Kansas Jayhawks: Will it be a Sunflower Smackdown


Jan 7, 2015; Waco, TX, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Jamari Traylor (31) celebrate following their win against the Baylor Bears at Ferrell Center. Kansas won 56-55. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t long ago the Kansas Jayhawks (17-3, 6-1) and Kansas State Wildcats (12-9, 5-3) were tied for first in the Big 12.

What a difference a week can make.

Since both teams jumped out to 4-1 league records, K-State lost two of three, while the Jayhawks won both of their games.

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Now, it gets even tougher for the Wildcats as they travel to Allen Fieldhouse Saturday to take on their in-state rivals.

K-State is 35-85 all-time in Lawrence, and there is no reason to think they will come out with a victory in this one.

Sure, they have played better since their 7-7 start, but the Wildcats just don’t have the talent to match-up with the Jayhawks.

Also, Bill Self and his KU team’s have more consecutive Big 12 Conference Championships (10), than home losses (9), since 2003-04.

Let that sink in for a minute.

However, it’s not like playing in Manhattan has been that much easier for the ‘Cats in this series.

After losing two in a row against K-State spanning the 1993-94 seasons, the Jayhawks are a gaudy 48-4 against the Wildcats, including 31-0 from Feb. 12, 1994 to March 11, 2005.

The kicker however, is the Wildcats currently have a one-game winning streak in the series, after knocking off Kansas 85-82 in overtime at home last February.

That “streak” however will come to an end Saturday for a few reasons.

What’s the one thing the Jayhawks have struggled with the most this season — offensive rebounding.

It was never more apparent than Wednesday’s 64-61 squeaker at TCU, where the Horned Frogs corralled 26 offensive rebounds.

Good thing for KU that the Wildcats rank a putrid 310th in overall rebounding at 31.5 per game. Their 10 offensive rebounds per game, don’t rank much better at 234th.

To make matters worse, the team’s leading rebounder, Nino Williams (4.9 per game), will not play after injuring his knee.

If the Jayhawks can’t win the fight on the boards in this one, they don’t deserve to win.

K-State also has trouble scoring, as it’s 65.2 points per game ranks 226th in Division I.

Even if you can rebound and score, you don’t win in Allen Fieldhouse. So, let’s just call the odds of K-State winning, not good.

It won’t just be K-State’s flaws that contribute to the loss either.

The Jayhawks come in as one of the hottest teams in the country, winners of eight-of-nine, and 16-of-18.

While rebounding has been an issue, steady point guard play has improved with the return of freshman Devonte’ Graham.

Even with his zero assists and two turnovers against TCU, he still has a 6.7/1 assist-to-turnover ratio since returning from a toe injury. He also contributed seven points on 3-3 shooting in the game.

Cliff Alexander is averaging 11.3 points, and 8.7 rebounds off the bench, over his past three games. He should be able to take advantage underneath, and bring the Jayhawk faithful to their feet a few times with some rim-rattling dunks.

Perry Ellis will look to bounce back from an eight-point, five-rebound effort against TCU, and shouldn’t have trouble getting the ball in the paint against K-State.

If Brannen Greene is hitting outside shots even close to his rate of 58.8 percent over the past seven games, it could get ugly.

Chances are it will, and the Jayhawks will improve to 7-1 in conference play.

The win will be much-needed, as the two teams trailing KU by just one game in the conference standings, West Virginia and Iowa St., have Texas Tech and TCU at home Saturday.

Prediction: Kansas 81, Kansas State 60

Hawk of the Game: Perry Ellis, 17 points, eight rebounds

Next: Kansas Jayhawks: Five Bold Predictions for the Rest of the Regular Season

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