Rodney McGruder led K-State in scoring with 20 points as the Wildcats handily beat the Missouri Tigers on Saturday. K-State took a big lead early in the first half and never looked back. Sophomore point guard Will Spradling hit some key shots and Junior center Jordan Hernriquez played well enough down low to help the Wildcats beat the previously undefeated Tigers. Missouri’s National Player of the Year candidate Marcus Denmon hit a couple threes early but was cold from then on.
K-State’s stiff defense took Missouri out of their offensive rhythm as the Tigers did not look like the same team that started 14-0. Kansas State looked great bouncing back from their embarrassing loss last Wednesday against Kansas in Lawrence. If the Wildcats can win a few road games in the Big 12 and most of their home games, they should finish no lower than 4th in the Big 12. Frank Martin should be commended for getting his team focused and ready to play against a top 10 opponent. Kansas State was ready to go at tip off and didn’t let up until the final buzzer. Although they lost pretty badly, Missouri should not be discouraged by this loss.
They faced a top 25 team away from home and were beaten by a team that has a much superior front court than them. Beating a team with a better front court on the road rarely happens in the game of college basketball, and that certainly was not the case today. I think the main thing you can take away from this game, as well as K-State’s loss in Lawrence last Wednesday, is that road wins in the Big 12 this year will be tough to come by. It might only take a 14-4 or 13-5 record to win the Big 12 this year.
The game between Kansas and Kansas State will have all the excitement fans will expect to see. The only way Kansas State will win this game is if they can get Thomas Robinson in foul trouble early. With him in foul trouble K-State has the edge in the post. Expect Jamar Samuels to be attacking Robinson in the first couple of minutes to put pressure on him. Expect to see some pick in rolls to be used with whom ever Robinson is guarding to see if he can grab a foul 20 feet away from the rim. I expect Allen Fieldhouse to be extremely loud but that Kansas State will be ready for it. This will be the first time many viewers will see the speedy PG for KSU.
Backcourt: Kansas has a more veteran backcourt, led by Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson. They are not as deep as Kansas State, but probably posses more talent. Kansas State’s backcourt is led by Will Spradling and Rodney McGruder. Although KU is prone to turning the ball over, I give the edge to them in this phase of the game. If Kansas State can force Taylor to cough up the ball more then 5 times expect Kansas State to get easy fast break baskets.
Frontcourt: Kansas State is led by its only senior, Jamar Samuels, and Thomas Gipson. Coming off the bench is Jordan Henriquez. KU is led by All American candidate Thomas Robinson and 7 footer Jeff Withey. KU again has more talent, but Kansas State has much more depth.
Bench: As stated before, K-State has much more depth than KU. Mostly with the big men because Kansas can not truly replace Robinson because of the rebounding dominance he creates.
Coaching: Although Frank Martin will be giving his stair to nearly everyone in Allen Fieldhouse, he 0-4 in Allen Fieldhouse, so I am give the edge here to Bill Self. Coach Self always has his Jayhawks playing at an extremely high level at home.
Prediction: KU is playing at home and is a 9.5 point favorite, but I like K-State’s depth to wear KU down with Frank Martin throwing a bunch of different defenses at KU to try to wear them down. Conner Teahan and Elijah Johnson have been in a recent shooting slump, don’t look for them to bounce out of it tonight with K-State’s tough defense.
Kansas State:74 Kansas:70
The sports world is buzzing right now. College football is in the midst of the BCS bowls, Big 12 basketball has just begun, and the NBA is in full swing. With so many games going on, sports fan might be overwhelmed by what to watch. So here are my can’t-miss games for any sports fan in the Kansas City area, along with my predictions.
