Upset alert tonight in Manhattan

By Steve Sell
February 10, 2014

Monday's musings...

• SMELLING A KSU UPSET — Perhaps the most confounding college basketball rivalry in the country resumes tonight when Kansas State hosts Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum, also known as the "Octagon of Doom."

Bramlage is supposed to be doom for opponents, but for the Jayhawks it has been like a home away from home.

There’s no rhyme or reason for KU’s domination of this series considering Kansas State has had a lot of NCAA Tournament teams during the past 25 years. The Jayhawks have won 48 of the last 51 meetings overall, including an 86-60 drubbing in the season’s first meeting in Lawrence. Diehard Wildcat fans, of course, quickly point out how Kansas State has dominated the football series between the two, so maybe the schools should play tiddlywinks to break the tie so one school can claim superiority since that seems so important to some zealots on both sides.

Kansas is 9-1 in the Big 12 and Kansas State is 6-4. The Wildcats need a win or they’re basically eliminated from winning the Big 12 title that they shared with the Jayhawks last year.

Call me crazy, but I am smelling an upset. It’s Big Monday on ESPN and K-State has to feel slighted since it spends most Mondays watching KU, which is the Big 12’s golden child and ratings breadwinner. 

Kansas hasn’t exactly played well on the road, including a beatdown administered by Texas, a team the Wildcats simply destroyed on Saturday. The Jayhawks are painfully young and may not be ready for such a hostile environment.

The inside game will determine the outcome. The Wildcats start nobody taller than 6-7, though that's Thomas Gipson who has the heft to bang away.

KU, on the other hand, starts 7-0 Joel Embiid, 6-8 Perry Ellis and 6-8 Andrew Wiggins, though Ellis plays soft at times and Wiggins trolls on the wing. 

My hunch is that KU will have a terrible time containing Wildcat freshman phenom Marcus Foster. The Jayhawks probably will put Wayne Selden Jr. on him, but I'm not sure he has the quickness to stay with the jet. KSU needs for Will Spradling to emerge from his season-long funk and what better time to do it than tonight.

This is a hunch, but KSU is going to pull off the stunner and the fans will charge the court — KSU 74, Kansas 71.

• STERLING LIVING A DREAM — The Sterling College men enter the final two weeks of the KCAC regular season with a one-game lead in the loss column over Friends and Bethany. The Warriors still have a makeup game to play with Tabor, as a fire in the Gleason Center recently postponed the game between the two.

At KCAC Media Day before the season, I was the only member to pick Sterling to win the title, though in a later column after the season started I did backtrack some. In fact, I had a conversation with Warrior coach Dean Jaderston after the event was over and told him I had picked them to win. My feeling was they had really tough kids mentally and with its collection of steady guards, would be a team that didn't beat itself.

The Warriors play three straight home games, starting with Southwestern on Thursday, followed by Saint Mary and Tabor. They finish on the road at Friends and Kansas Wesleyan.

Sterling has led a charmed life. It has pulled out victories from the jaws of defeat on more than one occasion, including here against McPherson College (down 5 with 12 seconds to play) and then this past Saturday against Ottawa (down 6 with less than 2 minutes to play). The Warriors are a great-shooting 3-point team and seem to hit clutch ones.

Bethany and Friends, both 11-3, would appear to be the only other contenders left after the Swedes knocked off Saint Mary on Saturday. The Spires now have five conference losses with Tabor.

Bethany's schedule includes Friends at home, Kansas Wesleyan at home, at McPherson College and at Bethel. It wouldn't surprise me if the Swedes win all four, with the Friends game the only real test, but the Mac game is a rivalry game. The Bulldogs, however, are depleted, as three expected starters at the beginning of the year are now gone.

After Friends plays at Bethany, the Falcons host Bethel, host Sterling and play at Tabor. 

My prediction — Bethany wins the championship