Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kansas - Kansas State Preview

The stakes are higher than normal for this year’s first installment of the Sunflower Showdown, as (3) Kansas and (11) Kansas State will be playing for sole possession of first place in the Big 12. Both schools are currently undefeated in league play.

Despite riding a nation-leading 15 game winning streak, the Jayhawks have struggled recently, squeaking out narrow victories over Iowa State and Texas. Kansas has struggled offensively, yet has been bailed out routinely by a great defensive effort led by the nation’s best shot blocker, Jeff Withey. Kansas does have the potential to get hot on offense, especially if freshman Ben McLemore, who leads the Jayhawks in scoring with 16.4 ppg, can get into a groove.

The Wildcats have won eight games in a row, and senior Rodney McGruder has been largely responsible for KSU’s recent surge. McGruder is averaging 15.5 ppg this season, and has been on a tear since conference play began. McGruder will most likely draw Kansas’ Travis Releford, who is one of the best perimeter defenders in the entire country. In the Wildcats two meetings with the Jayhawks last season, McGruder struggled, shooting only 9 of 30 from the floor and 1 of 7 from three. If KState is going to turn the tide against KU, he will have to find a way to be a factor offensively.

The Jayhawks are a ridiculous 22-2 in Bramlage Coliseum since it opened in 1987 and have won 44 of the last 47 meetings. While KU has struggled offensively lately, they still have more firepower than KState and could be due for a big game. The matchup between Releford and McGruder will be the key to this one. If McGruder can continue to play well, KState will have a strong shot at the upset. If Releford once again shuts McGruder down, it may likely be business-as-usual for the Jayhawks in Manhattan.

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