Cotton Bowl Kansas State vs. Arkansas January 6, 7:00 PM (all times are central)
We gave our whole breakdown of the matchup in our preview. This kind of game has huge implications for all Kansas City sports fans. If Kstate wins cue the statuses, tweets, and chants by KState fans claiming their team is the best ever and they should have been in a BCS bowl. If Kstate loses cue the statuses, tweets, and chants by KU and Missouri fans claiming Kstate is overrated and didn’t deserve a BCS bowl bid. Either way, you’re going to have a headache, so might as well watch the game.
With the recent absence of Tim Tebow heroics, look for Collin Klein to stand up, fulfilling his role as The Real Tim Tebow. Later in the game, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear him humming some hymns on the sideline. Meanwhile, all Arkansas and SEC fans (besides Florida fans) will be having nightmares about Tebow and his domination of the Conference for two years as a Florida Gator.
Kansas State 35 Arkansas 31
BCS National Championship Alabama vs. LSU January 9, 7:30 PM
I’ll admit it. I fell asleep watching the first matchup between these two teams, but this time around I vow to stay awake. I look at it this way, since there has been absolutely ZERO defense in these bowl games, a change in pace and style to a more defensive game might be refreshing.
Heading into the National Championship game, sources tell me that Alabama held open tryouts in hopes of finding a kicker. Turns out their two specialists (they have a long range kicker and short range kicker) both can’t kick field goals, as Alabama missed four field goals in the first meeting between these two teams. Unfortunately, I predict this one to be a low scorer as well, and without a decent field goal kicker, I don’t see Alabama winning this game. Look for Honey Badger to score in some way– punt return, pick six, fumble recovery—Honey Badger doesn’t care, just as long as he scores.
LSU 20 Alabama 13
College basketball: (22) Kansas State at (15) Kansas January 4, 7:00 PM
There’s not a better time to be a Kansas City sports fan than during the Big 12 Basketball season, and this game is a prime example why. Kansas has been under-performing for a KU basketball team, while Kansas State has exceeded expectations with only one loss on a season that was dubbed as a rebuilding year by experts.
I’m surprised there has yet to be a Parental Advisory warning before Kansas State games, because Frank Martin’s stare might just be the scariest thing I’ve ever seen—little kids should not be able to see that. However, The Stare will not be able to handle the man-child and athletic wonder that is Thomas Robinson. Plus, Allen Fieldhouse might just be the hardest place to play in the Big 12. Without a consistent scoring threat for Kansas State and a 20 point 10 rebound game from T-Robinson, I see Kansas defending its home court and winning big.
College basketball: (13) Michigan at (12) Indiana January 5, 8:00 PM
While this game may not have local connections, Indiana is one of the most entertaining teams to watch in college basketball. They have already beaten a then #1 team, Kentucky, and then #2 team, Ohio State, this season and have rejuvenated the dying Indiana basketball program, making Indiana basketball relevant again. Likewise, the Michigan basketball team and fans are reminiscing about the good days of the Fab 5 with the strong play of their team. Both programs have returned to prominence. This should be a close one, but I give the nod to Indiana. Playing at home and riding a big win against Ohio State Indiana will continue to win the big game.
Indiana 65 Michigan 60
College basketball: (6) Missouri at (22) Kansas State January 7, 12:30 PM
Even if Kansas State loses at Kansas on January 4, this game will be very important to the Wildcats. As I see it, this week looks like a make it break it for Kansas State athletics sports. Win and the glory is yours. Lose and you’ll be sure to hear it.
One reason I’m hesitant to jump on the Missouri band wagon is, as one of my least favorite announcers, Clark Kellogg would call it, their “spurtability.” (Yes, I just quoted Clark Kellogg. Everyone please take note.) Denmon and the Tigers can put up bunches of points in bursts, but if the game is slowed down and minimized to a half court game, I think teams can give Mizzou fits. However, Denmon and the Tigers should be too much to handle defensively for the Wildcats which will help generate some offensive points and ultimately a win.
Missouri- 79 Kansas State-70
And if you have more time, these are some other great games to check out also.
