Getting to know: Kansas State basketball
After a one-point loss inside of Allen Fieldhouse earlier this month, Kansas State has transformed into the hottest Big 12 team with four straight wins, moving into a four-way tie for second place in the conference standings.
The Wildcats will welcome Kansas to Bramlage Coliseum at 8 p.m. Monday (TV: ESPN) for the second edition of the Sunflower Showdown, attempting to win their third straight game against a ranked opponent. The last three rivalry games have been decided by three points or less.
K-State (16-5, 5-3) is still playing without junior point guard Kamau Stokes (broken foot) but junior guard Barry Brown and junior forward Dean Wade have more than picked up the offense. The duo ranks second and third in scoring, respectively, during Big 12 play.
“I think we’ve matured a lot,” Wade told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “At the end of games, we don’t panic like we used to. We’re playing strong and confident.”
After wins against Oklahoma, TCU, Baylor and Georgia, the Wildcats are ranked No. 35 by KenPom and No. 39 by ESPN’s BPI. In both metrics, Wildcats are sixth among Big 12 teams.
Fun fact: Since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996-97, the Jayhawks own a 62-20 all-time record on ESPN Big Monday.
Series history: Kansas leads 194-93 after winning the last six meetings.
BREAKING DOWN KANSAS STATE
No. 32 — F Dean Wade | 6-10, 228, jr.
A dangerous shooter at the 3-point line and in the mid-range, Wade is averaging 16.2 points and a team-best 6.5 rebounds. He’s scoring more than 20 points per game in conference play, shooting an efficient 60.6 percent against Big 12 opponents.
Wade has scored in double figures in nine straight games, connecting on 16 of his 30 attempts from the 3-point arc. The St. John, Kan., native ranks second on the team in steals (34) and blocks (16).
Against KU this season: 22 points (8 of 14 shooting), six rebounds, two assists and four turnovers in 38 minutes.
- “It was just a matter of when,” KSU coach Bruce Weber said. “I think he had to figure it out on his own and hopefully it continues. I don’t know if he’s going to be 9 for 12 every game, but he’s a really good player, a really talented player.”
No. 5 — G Barry Brown Jr. | 6-3, 195, jr.
Brown has taken his game to a different level in the past month. He’s averaging 22.8 points against conference opponents, which ranks second to Oklahoma’s Trae Young, and shooting 51.8 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from the 3-point line. Known as a tough defender, he leads the Wildcats with 43 steals.
Against KU this season: 12 points (5 of 14 shooting), five rebounds, six assists and three turnovers in 39 minutes.
No. 2 — G Cartier Diarra | 6-4, 190, r-fr.
Filling in for Kamau Stokes at point guard, Diarra has been an electric spark for the Wildcats. Since joining the starting lineup, Diarra (pronounced: car-tee-YAY JOTT-ah) is averaging 13.2 points on 58.3 percent shooting. He ranks second on the team with a 44.4 percentage from the 3-point line. He missed last season because of a torn ACL.
Against KU this season: 18 points (7 of 11 shooting, 3 of 5 from 3), four rebounds, two steals and three turnovers in 35 minutes.
No. 20 — F Xavier Sneed | 6-5, 212, so.
Primarily a 3-point shooter, Sneed has struggled to find his shooting touch throughout the past month. In the past seven games, he’s only made 9 of his last 32 attempts from deep. On the season, the St. Louis native is averaging 11 points and 4.4 rebounds. He leads the team in free-throw percentage (86.5).
Against KU this season: 14 points (5 of 11 shooting, 2 of 6 from 3), seven rebounds, two assists and two steals in 37 minutes.
No. 14 — F Makol Mawien | 6-9, 225, so.
The only starter who isn’t averaging 30 minutes, Mawien has recorded 6.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game. He leads the Wildcats with 22 blocks and ranks second with 25 offensive rebounds. He spent a redshirt freshman season at Utah before transferring to New Mexico Junior College.
Against KU this season: Four points (1 of 3 shooting) and two blocks.
ONE THING KANSAS STATE DOES WELL
Throughout Big 12 play, the Wildcats have defended the 3-point arc well. Only Kansas has made more than eight 3-pointers in a game or shot better than 35 percent. During K-State’s four-game winning streak, opposing teams have shot 26.4 percent from deep.
ONE AREA KANSAS STATE STRUGGLES
It hasn’t been much of an issue in recent games because the Wildcats have shot so well, but they are not a team that opposing teams need to worry about on the offensive glass. K-State has recorded a Big 12-low 6.8 offensive rebounds per game in conference play, well behind any other team.
MEET THE NEW RECRUITING CLASS
The Wildcats signed point guard Shaun Williams, from St. Louis, in the November signing period. The 6-foot-3, 170-pound Williams, a three-star prospect by Rivals, plays at Hazelwood Central, the same school that produced Xavier Sneed. He averaged 18.6 points and 2.8 assists last year.
Kansas by 1.5. During the first game between the in-state rivals, the Jayhawks caught Barry Brown on an off night (even before he missed the desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer). Cartier Diarra was magnificent vs. KU, but I think it’s tougher when Brown catches fire, especially when teams have to find a way to defend Dean Wade. As great as the Jayhawks have played in close, late-game situations against KSU, will Hack-a-Dok force lineup changes?
My prediction: Kansas State 76, Kansas 72. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 11-9.