The Sunflower Showdown: Part Three.
After sharing the Big 12 Regular Season championship, this game has been on the wish lists of fans of both Kansas and Kansas State. The teams will face each other for the Big 12 Conference Tournament Championship on Saturday with major bragging rights and potential NCAA tournament seeding implications on the line.
Both Kansas and Kansas State looked impressive in their semifinal victories Friday. The Jayhawks won their third game over Iowa State this season in convincing fashion, 88-73. Perry Ellis played by far and away the best game of his career and made Kansas look like a different ball club than they have all season. Ellis had 23 points on only 12 field goal attempts.
Kansas State looked unstoppable at times during their 68-57 win over Oklahoma State. Their offense was flowing. Defensively, they held the Cowboys to only 23 points in the first half. Angel Rodriguez was calm, cool, and collected in his duty as floor general for the Wildcats. His style of play makes Kansas State a different type of team than they have been in years past.
Players to watch for:
#34 Perry Ellis: After his 23 point, six rebound outburst against Iowa State, it will be interesting to see how Ellis plays against a team who plays excellent defense. If he can play against Kansas State the way he did against the Cyclones, Kansas has a very good chance to win the game. Ellis seemed invigorated during his post game interviews and is full of needed confidence at just the right time.
# 24 Travis Releford: As was the case is the previous two meetings between the teams, Releford’s defense will be critical for a Jayhawk victory. Kansas State is on top of their game right now and if Releford allows Rodney McGruder to score 25 points on top of the good game Angel Rodriguez is sure to have, the Jayhawks could be in real trouble Saturday.
#13 Angel Rodriguez: The sophomore point guard is slowly gaining praise from the media as his college career goes on. Fran Fraschilla said during Kansas State’s win Friday that Rodriguez “has the potential to be one of the best point guards in the country next season.” Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe will have tough assignments when guarding Rodriguez Saturday.
#22 Rodney McGruder: Kansas State’s senior leader, McGruder is a huge defensive concern for Kansas. With the ability to score from anywhere on the floor and score 30 points on any given night, Kansas’ defense will have to be on high-alert for McGruder for them to emerge with a Big 12 Tournament crown.
How I See It:
The confidence Kansas displayed Friday will carry them to a Big 12 tournament championship. The Jayhawks looked like a team- one cohesive, smooth unit. And let’s face it- Kansas State doesn’t always bring their A game when facing their biggest rival. Bruce Weber has yet to prove he can coach against Bill Self and Saturday will show that yet again.
Last Time They Met:
Ben McLemore dropped 30 points on his 20th birthday and Jeff Withey broke the all-time KU blocked shots record.
I predicted Kansas would lose to Iowa State and said that they couldn’t put a complete offensive and defensive game together. I will not make that mistake again. Kansas wins, 78-70