Friday, March 03, 2006

Preview: Kansas at Kansas State

Nobody in the Big 12 has guarded Kansas better than Kansas State did in Lawrence. The Wildcats held the Jayhawks to 0.81 points per possession. That was the second of four consecutive games that Kansas State held their opponents under a point per possession. The Wildcats haven’t been able to sustain that stinginess. Eight of their last ten opponents have scored over a point per possession. The two teams Kansas State held below a point per possession, Iowa State and Colorado, still averaged over a point per possession on the season against the Wildcats.

Kansas State isn’t good enough offensively to win consistently when their defensive performance is mediocre or worse. They shoot only 47.3 eFG% and turn the ball over more often than their opponents which negates their decent free throw shooting (fifth in the league in Free Throw Rate) and offensive rebounding (sixth in the league). Even though Kansas suffered a complete defensive collapse over the final thirteen minutes of the first meeting between the teams, Kansas State only managed 0.90 points per possession. Kansas played a mere 27 minutes of good defense and still held Kansas State ten percent below their average offensive efficiency in conference play.

The Jayhawks were much more successful at getting to the free throw line against Colorado than they had been in their previous three games. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks couldn’t convert even half of those chances. Kansas State allows conference opponents 36 free throw attempts per 100 field goal attempts. Kansas got 22 free throw attempts on 53 field goal attempts in the first meeting. By making even two-thirds of their free throw attempts, Kansas will put significant pressure on Kansas State’s offense.

The greatest danger for Kansas looms whenever Kansas State misses a shot. Both Texas and Colorado dominated the offensive glass. Kansas State gives a consistently strong effort on the offensive glass (the quality of their defensive rebounding performances is more variable) to compensate for their poor shooting. If Kansas can limit Kansas State to one shot 70% of the time it will be difficult for the Wildcats to score. Kansas State takes more than three-quarters of their shots from inside the three-point arc. Kansas still leads the nation in two-point FG% defense.

Kansas State is a perfectly average team. Having scored only four points fewer than their fifteen conference opponents have scored, they’re unlucky to be 6-9 in the league. It will take another huge upset for the Wildcats to get to 7-9.

Prediction: Kansas 69 Kansas State 59

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