Kansas will face off with in-state rival, Kansas State, tonight at Allen Fieldhouse. The “Sunflower Showdown” will be anything but sunny or flowery. I truly expect K-State to impose as much physicality on the game as they can muster. I think it’s a good strategy, and I also think it will be a great test for this KU team.
Bill Self likes to call conference play “big boy basketball.” I think this will be a big boy type of game, which has traditionally been an advantage for Self’s teams. Unfortunately this squad does not have the kind of front court depth to bang around on the post like recent teams. It also hasn’t quite shown that it has what it takes to play a physical game that is won or lost on the boards and in the hustle plays.
Robinson will be hounded every time he catches the ball. He is getting better at kicking the ball out when he feels the extra pressure. That will be especially important against K-State. Another thing the Wildcats are very good at is drawing fouls. Jamar Samuels and Thomas Gibson are among the top 20 in the nation at fouls drawn. Robinson cannot allow emotion or the physical nature of the game to get the best of him on the defensive end. He has to play smart so that he can stay on the floor. We’ll need him.
I also think this will be a big game for Withey. After being benched for much of the last game due to what Self described as a lack of effort, he will certainly be out to prove something. I look forward to him playing aggressive on the defensive end and attacking the boards on every shot. He doesn’t need to be a big part of the offense to have a tremendous impact on the game.
As for our guard play, I hope to see much more dribble penetration tonight. I especially want to see Elijah and Tyshawn drive the ball to the basket with a scorer’s mentality. If the dump pass in the post is wide open or if you get a defender to slide over leaving the wing open, then sure, pass the ball. But I’d like those two to really assert themselves off the dribble. It will take some pressure off of Thomas and potentially give him some more room to work and get some looks one-on-one. It would also be nice to improve on that awful 6-27 performance from 3-point range last game.
I know K-State is 11-1 and ranked #22 in the country now. I know they are the new darling in the Big XII, suddenly predicted to be in the discussion for a league title. I’m just not buying it. I think they play their butts off for a coach who is better at his job than most people think. But I just don’t think they are all that talented, and I think they might be exposed tonight.*
*Strange sidenote: You can basically take everything I said in the preceding paragraph and apply it to their football team too.
While I have a certain respect for guys that “play as a team” and are successful at overcoming talent differential by out-hustling opponents, I still don’t think this game will be close. I think the Fieldhouse will be rocking. I think K-State has our respect. And I think our players are starting to play a better brand of basketball. While it hasn’t shown up on the scoreboard just yet, you can definitely see improvement since that Davidson loss. The guys seem to be buying in and playing better. I predict that we overcome the bruising of the game and win by 13-15 points. Something like 78-64.
It probably won’t be the prettiest game, but it will be a lot of fun.
On a closing note, it will be @BradyMcCollough‘s last KU game for a long time. He’ll be in the stands as a fan for the first time since arriving in Kansas City. Give him your best.
Rock chalk!#emaw, #kuball, Bill Self, Frank Martin, Kansas, Kansas State, Sunflower Showdown, Thomas Robinson