Kansas at Kansas State +2 O/U 147
Recommendation: Kansas State
Heated in-state rivalry figures to be as intense as ever after 73-72 KU victory just 16 days ago. Plenty of fuel added to the Kansas State fire tonight after what they perceived to be preferential officiating given to the Jayhawks in that contest. That sentiment came on the heels of last season’s 90-88 Kansas win in which then junior Svi Mykhailiuk clearly traveled on the game winning basket. In his press conference after this season’s loss. Bruce Weber said “I’m really disappointed in some of the calls. But we were all here last year, and same thing.” The Wildcats figure to have extra motivation and look to benefit from what will be a very raucous home crowd. Kansas is oblivious to fierce road environments and rallied back in the second half to win at Morgantown a few games ago but their poise will again be tested tonight.
One difference tonight from the first meeting is Kansas State’s starting sophomore PG Carter Diarra who took over the role six ago after junior Kamau Stokes broke his foot during the Texas Tech games. In his six games as starter, Diarra has gone 28-for-48 58% overall from the field (9-for-19 47% from 3) while going 14-for-15, 93% from the free throw line. However, his 21 assists to 17 turnovers number has been sub-par (0-for-3 in first meeting) and he’ll need to be far better than that tonight. The offense has been very productive scoring 73+ points in all five of his Big 12 starts and there are some who feel he should remain the starter when Stokes returns.
Tonight’s current line of Kansas -2 indicates there is not much separation between these two teams this season. In league play, K-State is #1 in offensive effective FG% and Kansas is #2. In defensive efficiency, Kansas State ranks sixth with Kansas seventh. Each team is propelled by strong guard play but KU does have the interior edge with 7’0 sophomore Udoka Azubuike who had 18 points and five blocks in the earlier meeting. His free throw shooting weakness (38.1%) has become an issue since Oklahoma used a strategy of intentionally fouling him down the stretch last week en-route to an 85-80 late come from behind victory. Bill Self blamed himself for not pulling Azubuike in order to avoid the hacking tactics so it will be interesting to see what he does if KU faces a similar situation tonight. Overall handicap leads to a play on the home underdog tonight whose offense is stylistically diverse enough and explosive enough to finally be on par with Kansas. Since the gap in fundamentals is so thin, the situational edge is likely to get Kansas State over the top.