Allstate Sugar Bowl Michigan v. Virginia Tech January 3, 7:30 PM
(11)Michigan State at (19)Wisconsin January 3, 6:00 PM
(20) Marquette at (9) Georgetown January 4, 6:00 PM
(20) Marquette at (1) Syracuse January 7, 3:00 PM
Chicago at Orlando January 6, 7:00 PM
In the last round of games before conference play, the Tigers pulled off a last minute victory against Old Dominion, the Jayhawks blew out North Dakota, and the Wildcats of Kansas State had an easy win against Howard. All three teams did relatively well in their preconference schedules: Missouri went undefeated, KU lost to highly ranked teams (except the Davidson upset), and K-State only lost once in double overtime.
Now is the time we’ve all been waiting for: Big 12 conference play. It should be a little interesting this year; half of the teams in the conference could make a run at the championship, but who has the best shot? Well Baylor of course, but the Tigers, Jayhawks, and even Wildcats could all pull it off with the right schemes and defensive play.
What most people don’t know is that the conference looks a little different this year. With the loss of Nebraska and Colorado, the Big 12 will now play a round-robin conference schedule, which will declare a true champion. The basketball conference play is an 18 game league schedule, concluding with the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Missouri.
The usual hotshots are not the favorites this year either, the Jayhawks have been replaced by the Baylor Bears, and the Tigers are predicted to come in a close second. The Jayhawks still have a high chance of having a top-four finish, most likely followed by Texas and Kansas-State. Clearly that isn’t good enough though, as Senior Thomas Robinson put it: “This is Kansas. Nothing less than championships are acceptable.”
Can Baylor live up to the hype?
Can the veteran led Tigers continue their undefeated streak?
Are Jayhawks really going to let their 7-year Big 12 Champions streak fall?
Only time will tell.
Here’s a break down of the Big 12 teams:
Since All-American candidate Perry Jones came back from the NCAA mandated 5-game suspension, the Bears have been on a roll. Led by the youngsters Perry Jones and Quincy Miller, the Bears are undefeated and showing no indication of slowing down. Like many other teams though, they have yet to play much fierce competition and even struggled against a few unranked teams. Their size gives them a major advantage over Big 12 contender Missouri, but the Bears average roughly 15 turnovers a game; an area that teams can capitalize on.
The Tigers have been on a roll this season. Led by All-American senior Marcus Denmon who averages 18.7 points a game, Mizzou has dominated easier opponents and even have marquee wins over Cal and Illinois. The Tigers are first in the nation with their .517 average field goal percentage, and third in the nation scoring 86.2 points per game. Missouri opens up Big 12 play with Oklahoma tomorrow, Kansas State on the 7th, and then Iowa State on the 11th. Although Missouri hasn’t had trouble covering big men thus far, they are bound to be challenged in the Big 12 play. Look for the Tigers to win a lot of games this season through outstanding shooting, turnovers, and fast-break points.
The 17th ranked Jayhawks haven’t started off their season like they would have liked, but they are still major contenders in the Big 12. With early losses to then #2 Duke and #6 Kentucky, the Jayhawks have really suffered by the play of senior guard Tyshawn Taylor. They also were the victims of an upset in Kansas City, when unranked Davidson came out and beat the Jayhawks by six in front of an all-blue crowd. They have shown signs of light though; Kansas did knock off then #2 ranked Ohio State, and Thomas Robinson leads the team averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds. If the Jawhawks want to defend their 7-year big 12 champions streak they will need better guard play from Taylor, consistent double-doubles from Robinson, and better shooting from Elijah Johnson and Connor Teahan. You can watch Kansas open up their Big 12 conference schedule against #25 Kansas State at Allen Field House on ESPN 3 on Wednesday.
