Kansas basketball vs. Kansas State: Sunflower Showdown may surprise

Kansas basketball will face their in-state rival Kansas State this Tuesday in the Sunflower Showdown. Here are five things to know about the Wildcats.

Kansas basketball picked up a gritty road win 57-66 last Saturday against Texas. In a game-time decision, Devon Dotson started against the Longhorns after missing the Jayhawks’ previous game against Oklahoma. Dotson went for 21 points, three assists, and six rebounds in the victory, and it looks like he’ll be able to play through his hip pointer injury that he sustained against Baylor.

Kansas State is also coming off of a win, and an impressive one too. After starting Big 12 play 0-4, the Wildcats took down #12 West Virginia in Manhattan 84-68. Junior Cartier Diarra led the charge for Kansas State, scoring 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

Here are five things to know about the Wildcats, and what they mean for Kansas basketball.

1. Kansas State is 1-4 in Big 12 play

After winning a share in of the Big 12 title last season, no team in the conference lost more talent than the Wildcats. Barry Brown, Dean Wade, and Kamau Stokes are all gone, and it shows on the court. The aforementioned win over West Virginia was by far the biggest of the year for the Wildcats and their only win against a ranked team so far this season.

2. The Wildcats rely heavily upon Cartier Diarra and Xavier Sneed

Cartier Diarra and Xavier Sneed are the two top points per game leaders for Kansas State. Both are averaging around 14 points per game, with the next highest being 6.9 points. The two are also the only ones on the team averaging more than 30 minutes per game, with the next highest only being 19 minutes. If Kansas basketball can stop or slow down Sneed and Diarra, they’ll have the game in the bag.

3. Kansas State’s defense is respectable

Like almost every other team in the Big 12 this season, the Wildcats are more defense dependent than offense dependent according to KenPom. Kansas State is number 51 in defensive adjusted efficiency, meaning they’re one of the better defensive teams in the country. Kansas is used to playing against tough defense though, as the Jayhawks have recently beaten Texas and West Virginia who both rank higher.

4. The Wildcats rely on ball movement more than hero ball

Kansas State registers an assist on 60.2 percent of their field goals, which is well above the average of 51.7 percent according to KenPom. Ball movement is going to be key for the Wildcats against the Jayhawks, but Kansas can thwart the K-State offense by playing sound defense and forcing the turnover-prone Wildcats to make mistakes.

5. Kansas State doesn’t take care of the basketball

One of the biggest issues with the Wildcat offense is the number of times they turn the ball over. Against West Virginia, Kansas State turned the ball over 16 times, and the only reason that didn’t kill them was because the Mountaineers turned it over 18 times (Diarra had seven turnovers alone). According to the NCAA, the Wildcats average 14.8 turnovers per game, which ranks number 280 in the country. If Kansas can take advantage of the Wildcats sloppiness, they should be able to generate a few extra possessions.

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Kansas basketball has a chance this Tuesday to move to 5-1 in conference play, and get a win over their in-state rival. Despite their record, Kansas State will probably play the Jayhawks tough. They’re coming off of a major victory over a top 15 team, so they’ll certainly be feeling good with a chance to knock off another top-ranked team.

The Wildcats aren’t a freebie, and the Mountaineers found out the hard way on Saturday.

You can catch the game at 6:00 PM (CT) on ESPN 2.