With football practically wrapping up with only the Super Bowl left, the nation’s focus shifts towards basketball. Especially college basketball as we are only a month and a half away from the greatest time of the year. Two teams who we can be assured will be playing come March are the upstart Kansas State Wildcats and reigning champion Kansas Jayhawks. The Big 12 is loaded this year and these two rivals are poised for an electric matchup. Can the Jayhawks climb back up the ranks of their conference with a win over the Big 12 leader?
Kansas State Vs. Kansas Odds
Oddsmakers certainly think so as they opened the Jayhawks as a -6 favorite. Bettors have sided in their favor as well, taking them up to -6.5 in some shops as of writing. This serves as a revenge spot for the Jayhawks as they lost their previous matchup to Kansas State in a one loss overtime thriller. Kansas has faltered as of late, going on a three-game skid before impressively turning it around on the road against Kentucky. They are still efficient on both ends of the court and will have key advantages over the Wildcats.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a blistering pace as oddsmakers opened the total at 145. Bettors are in agreement, backing the over up to 146. This line movement comes as a bit of a surprise as the Jayhawks offense has sputtered as of late while their defense is poised to give the Wildcats fits. Kansas State has been a force in their own right but have lacked secondary scoring as of late and will be hard pressed to find scoring consistency.
Kansas State Vs. Kansas Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Kansas -6
With the total facing odd line movement, I will back the Jayhawks in a revenge spot instead as they are schemed to give the Wildcats fits on both ends of the court. They should have won their previous matchup against the Wildcats, but foul trouble and lack of depth all but sealed their fate as Kansas State pulled ahead in overtime. Should they avoid fault trouble this time around, then they are more than capable of running away with this one to remind the conference who the reigning champ is.
That all starts with their star player in Jalen Wilson who is arguably one of the best players in the nation. He has exploded onto the scene this year by averaging 21.4 points per game. He is a game changer and there go to player down the stretch. His height and scoring versatility give any opposing defender fits as he can burn past you for a look at the rim or stop and shoot over you.
His play making ability will be tested against the Kansas State defense as they currently rank 27th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. This has been a unit that has prided their early seasons success on their defense, turning their defensive Havoc minded skillset to points in transition. The Wildcats prefer to play at a fast pace as they have been a weak halfcourt offensive unit. Turning defense into offense allows them to avoid a snail’s pace and put up points in a hurry.
The issue they may face in this one is that their defensive identity does not match up well against the Jayhawks. When they are unable to generate Havoc, opposing offensive units have found success in the paint as Kansas State is horrific at guarding the rim. This sucks their help defense into the paint to limit the scoring opportunities, leaving the perimeter open for the likes of Gradey Dick to exploit. Dick currently shoots an incredible 42.7% from three.
Kansas State Vs. Kansas Key Matchups
Can the Jayhawks defense limit the Wildcats scoring production?
Kansas defense vs Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell
While the Jayhawks offensive production went through a bumpy road the past couple of games, it was their defense that gave Kansas a puncher’s chance in their losing stretch. They currently top-20 in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency per Kenpom.
They excel at limiting both the perimeter and looks at the rim, both areas that the Wildcats will look to exploit. Kansas State has a lethal duo in prolific scorer Keyontae Johnson and facilitator Markquis Nowell.
Should the Jayhawks limit their production, then scoring will be tough to come by as the Wildcats will be unable to exploit the middle of their defense. They lack a midrange, allowing Kansas to stay firm on their defensive identity.
Back the Jayhawks in a revenge spot at no higher than -6.5 as they have key advantages on both ends of the court.