It’s not a stretch to say that the Big 12 is by far the most dominant conference in basketball this season. They are loaded with talent with multiple teams being able to make a run come March. One of those teams includes Kansas State, a Big 12 surprise who started the season with a 15-2 record. They come off a recent loss against another Big 12 darling in TCU but are poised to bounce back against the conference leading Kansas Jayhawks. Can they pull it off?
Kansas Vs. Kansas State Odds
Oddsmakers believe this will be a tight one by opening the Wildcats as a +2 underdog on their home court. Bettors are more confident in their chances in getting the upset, quickly backing them down to +1.5 in some shops. The allure of Kansas has been wearing off as of late, constantly finding themselves in tight scoring contests. This is an unsustainable level of winning, one that will be in jeopardy against the Wildcats’ balanced style of play.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored in a flash as oddsmakers opened the total at 147.5. Bettors have yet to nudge the number in either direction as of writing, keeping it the same as the open. The high total comes as no surprise as both teams want to get out in transition with very quick tempos, forcing defenses to scramble and create wide open looks from the perimeter. Kansas State ranks 72nd in Adjusted Tempo while Kansas is not too far behind at 114th.
Kansas Vs. Kansas State Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Kansas State +2
Kansas has looked every bit of their championship winning selves early in the season, clicking on both ends at an elite rate. While their metrics still indicate they have sustained that level of play, they have been susceptible to close contests and are slipping against inferior competition. Now they get one of the best home crowds in basketball against a Kansas State squad who is loaded with talent.
Leading the charge is star forward Keyontae Johnson who is playing at an elite level. Johnson is currently averaging 18.4 points per game, 7.1 rebounds, and shooting 56.4% from the floor and nearly 40% from three. This is a very high level of play, especially since it seemed like he would have an early retirement after a scary situation a few years ago when he collapsed mid game. His turnaround since then is remarkable and a motivational factor.
He doesn’t do it alone though as he is accompanied by fellow guard Markquis Nowell who dictates the whole offensive flow. Johnson’s success is heavily correlated to Nowell’s ability to get him in open space by averaging 8.5 assists per game. Not only is he getting his shooters into open areas for clean looks, but he also has been a lethal scorer himself by averaging 17.1 points per game.
This combination of stars makes Kansas State’s offense very lethal as they can burn you from multiple levels. While the Jayhawks defense is elite, sitting at 12th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency per Kenpom, they will be hard pressed to limit the inside-out production that Nowell and Johnson give them. Forcing their defense to scramble and play on their heels creates openings for Nowell to exploit in his drives towards the middle, giving the Wildcats opportunities to keep scoring pace all game long.
(Tallysight pick tile here)
Kansas Vs. Kansas State Key Matchups
Can the Wildcats defense slow down the Jayhawks enough for their offense to capitalize and secure the win?
Kansas three-point shooting vs Kansas State perimeter defense
In the Jayhawks recent performances, it has been made apparent that slowing down their perimeter production has been the key to beating them. They are chalk full of elite shooters, shooting at 37.6% from the perimeter and are 13th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency.
When Gradey Dick and Dajuan Harris Jr are on, this offense is near unstoppable as they spread the floor thin and allow their other playmakers to get more clean looks at the rim.
Kansas State’s defense has been respectable, ranking 40th in AdjD. They are facing a similar offensive style and ill be well equipped to limit the perimeter production. When Kansas is stalled out from deep, their offense stumbles and struggles to generate their own quality shots.
In a massive rivalry game, I will back the Wildcats on the number in what will be a thrilling display of offense with the duo of Nowell and Johnson running the show.