Your Big 12 Game of the
Year Week(?) – No. 1 Kansas at Kansas State – Big Monday, 8 p.m. ESPN
The Octagon of Doom would be rocking. The Wildcats would be ready. An excellent Kansas team would enter with an excellent record looking for a signature road win. The Sunflower Showdown would be better than ever. Who knew how it might go down? But it was going to be a huge game to watch in 2011.
Here’s reality: K-State is desperate for a win. No. 1 Kansas has rolled since the loss to Texas a few weeks ago. The Jayhawks won 90-66 two weeks ago, and almost no one was surprised. A win for the Wildcats would be a colossal upset, and would revive the fear in playing at the Octagon of Doom. But it sure doesn’t look likely.
Kansas State (16-9, 4-6) has failed largely this year on its inability to secure easy or good shots. The Cats’ 43% FG percentage reflects jump shots taken at the wrong time and a front line that doesn’t assert itself nearly as successfully as we imagined it would.
K-State enters this game with no momentum thanks to a 58-56 road loss Saturday to Colorado. Curtis Kelly played 23 minutes and got five points and six rebounds. Not enough, not enough. (He has one double-double all year.)
Jacob Pullen has maintained good offense overall, but his three-point shooting has fallen off without Denis Clemente in the backcourt this year (39.6% down to 33.1%).
Watching this matchup on Jan. 29 was a little sad. Frank Martin didn’t know what to say to his team during the game. It must have been troublesome to see how far his team has fallen from the conference’s elite since last year. Kansas might have won all the games with K-State last year, but the Jayhawks had to work for them every time. K-State belonged.
But two weeks ago in Lawrence, it was back to the old days of Kansas pushing around its in-state rival. Nebraska and Missouri got beat badly by Kansas too, but at least the Huskers and Tigers hung in there for a while. Kansas wins by taking better shots than its opponents do, but when they’re blowing you out from the start, achievement gaps exist in many areas.
Before the first game of the series I thought Kansas State would almost certainly lose in Lawrence but might have an OK chance to win in Manhattan. But I’ve seen nothing since then to suggest Kansas State is capable of the upset. They are bad at choosing good shots, and Kansas is the best at it. They don’t pass enough, and Kansas is a great passing team. The atmosphere always makes this game entertaining, and hopefully it stays interesting for a while for us impartial observers, but I don’t have my hopes too high.
Kansas 83, Kansas State 65