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Will Kansas State be able to avoid turnovers in Allen Fieldhouse?

Kansas State guard Shane Southwell signals "three" after hitting one over Kansas forward Kevin Young during the first half on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas State guard Shane Southwell signals "three" after hitting one over Kansas forward Kevin Young during the first half on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Team: Kansas State
Record: 19-4
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 31
All statistics from KenPom.com unless otherwise noted

3 Strengths

Turnovers: Kansas State has been the Big 12's best team in offensive turnover percentage (16.6 percent) and third-best team in defensive turnover percentage (21.4 percent) during league play. Meanwhile, turnovers on both ends have been especially costly for KU during conference play, as the Jayhawks are seventh in the Big 12 in offensive turnover percentage and eighth in defensive turnover percentage during that time. In the first meeting, KU had 13 giveaways to KSU's 10, which was a significant difference considering the game was played at a slow pace (60 possessions).

Shooting confidence: K-State has greatly improved its accuracy in the last month under new coach Bruce Weber. The Wildcats, who rank 218th nationally in two-point percentage (46.4 percent), have made 49 percent of their twos in conference play (second in Big 12). The Wildcats also lead the league in three-point shooting during league play, making 38.6 percent of their long-range shots. Rodney McGruder (45.3 percent), Shane Southwell (39.5 percent) and Will Spradling (38.9 percent) have all posted impressive three-point shooting percentages in their last 10 games.

Limiting three-pointers on defense: KSU continues to be a team that does a good job of preventing three-pointers defensively. Only 27.3 percent of opponents' field goal attempts against KSU are threes (29th-lowest split nationally), while according to Hoop-Math.com, 42 percent of the shots taken against the Wildcats are two-point jumpshots — statistically the worst shot an offense can take.

3 Weaknesses

Drawing fouls: Kansas State has posted the top offensive efficiency in Big 12 play (1.09 points per possession) while getting almost no production from the free throw line. The Wildcats rank last in the conference in offensive free throw rate and have averaged just 15 free throw attempts through 10 league games. With Weber's motion offense, KSU is reliant on jumpshots to score, as 43 percent of its field goal tries are two-point jumpers (NCAA average is 33 percent).

Interior defense: KSU has not challenged inside shots well during Big 12 play. Opponents have made 47.9 percent of their twos in league games (eighth in conference). Part of the reason for this is the undersized lineup that the Wildcats play. Shane Southwell, who played as a guard a year ago, plays most of the team's minutes as an undersized 4, which also creates mismatches for KSU on the offensive end with his ability to shoot.

Fouling too often: KSU has especially struggled in this area in its last 10 games, ranking seventh in the conference in defensive free throw rate. While playing at the second-slowest pace in the conference, the Wildcats have allowed 19.3 free throws per game. KU dominated this facet in the first matchup, shooting 21 free throws to KSU's seven.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-4 guard Rodney McGruder (No. 22) remains as K-State's go-to guy offensively. The senior does a great job of working off screens to get open (ESPN's Seth Greenberg has a nice video breakdown of McGruder doing that here), and if he does get free, he's a great spot-up jump-shooter. While taking 28.1 percent of KSU's shots while he's in (173rd nationally), McGruder has kept his efficiency in an elite range by limiting his turnovers (204th-best turnover rate) while making 36 percent of his threes and 49 percent of his twos. KU's Travis Releford did a nice job of chasing McGruder down in the second half of KU's 59-55 victory in Manhattan, and the senior should have the same defensive assignment Monday night.

• KU fans should remember from the first matchup how dangerous 6-foot-6 Shane Southwell (No. 1) can be. The undersized power forward made KU regret leaving him open on the perimeter, as he made five of 11 three-pointers to finish with a team-high 19 points. Southwell is not a threat to score at the rim (only five percent of his shots are from close range), but his strong shooting is not a fluke. Southwell has made 43 percent of his two-point jumpshots this year (NCAA average is 35 percent) and 42 percent of his threes (27 of 65). Southwell also is a good defensive rebounder for his size, ranking 462nd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.

Five-foot-11 point guard Angel Rodriguez (No. 13) has improved his play recently by limiting his turnovers. The sophomore has just 11 giveaways in his last eight games after turning it over at least twice in his 10 contests before that. Though Rodriguez is still struggling from three-point range (26 of 88, 30 percent), he's been better around the rim, raising his close shot percentage from 35 percent to 41 percent since his team's last game against KU. Rodriguez also remains as an elite passer (27th in assist rate) and strong perimeter defender (261st in steal percentage).

Prediction

So I've been wrong three games in a row, picking the Jayhawks to win against Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma.

It's going to be hard to sound more foolish than that, but I guess I'll try anyway: I think KU will win this one going away.

