You’ll have to go the Internet to find it, but there’s a really good basketball rivalry tonight in the Big 12.
No. 15 Kansas hosts No. 22 Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. It’s only on ESPN3, because bowl games are still being dragged out and hey, Duke is playing Temple. Hopefully you have a good connection and a sharp picture, because this is the top game of the year so far in the conference.
A lot has been said about how this year’s Kansas team (10-3) is “different” from Self’s other teams, a label that is clearly not a compliment. To be sure, there aren’t the obvious stars available to come off the bench like there were in 2008, when Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich were fighting Russell Robinson and Sasha Kaun for playing time.
Everyone loved to talk about how “deep” those Kansas teams were, and certainly the depth isn’t quite there now. But that was extremely unusual – this is more normal. And yet forward Thomas Robinson is still an All-American – one of those players that is worth watching even for those who prefer the NBA to the college game.
You also hear a lot about the home gym in Lawrence. Allen Fieldhouse is a great place and the fans get very into these rivalry games – they will be very loud from the start of tonight’s game. But KU has won 82 out of 83 at home largely because of the teams they put on the floor – the fans help some, but the talent has been the primary factor in home success. People talk about K-State’s “curse” in Lawrence, but remember, Kansas has had the better team almost every year that said “curse” has been in place.
Certainly, home court advantage makes a big difference in college basketball. It might make the difference tonight. But don’t think that Allen Fieldhouse is winning this game for KU. If the Wildcats outplay the Jayhawks, I think K-State will win.
FOR KANSAS STATE, experience from previous seasons should help in the team’s second road game of the year. I think the Wildcats (11-1) are confident they can hang with KU and beyond that compete for a Big 12 title.
Why not? Jamar Samuels and Thomas Gipson are scoring and getting it done on the glass. Will Spradling is shooting a great percentage from both inside and outside the arc, and Rodney McGruder is reliable. Frank Martin’s team has a well-earned connection with physical toughness.
Kansas State might not have played in many road environments yet, but that’s not unusual for the first week of January. The Cats had an exciting game against West Virginia out in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. The double OT loss is the only mark against them this season. Wins over Alabama and Long Beach State suggest good things. I haven’t seen much of K-State this year, and I’m excited to see a big conference game for them.
They face Missouri on Saturday and Baylor next week, so we’ll see three big conference games straight away for the Wildcats.
For all the talk about Kansas’ decreased talent this year, the Jayhawks have a nice win themselves over Georgetown. In previous years, they did a great job of working inside first (be it with Aldrich or the Morris twins) and kicking out for 3s on the wing. KU got a lot of quick early leads in conference play. K-State must contain Robinson without keying so much on him that other people get too much space, while KU’s Tyshawn Taylor needs to limit the turnovers and get his team comfortable in the halfcourt set in which the Jayhawks traditionally thrive.
Kansas 73, Kansas State 66