Angel Rodriguez, Will Spradling and Rodney McGruder have all played well since Kansas beat K-State 59-55 last month at Bramlage Coliseum. Spradling was held scoreless in that game, but he has shot the ball better since. Iowa State focused its defense on slowing him down, and McGruder and Rodriguez took advantage of the extra space that created, combining to score 42 points. McGruder has been solid throughout Big 12 play, but Rodriguez is starting to make more positive plays than negative plays. Combined, they are playing better than the Jayhawks backcourt. Elijah Johnson hasnt been himself during their losing streak, and Ben McLemore and Travis Releford arent matching their early production, either. Relefords defense on McGruder was a major factor in the first meeting between these teams. How K-State responds could decide the outcome in the rematch.
• Edge: K-State
Kansas senior Jeff Withey is still a defensive force in the middle, capable of protecting the rim and disrupting an opposing teams offense. His block totals have decreased lately hes averaging 3.75 in his last five games but thats partially because teams have stopped coming inside. He needs just one block to break Greg Ostertags all-time KU record for blocked shots (258). On the other hand, the Jayhawks power-forward spot has become a genuine liability. Senior Kevin Young (6.7 rebounds per game) provides energy and athleticism, but freshmen Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor have struggled to make progress during conference play. K-State, meanwhile, relies on its guards for offensive production and starts wing Shane Southwell at power forward in a small lineup. Southwell had a season-high 19 points including five threes against Kansas in Manhattan. (He also took a disparaging jab at Young after the game before walking back on his statement). Lastly, K-State sophomore Thomas Gipson is the type of banger that can give Withey problems.
• Edge: Push
When Bruce Weber says we have eight starters, he means it. Martavious Irving and Thomas Gipson have played vital roles in K-States current winning streak, while Nino Williams and Omari Lawrence remain capable of having big nights. Irving has scored 10 points in three straight games and Gipson is coming off, perhaps, his finest game in a K-State uniform. He scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds against Iowa State. If they continue to play that way against Kansas, the Wildcats will benefit. For Kansas, Naadir Tharpe and Perry Ellis have had their moments but have been inconsistent lately. While Weber says he would like to start more than five players, Bill Self said after a loss to TCU that he would start only three if he could.
• Edge: K-State
Somethings gotta give. The Jayhawks are mired in their first three-game losing streak in eight years, but theyve also won 45 of their last 48 meetings against the Wildcats. That record includes a 17-1 mark at Allen Fieldhouse. Further, Kansas has won its last five against K-State at Allen by an average of 20 points. Kansas is still a heavy favorite in Vegas, but Kansas State enters as the Big 12s first-place team and is likely to be ranked ahead of KU when the polls come out today. The Jayhawks may be ripe for the picking, but the Wildcats will have to deal with a jacked-up and frustrated crowd inside Allen Fieldhouse.
• EDGE: Kansas
| Rustin Dodd, and Kellis Robinett, The Star