• WHEN/WHERE: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.
Kansas City Star
• TV/RADIO: KMCI (Ch. 38); KCSP (610 AM), WHB (810 AM)
KU’s Jeff Withey and K-State’s Jordan Henriquez are similar players with similar strengths, but Withey is an All-American candidate while Henriquez has struggled to get going this season. K-State’s Shane Southwell is a guard starting at the four-spot for K-State, but KU’s Kevin Young has the athleticism to chase Southwell on the perimeter.
The most important matchup may be found in the backcourt, where KU senior Travis Releford will be matched up with K-State leading scorer Rodney McGruder. Releford drew the assignment last year as well, and KU held McGruder to 13.5 points on 34 percent shooting in two victories. Releford said Monday that McGruder appears to be looking to score more this year. Thing is, even if McGruder gets going, KU still has freshman Ben McLemore to tilt the backcourt battle in its favor.
Both Kansas and K-State have a handful of players capable of coming off the bench and impacting the game, but K-State has more. Jordan Henriquez might be the X-factor for K-State. If he plays at his highest level and challenges Jeff Withey inside, the Wildcats will take their chances. Martavious Irving has provided key defensive stops in recent games and Nino Williams is capable of getting hot from the field. For Kansas, Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe are the top two players off the bench. Both have shown flashes this season, but haven’t contributed as much to their teams as K-State’s bench.
The biggest intangible helping K-State on Tuesday should be Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats played in front of sparse crowds while the season overlapped with football and haven’t played in front of a packed home crowd yet. That should change for this game. With both teams ranked in the top 11 and school back in session, the atmosphere should rival highly anticipated games against Texas and Kansas three years ago. A vocal crowd helped K-State upset Florida and the Sprint Center in December. Kansas has experience in wild environments, though. It won at Ohio State earlier this season.
If KU’s offense continues to struggle, and K-State gets hot from the outside, an upset by K-State is possible. But history suggests KU escaping Manhattan with another victory.
| Rustin Dodd, firstname.lastname@example.org; Kellis Robinett, email@example.com