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Will Kansas State be able to avoid turnovers in Allen Fieldhouse?
Team: Kansas State
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 31
All statistics from KenPom.com unless otherwise noted
• Turnovers: Kansas State has been the Big 12's best team in offensive turnover percentage (16.6 percent) and third-best team in defensive turnover percentage (21.4 percent) during league play. Meanwhile, turnovers on both ends have been especially costly for KU during conference play, as the Jayhawks are seventh in the Big 12 in offensive turnover percentage and eighth in defensive turnover percentage during that time. In the first meeting, KU had 13 giveaways to KSU's 10, which was a significant difference considering the game was played at a slow pace (60 possessions).
• Shooting confidence: K-State has greatly improved its accuracy in the last month under new coach Bruce Weber. The Wildcats, who rank 218th nationally in two-point percentage (46.4 percent), have made 49 percent of their twos in conference play (second in Big 12). The Wildcats also lead the league in three-point shooting during league play, making 38.6 percent of their long-range shots. Rodney McGruder (45.3 percent), Shane Southwell (39.5 percent) and Will Spradling (38.9 percent) have all posted impressive three-point shooting percentages in their last 10 games.
• Limiting three-pointers on defense: KSU continues to be a team that does a good job of preventing three-pointers defensively. Only 27.3 percent of opponents' field goal attempts against KSU are threes (29th-lowest split nationally), while according to Hoop-Math.com, 42 percent of the shots taken against the Wildcats are two-point jumpshots — statistically the worst shot an offense can take.
• Drawing fouls: Kansas State has posted the top offensive efficiency in Big 12 play (1.09 points per possession) while getting almost no production from the free throw line. The Wildcats rank last in the conference in offensive free throw rate and have averaged just 15 free throw attempts through 10 league games. With Weber's motion offense, KSU is reliant on jumpshots to score, as 43 percent of its field goal tries are two-point jumpers (NCAA average is 33 percent).
• Interior defense: KSU has not challenged inside shots well during Big 12 play. Opponents have made 47.9 percent of their twos in league games (eighth in conference). Part of the reason for this is the undersized lineup that the Wildcats play. Shane Southwell, who played as a guard a year ago, plays most of the team's minutes as an undersized 4, which also creates mismatches for KSU on the offensive end with his ability to shoot.
• Fouling too often: KSU has especially struggled in this area in its last 10 games, ranking seventh in the conference in defensive free throw rate. While playing at the second-slowest pace in the conference, the Wildcats have allowed 19.3 free throws per game. KU dominated this facet in the first matchup, shooting 21 free throws to KSU's seven.
3 Players to Watch
• Six-foot-4 guard Rodney McGruder (No. 22) remains as K-State's go-to guy offensively. The senior does a great job of working off screens to get open (ESPN's Seth Greenberg has a nice video breakdown of McGruder doing that here), and if he does get free, he's a great spot-up jump-shooter. While taking 28.1 percent of KSU's shots while he's in (173rd nationally), McGruder has kept his efficiency in an elite range by limiting his turnovers (204th-best turnover rate) while making 36 percent of his threes and 49 percent of his twos. KU's Travis Releford did a nice job of chasing McGruder down in the second half of KU's 59-55 victory in Manhattan, and the senior should have the same defensive assignment Monday night.
• KU fans should remember from the first matchup how dangerous 6-foot-6 Shane Southwell (No. 1) can be. The undersized power forward made KU regret leaving him open on the perimeter, as he made five of 11 three-pointers to finish with a team-high 19 points. Southwell is not a threat to score at the rim (only five percent of his shots are from close range), but his strong shooting is not a fluke. Southwell has made 43 percent of his two-point jumpshots this year (NCAA average is 35 percent) and 42 percent of his threes (27 of 65). Southwell also is a good defensive rebounder for his size, ranking 462nd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.
• Five-foot-11 point guard Angel Rodriguez (No. 13) has improved his play recently by limiting his turnovers. The sophomore has just 11 giveaways in his last eight games after turning it over at least twice in his 10 contests before that. Though Rodriguez is still struggling from three-point range (26 of 88, 30 percent), he's been better around the rim, raising his close shot percentage from 35 percent to 41 percent since his team's last game against KU. Rodriguez also remains as an elite passer (27th in assist rate) and strong perimeter defender (261st in steal percentage).
So I've been wrong three games in a row, picking the Jayhawks to win against Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma.
It's going to be hard to sound more foolish than that, but I guess I'll try anyway: I think KU will win this one going away.
I probably shouldn't overestimate the advantage the Allen Fieldhouse crowd will give KU, but it's hard not to considering the circumstances. The Jayhawks have lost three straight, KU students have been camping for the game for over a week, and the team's biggest rival is coming to Lawrence.
I'm not sure KSU will be able to avoid an early run from KU. The stats say KSU isn't likely to turn the ball over, but when things get crazy in the fieldhouse, sometimes teams play away from their tendencies.
I'm expecting early defensive energy from KU, a couple of loose-ball steals, a few transition dunks, lots of free throws, and the Jayhawks building a double-digit lead that they don't relinquish.
But hey, I've definitely been wrong before.
Kansas 76, Kansas State 62
Hawk to Rock
In the first game, KSU's guards overplayed defensively, which worked out well because KU didn't attack that pressure well off the dribble. KU's best option to dribble-drive is Naadir Tharpe, so I'll take him as my Hawk to Rock. I'll say Tharpe posts a career-high in points (11 is his high now) while adding four-plus assists for KU.
19-4 record, 280 points off (12.2 points off/game)
Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (4th)
Texas: Elijah Johnson (8th)
Kansas State: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (3rd)
West Virginia: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Oklahoma State: Ben McLemore (1st)
TCU: Kevin Young (3rd)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (5th)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings