Another year, another Sunflower Showdown in Allen Fieldhouse. I’ve already covered the Wildcats’ ineptitude in the Phog, but this may prove to be a tough task. After the start to what looked like it was going to be a joke season for Bruce Weber and friends, the Wildcats come to KU the hottest team in the Big 12 behind Iowa State. Riding a 10-game win streak with recent wins over Gonzaga and Oklahoma State, the Wildcats deserve the Jayhawks attention this time. Kansas State boasts a top 25 ranking, a top 50 RPI and a stingy defense that is giving up only 58 points and 39.2 percent from the field. Am I worried about this game? No, not really. But can KU lose this one if they don’t come ready to play? Absolutely. Here is what you should watch for:
1. “Grind it out” or “run and gun”? KSU and KU have played in different style games nearly all year. While a typical Bill Self team would be happy to play in a tough defensive bout, defensively this is not a typical Self team. Not yet anyway. On the road, KSU will want to slow this thing down and try to withstand any infamous Fieldhouse runs. KSU is averaging only 1.05 points per possession and an effective field goal percentage well under 50 percent. KU should look to be their high scoring and efficient selves to have the best chance to win. They need to avoid a slugfest.
2. Can Foster and the gang handle the Phog? Marcus Foster is the real surprise on this Kansas State team. The 6-2, 200 lb freshman guard is the team’s leading scorer at 14.1 points per game and is shooting a decent clip from beyond the arc posting a 36.7 percent total. That said, KSU has had only three true road games this season: a beat down at Georgetown, an ugly win at Long Beach State and a victory at Big 12 bottom feeder TCU. In Foster’s defense, he has been relatively consistent on the road. But playing at KU is a little different. The place will be juiced as usual. To be certain, the young freshman will need to keep his cool if his team is to have a fighting chance.
3. Selden sighting? As has been well documented here, the uber-talented freshman Wayne Selden has had a rough go at it all season, stuggling to find his place on this team. That all changed last week at Oklahoma. He finally looked smooth and confident, using his strengths to his advantage and avoiding dumb turnovers. Now he gets a chance to flex his muscles again in the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse. It will be interesting to see if he has really put it together. If he has, and Wiggins is back to his usual self, it will be a long night for the Wildcats.