Kansas has lost each of its previous two trips to Manhattan against rival Kansas State. The No. 2-ranked Jayhawks look to end that two-year Bramlage Coliseum skid and stay atop the Big 12 standings in the Sunflower Showdown.
A tight game in Morgantown, W. Va., right now between Oklahoma and West Virginia. If the Sooners win, WVU, OU and Baylor will all have 5 Big 12 losses. KU is 10-3 entering this evening's game at K-State. If WVU wins at home, the Mountaineers stay at 4 in the loss column and help their chances of making this race come down to the wire.
KU coach Bill Self discussed the tight Big 12 race at his weekly press conference, and said just because Kansas sat alone in first entering the weekend didn’t mean the tide had turned in the Jayhawks’ favor.
But Self said KU was definitely in better shape than it was in late January.
Oklahoma’s loss at Texas Tech also gave KU some unexpected breathing room.
“But still, we have the hardest schedule left, and so I'm not going to put too much stock in it,” Self said. “As fast as it's turned the last two weeks, it can flip it and go the other way even faster with our schedule. We're in a much more favorable position than we were before, but certainly it could be a situation where we could certainly fall behind real fast because of the two games we have coming up in the next -- over, what is that, a 72-hour period, that will determine as much as anything else.”
Self, of course was referring to back-to-back road games: at K-State and at Baylor (Tuesday).
Obviously Bill Self doesn’t watch every K-State game during the season, but he was asked about the Wildcats’ season on Thursday and said it seems KSU could have a much better league record, because they’ve played so many close games.
Here are the close losses K-State has suffered:
- 87-83 (2OT) vs WVU
- 60-57 at Texas
- 79-72 (2OT) at Baylor
- 58-55 at Oklahoma State
K-State is 4-9 in the Big 12, but Self says the Wildcats are a few decisions the other way from being a tournament lock.
“So I don't put -- they could have won in Austin if I'm not mistaken, they obviously could have won against West Virginia if I'm not mistaken, Baylor, they could have easily won that game, and then of course the Oklahoma State game, they could have easily won,” Self said. “So there's four games, and if you look -- if you flip those games or go 3-1 in those games, just those games, you're looking at a totally different record in the league and certainly an NCAA Tournament team. They've got a lot to play for still, we've got a lot to play for, so obviously it's a big game for both programs.”
An interesting development in KU’s season has been the play of Landen Lucas. His strength is on the glass, but Self says the junior big man also has improved defensively in the paint.
Lucas, who averages 6.8 rebounds in Big 12 games, only has 11 blocked shots all season. But 7 of those have come in the past 5 games, and he swatted 4 against WVU.
Here’s Self on Lucas’ defense: “Well, I think Landen is our smartest defender, and he's our heaviest defender, and he does the best job of guarding another team's heavy offensive player. He's had some good games where he's going against the other big for the other team that they haven't had a strength advantage over Landen, whereas with other guys in the game, they could have a strength advantage, and he's so bright, and he gets team and he gets individual and he gets scouting report for the most part.”
KU fans might’ve noticed that Wayne Selden Jr. hasn’t put up any big offensive games on the road in the Big 12 this year.
Here are Selden’s shooting numbers and point totals from Big 12 road games entering today’s rivalry game at K-State:
- 4/13, 9 points at TT
- 3/7, 11 points at WVU
- 3/8, 7 points at OSU
- 4/10, 11 points at ISU
- 1/5, 3 points at TCU (sick that day)
- 2/9, 6 points at OU
Self said Selden is due to have some big games away from Allen Fieldhouse.
What does K-State do best/what should KU worry about most in Bramlage today?
Here’s a look at where the Wildcats rank the highest in Big 12 play:
5th in scoring D: 72.0 ppg
1st in 3-point FG% D: 32.2%
4th in rebounding: 35.8 rpg
4th in assists: 14.1 apg
2nd in steals: 8.1 spg
2nd in offensive rebounds: 13.2 orpg