The Kansas State Wildcats have a chance tonight to apply the dagger to the Kansas Jayhawks’ 14-year rule of Big 12 basketball.
The Wildcats host the Jayhawks at the Octagon of Doom. The ‘Cats currently are tied at the top of the standings with Baylor at 6-2. Iowa State has actually played two more games and is 7-3, while Kansas still has a strong pulse at 6-3.
A Jayhawks loss, though, and that would put them two games back of K-State and overachieving Baylor, who actually meet on Saturday. A 2-0 Wildcat week would have them sitting pretty.
In past years, a two-game deficit at this point wouldn’t be a cause for an outbreak of panic for the Jayhawks, but this is no normal year for Bill Self. Two games back at this point would seem more like four, given how his team has played this year.
He’s lost his rim protector in Udoka Azubuike. Starter Marcus Garrett will miss the game with an ankle injury. The Jayhawks play like jello on the road, having won just 1 of 6 true road games and already have lost at tailender West Virginia, Texas and Iowa State.
The only saving grace for Self and the Jayhawks has been their home dominance at venerable Allen Field House and even in those games, KU fans haven’t been able to unleash the haunting “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” chant in the final minute since many of those wins have been decided right at the end and all the fans can do is exhale.
This is a wounded and unsure Jayhawk team and the heavily experienced Wildcats need to pounce. Other than Dedric Lawson, the Jayhawks are sickly offensively in the paint. On the perimeter, Lagerald Vick and freshmen Devon Dotson and especially Quentin Grimes have been like yo-yos. The bench provides next-to-nothing. Mitch Lightfoot, Charlie Moore, K.J. Lawson and David McCormick barely mark in games.
But then you have the history.
Kansas State has lost its last eight to the Jayhawks and an ego-sapping, almost-stupid 26 of the last 30. KSU coach Bruce Weber, who succeeded Self at Illinois when he left for Lawrence, isn’t exactly a fan of the KU coach. There have been numerous games where the Wildcats have been in position to win, but somehow KU has made the plays at the end.
But Kansas State SHOULD win this game. In fact, it is favored by the odds-makers, which shows the talent the Wildcats have and the troubles the Jayhawks have endured. KU has been simply terrible on the road, which can be chalked up to its youth and the fact no true leader has emerged. The Jayhawks are rudderless as there’s no Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham to impose their will on the team.
Kansas State’s senior triumvirate of Dean Wade, Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes has to be weary of never beating the Jayhawks. They want to finally get a win over their in-state rival and the atmosphere is going to be off the charts. KU opponents this year sense the blood in the water and are pouncing like sharks. This is just a KU year unlike any other for Self and I don’t see any signs of a turnaround, though for one half against Texas Tech on Saturday it showed what it can do when it makes shots.
KU could be in dire straits after tonight. Kansas State can’t afford to blow this chance. If it does, the Jayhawks are back in play.
Kansas State 62, Kansas 57