I probably shouldn't overestimate the advantage the Allen Fieldhouse crowd will give KU, but it's hard not to considering the circumstances. The Jayhawks have lost three straight, KU students have been camping for the game for over a week, and the team's biggest rival is coming to Lawrence.

I'm not sure KSU will be able to avoid an early run from KU. The stats say KSU isn't likely to turn the ball over, but when things get crazy in the fieldhouse, sometimes teams play away from their tendencies.

I'm expecting early defensive energy from KU, a couple of loose-ball steals, a few transition dunks, lots of free throws, and the Jayhawks building a double-digit lead that they don't relinquish.

But hey, I've definitely been wrong before.

Kansas 76, Kansas State 62

Hawk to Rock

In the first game, KSU's guards overplayed defensively, which worked out well because KU didn't attack that pressure well off the dribble. KU's best option to dribble-drive is Naadir Tharpe, so I'll take him as my Hawk to Rock. I'll say Tharpe posts a career-high in points (11 is his high now) while adding four-plus assists for KU.

Predictions tally
19-4 record, 280 points off (12.2 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (4th)
Texas: Elijah Johnson (8th)
Kansas State: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (3rd)
West Virginia: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Oklahoma State: Ben McLemore (1st)
TCU: Kevin Young (3rd)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (5th)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings

Comments

Michael Luby 1 year, 10 months ago

Yep, I concur wholeheartedly.
and i'll say this again as well.

I keep saying Elijah needs to come off the bench for a few games. Take the pressure off the guy and let him get his mojo back for cryin out loud! Naadir is perfectly capable of starting, plus he is gonna need that experience to lead into next year. It'll be his team. Everyone else with the exception of JW will be a soph or frosh. Scary huh? Seriously! Let Naadir start! Temporarily of course.

Steve Kubler 1 year, 10 months ago

You really think benching a player takes the pressure off? My thought is that it would add a whole other layer of pressure along with a bit of discontent and fear for the future.

Michael Bennett 1 year, 10 months ago

ummm who cares which spot gives him less "pressure". The guy has been terrible lately, do what's best for the team.

jhawkdocpeds 1 year, 10 months ago

I agree Lulufulu85. He needs to come off the bench for a few games.

madcow 1 year, 10 months ago

I think EJ should start as PG because he is the senior leader, and the lineup is just packed.

However the first time either of the guards slack off (or even Kevin), I think Naadir needs to step in at PG, EJ can slide over into his natural roll on the wing..

If my memory serves me correct, the big 3 EJ hit near the end of the last game was off an assist from Naadir. My theory is simply that EJ is rushing things too much. If he doesn't have to worry about running things his game will come back to him.

Chris Shaw 1 year, 10 months ago

The question should be, Jesse, can the Jayhawks get steals and create offense from their defense? If the Jayhawks do that they are great! However, history has shown us in this 3 game losing streak as well as inappropriate losses in the NCAA Tournament that when Kansas is ineffective at creating turnovers, they are mediocre.

Jesse Newell 1 year, 10 months ago

Yeah, I think we're effectively saying the same thing in different ways. KU needs to do better at forcing steals, but it wouldn't hurt the Jayhawks' cause if KSU becomes rattled in a tough environment. The Jayhawks have gotten steals at home when they play with energy, and I'm thinking it'll be hard for them to play without energy tonight.

Brandon Pope 1 year, 10 months ago

I agree. I am going to be a little less optimistic about the spread but I think KU wins must-win at home 68-59. I think we get a lead early and never really let it go. Lead ranges on average from 6-14. KSU pulls to within 4-6 midway through the second half and then KU extends to arms length and take the W.

clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 10 months ago

I like Kevin Young to be the Hawk to Rock, could be way off but I have a gut feeling he will be extra motivated tonight

jgkojak 1 year, 10 months ago

I think Ellis has a break-out game and Young has one of his better games.

I'd love EJ to turn it around and stick 'em for 30 - but that's not happening against KSU.

Steve Kubler 1 year, 10 months ago

Once Withey gets the record he is going to relax and get back to playing his game rather than thinking nothing but block party. Put me down for a double D from the big guy.

Sam Constance 1 year, 10 months ago

"while according to Hoop-Math.com, 42 percent of the shots taken against the Wildcats are two-point jumpshots — statistically the worst shot an offense can take."

Heh... tell that to Oklahoma. They seemed to live by the long-range two-pointer on Saturday.

It's almost like the basketball gods are testing us. First, we lose at home for the first time in 30+ games and only the second time in over 100 games. Then, expecting an angry bounce-back, we lay a complete egg at TCU for one of the most unexpected and embarrassing losses in program history. Finally, we look to be regaining some of our previous mojo against OU, but get handed a loss because OU goes bonkers from the field in the first half. Each trial has a valuable and vital lesson:

1) You aren't invincible at home against a good team. The Fieldhouse won't win games for you.