Although K-State has been under the radar this season, they have been playing outstanding basketball thus far. Sitting at #25 in the country with one loss to West Virginia in double overtime, the Wildcats also have a shot to make a run at the Big 12 title. Beating their last two opponents by a combination of 56 points, they are led by junior guard Rodney McGruder. McGruder is inconsistent in his performance though, scoring 28 points against Long Beach State and only four against UTEP. The Wildcats have relied on their defense to propel them in the win category this season, and that’s exactly what will determine whether or not they can be a contender in the Big 12.
The Longhorns have struggled a bit this season with the loss of Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph to the NBA. They have two early losses to unranked teams: Oregon State and North Carolina State, and then lost to #6 ranked North Carolina later in their pre-conference schedule. J’Covan Brown leads the Longhorns with roughly twenty points a game, and must have a consistent performance to give the Longhorns a shot. They also have suffered this year with the disappointing performance of freshman guard Myck Kybongo. He was 11th overall and 2nd in the country at his position as a senior in high school, but has almost had a negative impact for the longhorns this season. If Texas wants a shot of even making the NCAA tournament this year, they need better play from Kybongo and freshman big man Jonathan Holmes. The good thing is that the Longhorns are young. Look for them to be a force in years-to-come.
The Sooners have been playing decent basketball this season under new coach Lon Kruger. Their rebounding and guard play have propelled them to the position they’re in thus far. ESPN.com ranks them as fourth overall team in rebounds per game with 42.2. 16.8 of these boards are on the offensive end, which gives their scorers more opportunities to knock down shots. Most likely the biggest improvement in all of basketball this season has been junior guard Steven Pledger. He has bumped his average points per game from 10.9 as a sophomore to 19.8 this year. The Sooners will be in the bottom half of the conference this season, but don’t be surprised if they upset one or two teams along the way.
The Cowboys have probably been the biggest disappointment in non-conference play this season. Sitting at a record of 7-6, they are awful in scoring points, shooting, and they only have 10 assists a game. To put that in perspective, UNC guard Kendall Marshall averages 10 assists per game by himself. To Oklahoma State’s credit though, every loss they have is to a potential tournament team, a stat that might make Cowboy fans a little happier. On the bright side, they open Big 12 play up against Texas Tech, another team that consistently ranks in the 200’s in almost all important stats. The Cowboys will be an easy win for other teams this season, and most certainly has no chance of making the tournament.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech went out and hired Billy Gillispie as their new coach this season, and let’s just say, it shows. All of their losses have been to non-ranked teams, and three of these games were at neutral locations. Their only bright spot is freshman forward Jordan Tolbert, who averages 15.4 points and 6 rebounds a game. After they play Oklahoma State on Wednesday, they have to meet Baylor and Kansas in their second and third games of conference play. Let’s just hope Texas Tech can escape Big 12 conference play with more than four wins.
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M has had their fair share of ups and downs this season. Some predicted them to win the Big 12 this year, but after new coach Billy Kennedy was diagnosed with early stages of Parkinson’s disease and a few losses under their belts, this doesn’t seem as possible as it once did. Star 6-7 forward Khris Middleton also missed seven games with a knee injury, and sixth-man off the bench Kourtney is out for a month. Texas A&M was originally ranked #19, but losses to Mississippi State and Florida knocked them out of the rankings. Because of coach Kennedy’s diagnosis, the injuries, and the fact that backup point guard Jamal Branch announced he was transferring, the Aggies will not have as good of a season as we all thought. They also open up Big 12 play against Baylor, which surely doesn’t help.
Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones sit at 10-3 with a great win over #15 Michigan. They haven’t really seemed to find their rhythm or team chemistry, this in part because the team is largely made up of transfers. Their 6-8 forward transfer Royce White is a force to be reckoned with in the paint, and transfer guard Chris Allen can score points as well. All in all, the Cyclones won’t be a huge force in the conference and they won’t go to the tournament, but they will upset a few teams. Look for them to make the big upset of the season, just like their football team did against Oklahoma State in week 11.
How they’ll finish
4. Kansas State
6. Iowa State
7. Texas A&M
9. Texas Tech
10. Oklahoma State