Game 18: Kansas State at No. 23 Kansas – Preview and Prediction

Well here we are; the No. 23 Kansas Jayhawks enter Tuesday’s matchup with in-state rival Kansas State as losers four of their last five, and boy have looked REALLY bad in the process. Even the one win in that stretch was one of the ugliest performances of the year. The Jayhawks turned in a very poor performance, not only just in execution, but also in effort against Tennessee on Saturday en route to losing by 19. Kansas now looks to bounce back against the Wildcats, who are arguably the worst Power 5 program in college basketball this season (their only competition is probably Iowa State). If there was any game for KU to smash somebody and gain some confidence, this would be the one. 

  • Tuesday, February 2, 2021, 7:00 PM CDT
  • Allen Fieldhouse – Lawrence, Kan.  
  • ESPN+ (App time!)
  • Kansas is 99-15 following a loss in the Bill Self era, which started in 2003-04, including 3-2 this season and 3-0 in 2019-20. Incredibly, KU has been even more efficient over the last six-plus seasons, amassing a record of 48-7 after losses. This includes an 8-1 mark in 2018-19. 
  • Kansas leads the Big 12 in blocked shots at 4.3 per game and ranks in the upper half of 10 conference statistical categories
  • Junior Ochai Agbaji is second in the Big 12 in 3-point field goals made per game at 2.6 and is second in 3-point field goal percentage at 38.9%. Agbaji has made 29 threes in his last 10 games.
  • Senior Marcus Garrett and junior Ochai Agbaji have been named to national player mid-season watch lists. Garrett is one of 15 on the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, while Agbaji is a Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award top 10 candidate. Garrett was the 2020 Nasmith DPOY. 
  • With the consecutive weeks being ranked at 231, which is an NCAA record, the Kansas-Kansas State contest will be the 420th-straight game KU will play as a ranked team, a streak which started Feb. 2, 2009. 
  • Kansas enters the Kansas State contest No. 3 in NET strength of schedule, which is first in the Big 12. The Jayhawks have led NCAA Division I in NET SOS each of the last two seasons and five times under head coach Bill Self (2005, 2014, 2015, 2019, 2020).

Wildcats to Watch

Nijel Pack  – 6’0”, freshman, guard
Pack leads the Wildcats in scoring at 11.8 PPG and is coming off a career-high 26 point performance against Texas A&M on Saturday. Pack also leads the squad in assists at 3.8 APG. The freshman can fill it up from the outside, as he’s shooting 39.5 percent from deep. Against A&M, he went 8-14 from three-point land. On a team that lacks offense, Pack has been really good this year, particularly as of late, and his future is bright.

Mike McGuirl – 6’2”, senior, guard
McGuirl profiles similar to Pack. In fact, they have a near-identical statline, as he averages 11.4 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.5 RPG and shoots 34.2 percent from three. McGuirl has been a different player on the road this year, as he’s averaging below his average at 7.2 PPG.

Jayhawk Pick to Click

Marcus Garrett – 6’5”, senior, guard
Garrett has played well as of late. He was one of the lone bright spots against Tennessee, as he scored 15 points with four assists and was 2-2 from three-point land. If KU ever hopes of turning its season around, Marcus Garrett will be a big part of it and his strong play of late is a good sign. 

Prediction

To be honest, my gut told me to pick Tennessee last week, but I talked myself into KU win and cover. If I learned anything from that, it was to trust my gut and that’s what I’m going to do here. 

Let’s do some analysis. Kansas State is terrible at just about everything. They are outside the top 300 in field goals, three-point percentage, free throws, rebounds, blocks, and points. That’s unbelievable for a power-five team, really. Pack and McGuirl are their only offensive weapons. The frontcourt features a 6’10” and 7’0″ duo, but they can’t stay out of foul trouble, and neither one of them can rebound worth a flip.

Things are (slightly) better on the defensive end for the Wildcats, but not by much. Teams are shooting 39% on threes against them, which is one of the worst 20 marks in the nation. Teams are also shooting 54% on twos, which is outside the top 300. Kansas hasn’t shot it well from either inside or outside recently, but the baskets should be there for the Jayhawks all evening. K-State, having lost eight in a row, hasn’t scored more than 70 points since January 5, so even an average offensive game from KU should lead to a comfortable win.

I’m going with the Jayhawks to win outright, obviously. As poorly as they have played recently, they should make shots, play relatively “pretty,” and put forth an effort that resembles a less-polished version of their drubbing in Ft. Worth against TCU in early January. With that said, 18.5 points is A LOT of points to cover, especially for a team like KU with its poor track record. Because we haven’t seen a clean game on the offensive end in weeks, I’ll go with the Jayhawks to win and win comfortably, but I think K-State covers. KU should have no problem getting back on track before a Saturday showdown in Morgantown, where it will likely be fighting to extend its streak of weeks being ranked. 

Kansas 72, Kansas State 57 

Kansas State +18.5 

AUDIO PREVIEW: LINK

Season Record: 11-6 (9-8 ATS)

Bobby Norell

My name is Bobby Norell. I'm from a small town in northern Indiana. I recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Sport Communication. Even though my diploma says I'm a Hoosier, my love for the Jayhawks has never wavered. They'll always come No.1.