2) Anyone can beat you, especially if you expect to beat them. The name on the front of the jersey isn't worth a win on it's own.

3) Sometimes, playing "well" isn't enough to win. You have to play your very best at every possible moment, that is the closest you can get to guaranteeing a win, and someone can always be better.

LakeShawnee 1 year, 10 months ago

I like the last three too. Very well said.

Kent Richardson 1 year, 10 months ago

Alas, what you say may be true and Jesse said we can panic too. I wonder if I can be surprised at a higher level anymore?

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 10 months ago

This game makes me nervous.

I know that we have the better team, and I know that we've already beaten them this year. But can we keep from turning the ball over like we have the lately? Can Releford slow down McGruder again like he did last month, or does McGruder catch whatever Markel Brown was feeling?

KSU is going to be very confident tonight, but KU, not so much. That worries me.

My gut tells me that it's going to be fine, but I don't expect a double digit victory.

PSM 1 year, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

jhawkdocpeds 1 year, 10 months ago

I would like to expand on a point that has been made. EJ needs to come off the bench for a few games. I agree with this point of view. However, I will say this. It wouldn't bother me if he continued to start. I am just not sure that he is the right guy to have on the court with less than 3 minutes left and a tight game right now. I hope he turns it around. However, until he can stop turning the ball over at key moments, I think something else should be done.

Boouk 1 year, 10 months ago

I think PG play decides this game. If Rodriguez outplays both our PG's they have a great chance at the upset. Hopefully Elijah and Naadir don't let that happen.

Kent Noble 1 year, 10 months ago

I gotta tell ya! I just don't know. KU looks so out of sink right now. I can say this, they can't play any worse than what they been play'n. If McGruder comes out on fire, it could be another long night for Kansas. What I would like to see is EJ puts more arch on his shot along with making a easy layup. It would be nice to see McLamore moving without the ball instead of hanging around out side the perimeter. It would also be nice if Withey would dunk one on the inside and Kevin Young decides he going to hit a 10 to 12 foot jumper. I also hope Releford realizes he needs to stay on his guy and quit worring about trying to gaurd Witheys man like he did against OU last Saturday. KU still has alot of what if's going on right now. As for KSU turning the ball over. They will have less turnovers than KU tonight, I can almost bet anyone on that. Hopefully we won't be passing the ball right to the purple jerseys, were real good about throwing the ball to the other team. If you stand around long enough KU will hit you right square in the chest with it and you don't even have to move. I hope it all turns around tonight and KU gets back on track. Would love to see a blowout. Haven't seen that since the Richmond or Colorado game, boy it's been awhile! Good Luck Hawks give us Kansas Fans something to cheer about!

joshuamc914 1 year, 10 months ago

Everyone keeps piling on Elijah and I know he has been brutal but so has Releford. He has to be more agree dive he is turning down shots and not trying to attack the rim. He needs to step up offensively and defensively. I feel like the team needs to put a lil pressure on KSU defensively turn up the pressure. I want to see more full court man to get the team excite and get them going up an down. Kansas needs to stop holding te ball and look to push because their half court offense is brutal right now. I want Kansas to take the ball and go play fast and loose tonight. Like Coach self said they need to play more free and stop worrying about making mistakes and just play. This team

Tony Bandle 1 year, 10 months ago

I, like Jesse, have been terribly wrong the last three games, so using reverse psychology, inverse universals and karmic randomology, I will predict a KSU victory, with KU getting a technical after HCBS punches Brucie Boy in the face and the ten K-State fans, who somehow got into Allen, storm the court and promply get pummeled with buffalo chips and mountain oysters!!

The Wildcats don't stand a chance now!!! :)

Kent Richardson 1 year, 10 months ago

Not everyone would make that sacrifice for the betterment of all. Thank you!

joshuamc914 1 year, 10 months ago

Is stuck in the same funk that they were in during the tournament last year. They are so worried about making mistakes that they just are playing tight. Tonight at home they'll play looser and they'll win by double figures. This team is just due for an offensive explosion and tonight is the night!!!!!!

Jack Wilson 1 year, 10 months ago

Start Andrew White instead of KY.

That's all.

Kent Richardson 1 year, 10 months ago

When you get it right, no more is needed.

jaybate 1 year, 10 months ago

Self will do something unpredicatable. I am not sure this is it, but it might be.

Thomas Michaud 1 year, 10 months ago

Wow, nice score prediction, Jesse! you got KState perfect with the 62 and just a tad shy on KU!

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