February 25 is the next big date on the Big 12
schedule. That's when the Kansas
Jayhawks and Missouri Tigers will meet at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, presumably with the No. 1 seed for
the postseason conference tournament on the line.
That is, of course, assuming the Jayhawks and Tigers avoid a
slipup between now and that showdown in Kansas. Up next for the Jayhawks is just that
potential with Bill Self and KU trekking to the Little Apple on Monday night
for a matchup with in-state rival Kansas
trip to Bramlage Coliseum last Valentine's Day came as the No. 1 team in the
country, but Rock Chalk left with a loss to an unranked Wildcats that had been struggling,
including a blowout loss to the Jayhawks on their home floor earlier in the
Sound familiar? Three
hundred and sixty-four days later, this meeting shares eerie similarities. Kansas
isn't ranked No. 1, but should be up around fifth or sixth in the polls set to
come out a few hours before this 9 PM (ET) tip on ESPN. Once again, Kansas State
is struggling and will enter the game unranked and as home underdogs. The overnight college basketball lines made the Jayhawks 3 point favorites with 137 for the total.
The Big 12 was supposed to be a three team race this season,
but Kansas and Missouri have each already beaten Baylor (Baylor play Iowa State tonight) twice to turn the conference into a two team tussle. There should be a top regional seed available
to either the Jayhawks or Tigers when Selection Sunday arrives in a month, but
only if the eventual Big 12 winner can avoid falling in an upset along the way.
Losing on the road as 3 point chalk might not sound like it
would be that big of an upset, but it would be, even more so than when Kansas
was No. 1 and a 6 point favorite last Valentine's before being schooled by the
Wildcats, 84-68. In fact, it's been a
big upset anytime the Jayhawks fall to K-State in this series. Kansas
has won 43 of the last 46 meetings, and 22 of 24 played at Bramlage Coliseum
which has sometimes been called Phog Allen Fieldhouse West.
Bill Self once again brings his Jayhawks into this game
having already smoked the Wildcats in an earlier meeting at Lawrence;
a 67-49 win over the Wildcats on Jan. 4 when the NCAA basketball odds closed Jayhawks
-9.5. Last season, KU walloped K-State 90-66 as a 10 point home favorite before
the rematch in Manhattan.
The Jayhawks dominated the glass in the January win,
doubling up the Wildcats in the rebound column, 48-24. Seventeen of those boards came on the
offensive end to give Kansas
early second chances while building a 15 point halftime lead. The extra effort pulling down missed shots
went a long way to making up for 19 KU turnovers, eight by Tyshawn Taylor.
Travis Releford (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Thomas Robinson
(15 & 14) were the boxscore stars for the Jayhawks with their
double-doubles. But another key part of
that contest was Jeff Withey's six blocks.
The seven-foot junior had a horrible game in a loss at Missouri a little more than week ago when he
netted a big fat goose egg on the scoreboard in 23 totally ineffective
minutes. Withey bounced back in a big
way this past week with two incredible performances, first a career high 25 in
the 68-54 win at Baylor before an 18 point, 20 rebound, 7 block showing in last
Saturday's 81-66 victory over Oklahoma State.
While Withey was busy putting on a show against the Cowboys,
was laying an egg down in Austin
to the young Longhorns. Four point underdogs to Texas,
the Wildcats slowly watched a 40-27 halftime lead disappear at the foul line
where the 'Horns outscored Kansas
State 35-8. The Wildcats never even attempted a free
throw in the second half, but Frank Martin never even mentioned the foul shot
discrepancy after that game.
What he did mention was Texas simply gave his club a beating and his
guys never fought back. That was very
similar to the first meeting this season between Martin's Wildcats and Self's
Jayhawks, when KU controlled the fight by outmuscling K-State inside.
Taking a Chance: Martin
has been starting two freshman lately, which can be a problem for any club
other than Kentucky
where John Calipari seems to be able to recruit a top 10 lineup of rookies year
after year. Forward Thomas Gipson, who
was completely off his game Saturday at Texas,
has been in the mix most of the season while Angel Rodriguez has only recently
been starting games at point guard. Another guy who has often played like a
freshman lately is senior Jamar Samuels.
inconsistency plus Withey really elevating his play to give KU a huge edge on
the inside is why the Jayhawks are the play in this one. My pick is Kansas -3.