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Grabbing defensive rebounds critical for KU against Kansas State

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KU's center Jeff Withey (5) looks to control a rebound against KSU defenders Thomas Gipson and Angel Rodriquez (13) as KU hosted the K-State Wildcats on Monday February 11, 2013 in Allen Fieldhouse.

KU's center Jeff Withey (5) looks to control a rebound against KSU defenders Thomas Gipson and Angel Rodriquez (13) as KU hosted the K-State Wildcats on Monday February 11, 2013 in Allen Fieldhouse. by Richard Gwin

Team: Kansas State
Record: 27-6
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 27
All statistics from KenPom.com unless otherwise noted.

• For a refresher of Kansas State's strengths/weaknesses, check out the Five-minute Scout from Feb. 11.

3 Numbers to Know

0.867 — The number of points per possession Kansas State's defense allowed against Oklahoma State on Friday night — the second-worst output for the Cowboys this season. OSU especially struggled with its shooting, as its 34.7 effective field goal percentage against KSU was its worst in the last two seasons. The Wildcats also played exceptional defense against Texas on Thursday, holding the Longhorns to 0.862 PPP.

38.8 percent — Kansas State's offensive rebounding percentage this season, which ranks 13th in the country. Interestingly, KSU's offensive rebounding, according to KenPom's correlation stats, seem to have a positive impact on the Wildcats' offense and defense. The numbers seem to reflect this. When KSU's offensive rebounding percentage is over 33 percent this year, the Wildcats are 25-0. When KSU's offensive rebounding percentage is under 33 percent, the Wildcats are 2-6.

39.6 percent — Kansas State's two-point percentage against KU this year (23-for-58). The Wildcats have tried two different styles of play offensively against KU with similar results. KSU avoided KU center Jeff Withey altogether in the first matchup, shooting 30 threes compared to 27 twos (Withey had no blocks) while putting up 0.92 points per possession in a 59-55 loss. In the second matchup, KSU shot quite a few more twos (31 twos, 19 threes) but that also resulted in getting to the foul line more for 0.91 PPP. Still, the tradeoff was that KU had six blocks that led to transition baskets, and consequently, KU scored 1.22 PPP to blow KSU out. If I'm KSU coach Bruce Weber, I go back to option No. 1, slow it down and believe that guys like Rodney McGruder and Shane Southwell will hit shots (and hope if they don't, the big guys underneath will battle to get the rebound).

3 Players to Watch (and one sentence explaining why)

Six-foot-4 guard Rodney McGruder (No. 22) is a high-volume shooter that rarely turns it over, though his strength is actually two-point jumpshots (40 percent according to Hoop-Math.com; NCAA average is 35 percent) more than it is three-point jumpers (33 percent; NCAA average is 34 percent).

Five-foot-11 point guard Angel Rodriguez (No. 13) has always been a good passer (15th nationally in assist rate), but now he's shooting with confidence too, as he's made 42 percent of his threes in his last 10 games (26 of 62).

• KU has had problems guarding 6-foot-6 Shane Southwell (No. 1) on the perimeter, as he's made 44 percent of his threes against the Jayhawks this year (7-for-16), which also matches his season percentage from three (43 of 98, 44 percent).

Prediction

Kansas State's best chance against KU is trying to "out-possession" the Jayhawks. By that, I mean the Wildcats — by grabbing offensive rebounds and winning the turnover margin — can gain a few points by simply having more shot attempts than KU.

So the two keys for KU are simple: Be strong on the defensive glass and limit turnovers against a KSU team that forces a lot of them (46th nationally in defensive turnover percentage).

In KU's two wins against KSU, it has done well in both areas. The Jayhawks have been especially dominant on the defensive boards, as KSU had its second- and sixth-worst offensive rebounding games against KU.

The Jayhawks will have to chase down shooters like McGruder and Southwell on the perimeter, but the advantage for KU is that KSU plays traditional 5 men like Thomas Gipson and Jordan Henriquez around the rim. This allows Withey to stay where he's comfortable and also gives KU an advantage on the defensive glass.

As mentioned above, if KU can play well in that area, it puts itself in great position to beat KSU.

Kansas 66, Kansas State 58

Hawk to Rock

Because KSU's offensive rebounding will be so important, I'll go with Jeff Withey as the Hawk to Rock. The senior might not have many blocked shots — the Wildcats actually are best in the conference at avoiding blocks because of the high number of jumpers they shoot — but I think he'll still have a huge defensive impact by grabbing KSU's misses.

Predictions tally
26-7 record, 389 points off (11.8 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)
Kansas State: Naadir Tharpe (3rd)
Texas: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma State: Ben McLemore (7th)
TCU: Travis Releford (4th)
Iowa State: Jeff Withey (4th)
West Virginia: Perry Ellis (10th)
Texas Tech: Jeff Withey (1st)
Baylor: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Texas Tech: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (7th)
Average: 4.2nd in KUsports.com ratings

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