Kansas State Wildcats basketball Bruce Weber Chris Lowery Markquis Nowell Davion Bradford Mark Smith Mike McGuirl
basketball Edit

Game Preview: Wildcats vs Kansas

Bill Self has Kansas back in the top 10 in most ratings, led by an efficient offense featuring a pair of high school players from the Kansas City area.

The Jayhawks have earned solid wins in non-conference action over Michigan State (No. 25 NET), Iona (No. 51) and North Texas (No. 54). They did lose to Dayton (No. 69). In league play, Kansas has wins over Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, but they fell to Texas Tech.

The wins over the Cyclones and Sooners came down to the final minute.

For the full season, the Jayhawks rank third nationally in KenPom's offensive efficiency (1.20 points per possession), ninth in effective field goal percentage (56.5 percent), 10th in two-point percentage (56.7 percent), 35th in three-point percentage (37.4 percent) and 22nd in offensive rebounding rate (No. 22).

In Big 12 games, they are second in efficiency at 1.06 points per possession, second in effective field goal percentage (53.5 percent), second in offensive rebounding rate (36.0 percent), second in three-point percentage (39.3 percent) and fifth in two-point percentage (51.1 percent).

In other words, the offense has remained their strength.

They are turnover prone and rank eighth in the league in turnover rate (22.6 percent), and Kansas doesn't get to the free throw line at a high rate. They're last in free throw rate (22.0%), though they do make 76.2 percent from the charity stripe.

Bill Self
Bill Self

Their defense is still very good, but it is not dominant. They rank fourth in the Big 12 in efficiency (0.96 points per possession). They are the best in the league in eFG% (effective field goal percentage) defense (42.6 percent) and allow only 25.6 percent from beyond the arc (No. 1).

They also surrender just 44.2 percent on two-point baskets (No. 3).

Teams also only take 28.4 percent of their shot attempts from distance, which is best in the Big 12.

They are poor in all the other defensive factors, though.

The Jayhawks rank seventh in free throw rate allowed (30.4 percent) and are last in both forcing turnovers (17.2 percent turnover rate) and offensive rebounding rate allowed (34.4 percent).

When looking at matchups, several things stand out about the Sunflower Showdown.

For weaknesses, forcing turnovers will be instrumental. Kansas has a turnover rate of 20 percent or more in four of their five conference games. Kansas State's turnover rate forced in league contests isn't great, but it has picked up with Markquis Nowell's return to the lineup.

The Jayhawks are also not the best team in the world at defensive rebounding. They allow an offensive rebounding rate of 30 percent or more in every Big 12 game. It has even been 36 percent or worse in three of the last five.

Christian Braun
Christian Braun

K-State, by the numbers, isn't a great rebounding team. Part of that was due to missing some of their key contributors. With a full roster, offensive rebounding has been an important metric for them in the wins over Texas Tech and Texas.

Kansas has allowed a free throw rate of 32 percent or better in three of the last four games, but the Wildcats haven't been prolific at making trips to the line. They've also shot poorly on free throws in the last two games.

Defensively, Kansas State will have to focus on slowing down a potent Jayhawk offense, especially limiting good shots for the league's best shooting team.

Kansas has had an eFG% of 50 percent or better in every league game, made 38 percent or better from deep in four of five, while hitting 52 percent on twos in three of the five games.

They are tough on the offensive glass and have finished with an offensive rebounding rate of at least 34.5 percent in four of five Big 12 games.

Finally, K-State has shot it well from beyond the arc in Big 12 play, but the Jayhawks do a great job of limiting looks and teams have made under 30 percent in four of five Big 12 games. The best mark against them was the 33.3 percent performance from Iowa State.

Shooting guard Ochai Agbaji is a sure-fire pick for a first team all-Big 12 selection and is scoring 18.4 points per game and grabbing 5 rebounds per game in Big 12 games. He is hitting 50 percent from distance on 7.6 attempts and recording an offensive rating of 1.20, which is impressive for his shot rate (27.4 percent).

Agbaji has scored 20 or more in three of the last four games.

Forward Jalen Wilson has developed a solid inside-out threat and is next in scoring at 13.0 points per game, along with his 7.0 rebounds per game and 2.6 assists. Wilson hits 40 percent from deep on four attempts per game and finishes around the basket well.

He has a two-point percentage of 73.9 percent in league contests. His 1.25 offensive rating is excellent, and he's scored 20 points or more in two of the last four games.

Shooting guard Christian Braun is Kansas' third significant perimeter threat and is averaging 12.2 points per game in league play and grabbing 5.8 rebounds per game. Braun hits 36.8% from beyond the arc on 3.8 attempts per game.

He also gets to the free throw line more often than any other Jayhawk at 2.8 attempts pre game. His offensive rating is lower at 1.03, but he's made key shots in multiple close games for Kansas. Although he has multiple 20-point games this season, none have come in conference play.

Ochai Agbaji
Ochai Agbaji

Forward David McCormack scores 9.4 points per game and collects a team-leading 8.8 rebounds per game. He plays 20 minutes per game, but the ball goes through him often when he's on the floor. He leads the Jayhawks in usage at 23.9 percent in conference action.

His offensive rating is 1.25. McCormack's best games in the league have been impressive. He tallied 19 points and 15 rebounds against West Virginia and 17 points and 15 rebounds versus Oklahoma State.

The fifth starter is point guard Dajuan Harris.

Harris scores 6.4 points per game and leads the team in assists at 3.8 per game. He's not a big shooting threat and only hits 28.6 percent in Big 12 games.

Remy Martin was one of the best transfers in the transfer portal, but the former Arizona guard has been limited by injuries in Big 12 games and missed three of the last six contests for the Jayhawks.

He played 15 minutes in the last game against Oklahoma and finished with only two points.

Jalen Coleman-Lands is now with his fourth team, second Big 12 squad, and he is in his sixth year of college basketball. Coleman-Lands has a more limited role off of the bench at Kansas, but he can still score it, as is evidenced by his 20-point output against George Mason.

Forward Mitch Lightfoot has been a Jayhawk a long, long, long, long time and still has a role in Self's rotation. he scores 4.2 points and grabs 3.8 rebounds per game. His best game since the league contests began did come versus the Sooners when he logged nine points and six rebounds.

Markquis Nowell
Markquis Nowell (Getty)

SUMMARY AND PREDICTION

HOW TO WATCH: ESPN Plus

TIP TIME: 3:00 P.M. CST

FAN: It is a huge "prove it" game for Kansas State. They've played well the last two games after having their full roster back. We'll see if that continues against one of the best in the Big 12. K-State can play well and lose, but landing home wins is imperative, especially after already dropping a pair in league contests. To stay within distance of an NCAA Tournament berth, a home win over Kansas or Baylor will likely be necessary and Saturday provides a prime opportunity for a team that has been playing well. The Wildcats continue to play well and win by forcing turnovers, being better on the offensive glass and shooting well enough to hang with the Kansas offense. Kansas State wins a big one, 72-67.

DY: I'm conflicted. There's a part of me that believes that momentum could carry the Wildcats to another upset victory. And another part of me believes that the Jayhawks should be able to win, even if by a narrow margin, because they are by far the more talented team. K-State likely defeated two teams more talented than them in consecutive contests. It's hard to see a third. Kansas sneaks past them, 75-68.

FLANDO: The Jayhawks are good, but they're not undefeated. Kansas State will have to play the best defense they have all season and will need help from everyone on the offensive end. Mark Smith, Nijel Pack and Nowell will all have to be sharp. Mike McGuirl will have to continue his solid contribution off the bench, and one of Selton Miguel or Ismael Massoud must bust out and knock down some timely shots. K-State has connected on two wins without everything coming together, but beating Kansas might take that special of a game. I don't think they surprise Kansas twice this season, but if they are going to do it once, it will be in Manhattan. The Wildcats get it done, 69-66.

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