It's no secret that it's been over a quarter century since Kansas lost to its in-state inferior on their home court. It's also well known that the team that resides in Bramlage Coliseum has yet to win a game there against the Jayhawks. Something I didn't know until recently was that this streak is second only to UCLA's 25 road game winning streak over California. It would be nice if I went to bed tonight knowing that record has now been matched.
This is a pretty tough game to call, because I really don't know how the Wildcats want to play this one. Mostly because they're saying things like this. If they're half as confident in their defense as they say they are, it would make sense to me for them to play it exactly like Georgia Tech did. Since Kansas has an enormous advantage in the backcourt and with Beasley and Walker being the only true offensive threats I can't see Frankie wanting to play this game at a very tepid pace. (But he says the opposite) Tying in with that last point, since Beasley and Walker do present matchup problems and are plenty good enough to get their own shots, I'll be surprised if they don't base their offense on having those two take turns isolated on their defender. If this happens, don't be shocked to see Self go to a zone, forcing the Wildcats to beat them from the outside.
Defensively, everyone seems to think the Purple are pretty good. Call me a sucker, but I have a hard time believing in the defensive ability of a team that got a 103 hung on them by Xavier less than a month ago. And more telling than anything in that game was how easily Xavier's guards, notably Drew Lavender were able to penetrate past the ineffective Wildcat perimeter defense. Hello, Sherron Collins. And Mario Chalmers. And Russell Robinson. And Brandon Rush.
So much attention has been paid to how the Jayhawks will stop Beasley and Walker, and rightfully so. But does anyone think a team that gave up 103 to Xavier, 87 to George Mason, and 82 to Oklahoma is going to clamp down the Kansas offense? Me neither. But when you look at the numbers, that's the only way they can win.
Kansas has scored less than 71 points exactly once this year (@ USC). They have allowed more than 71 points exactly twice (72 v. Arizona in OT and 78 to ULM in the first game).
For the year, Kansas is scoring 83.4 per game (81.4 in B12). They are allowing 58.5 on the year (58.2 in Big 12). Worst case scenario – take the lower scoring average and higher points allowed and say the Wildcats are 10 points better in each…Kansas still wins 71-68.
From the other side, the Purple are scoring 80.6 per game (78 in Big 12). They are allowing about 66 per game (63 in Big 12). Not much point in analyzing those much past that, but as you can see, Kansas is decidedly better at both.
From a comparative standpoint, neither team has played many high scoring teams, but here's a look at the games against teams in the Top 50. Kansas played @ Methzou (80.8) and yielded 70 points. They also played @ Georgia Tech (77.7) and yielded 66. The Wildcats played @ Xavier (78.3) and yielded 103.
They each have played a few more that are in the Top 50 defensively. The Purple have played @ Xavier (62.1) and they got 77. They also played A&M (61.8) and got 75. Kansas played @ USC (61.5) and only got to 59. They also played Miami (OH) (61) and got 78. They have played Nebraska (57.9) twice, in Lincoln they got 79; they bumped it up to 84 in Lawrence.
Take that for what you will. But the way I see it is that although Kansas likely won't hold the Wildcats to the same 58 point average their other opponents have been scoring, there's no reason to think the Purple will hold the Jayhawks down as well as other opponents (66) either. And if that's the case, it's easily presumable that Kansas could score 75 tonight. If you'll remember an earlier statement I made about how few opponents have scored over 70 on KU, this is likely a stat the Purple wish they didn't know.
My final take: The Wildcats will have to score 80 points to win this game. And considering that the only time a team came close was when Kansas was without Rush and up 30 most of the game, I don't quite see it happening. Let's say…
Kansas 77 Kansas State 68
Something I didn't bother mentioning in the analysis because it doesn't seem like anything worth counting on; fouls. Beasley is fantastic – better than any player on the Kansas roster. But Kansas has four quality big men to rotate on him, totaling 20 fouls to give. As far as I know, he'll only be allowed 5. If they really want to win this game, he'll have to go against either Jackson or Arthur most of the time, so this could play a big factor. He could either be forced to the bench or at least be rendered less effective because he has to play less aggressively.
As for some other perspectives…
Here is a blog from the Topeka Capitol Journal written by an optimistic Wildcat
This is a look back at some of the Purple coaches involved in 'The Streak'
From the KC Star, here is a breakdown of all the matchups. I agree with everything except for the ludicrous claim of the Wildcats having the edge off the bench. Apparently they forgot that the Kansas bench scores 30 a game and has Sherron Collins.
Courtesy of Luke Winn, here is a Q&A with (lack of) Bladder Control Bill (Walker)
And finally, some intelligence, courtesy of the KC Sports Report