lies in the mid-range — dead last in PPP during conference play and 331st overall — and out of the post.
The good news? Kansas State rarely attacks in the mid-range and is extremely inefficient out of the post.
The way to beat this KU defense is in transition and not allowing it to get set. The Jayhawks can often switch without issues and defend well, both on the perimeter and near the rim.
That also leads to plenty of turnover opportunities and fast-break chances the other way.
If you take away the motivation factor and look at plain X’s and O’s, Kansas is the better team here.
The way to beat the Jayhawks is in transition and by forcing them into early foul trouble. We saw it become a problem in Manhattan, and that’s an area Self is more than aware of entering a second go around.
Kansas State is too reliant on its finishes at the rim and the two-man game between Nowell and Johnson.
Kansas State had absolutely no answer for Wilson a couple weeks ago, and the same will ring true on Tuesday. He scored 38 points, was 9-of-15 on 2-point attempts and added 11 free throws.
That was all with McCullar being a non-factor while battling foul trouble. He eventually fouled out after 23 minutes.
KSU should have no answer for Kansas’ physicality inside and second-chance opportunities should be plentiful.
The Wildcats have blatant turnover issues, which Kansas can exploit and turn into quick transition opportunities the other way. And this time, the Manhattan crowd won’t be there in support as the game begins to slip.
The biggest edge lies in the pick-and-roll, though. That’s where Kansas operates, and Kansas State is 195th defending the PnR from a PPP perspective, per ShotQuality.
That’s where the game will be won for Kansas, as it has a relentless offense inside and can use Dick on the perimeter for added success.
When you factor in the added motivation of a revenge spot — plus the fact that Kansas will be at The Phog in what will be a raucous environment — I love backing the Jayhawks here.Pick: Kansas -6.5