As heavyweight battles go, this one looks like a walk-over.
In this corner, weighing in as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, the Kansas Jayhawks have won 13 straight games. They own a 198-94 all-time record against K-State, including 78-48 on the road. They’ve won 32 of the last 37 games in Manhattan against their rivals, including a remarkable 25-game win streak from 1983-2007.
In the other corner, the Kansas State Wildcats currently sit in last place in the Big 12, two games worse than Oklahoma State, the team immediately above them. They have lost eight straight games, their longest losing streak since losing 11 straight in 1999-2000.
No one would be surprised if the K-State corner comes ready to throw in the white towel when the two combatants step into the ring in Manhattan, Kan. to go toe-to-toe.
While the boxing analogy might work in any rivalry game, it’s especially appropriate because of the last matchup between the two teams.
Kansas (25-3, 14-1 Big 12) defeated K-State 81-60 Jan. 21 in Lawrence in a game that is remembered almost exclusively for what happened at the conclusion of the game. With Kansas running out the clock, K-State’s DaJuan Gordon stole the ball at half court from Silvio De Sousa and drove for a layup attempt. De Sousa took exception and emphatically swatted away Gordon’s attempt.
But when De Sousa finished the play by standing over and staring at Gordon, the K-State bench took exception. Both benches emptied, punches were thrown and the visual of De Sousa holding a folding chair over his head ready to throw it down on an opponent is one of the lasting images of the 2019-20 college basketball season. Four players–two for each team–were suspended multiple games as a result. De Sousa got the longest suspension–10 games–and he will miss this contest.
Neither side was proud of the events of that evening, but hopefully it’s in the past.
Kansas seemed to use the altercation as a wake-up call. They avenged their lone conference loss last Saturday when they downed then-No. 1 Baylor on the road. The Jayhawks have two of the top players in the country in guard Devon Dotson (17.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game) and center Udoka Azubuike (13.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game). Azubuike had possibly the best game of his career when he recorded 23 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks.
Kansas State (9-19, 2-13 Big 12) is limping toward the finish line of the season. The Cats will be completing the toughest week in program history, facing the No. 1- and 2-ranked teams in the same week for the first time ever. It’s the first time in four seasons that has happened in college basketball.
The Cats only have two players (Xavier Sneed, 14.0 points) and Cartier Diarra (13.1) averaging in double-figures. As a team, they’re shooting 41.3 percent from the field, 293rd in Division I, and 31.9 percent from 3-point range, 253rd in Division I.
But Self also knows the past–or the revenge factor for K-State–won’t have an impact on Saturday’s game.
“I expect (the atmosphere) will be great, just like it always is when we go over there,” he said about KSU. “We’ll talk about what they should be prepared for, but it’s not like that’s going to be our point of emphasis.
“Our point of emphasis will be to be poised, and how to guard their actions and take advantage of how they guard us.”
Weber is just hoping for a spark that only a rivalry game can produce, with the focus on team.
“We have to come with the right emotion,” he said. “It has to be controlled emotion. It can’t be, ‘I’m going to shoot and go score 30.’ It has to be, ‘I’m going to guard the heck out of them and play my butt off and see if I can help K-State beat Kansas.'”
–Field Level Media