Saturday, January 29, 2011

Breaking down Kansas-Kansas State

It's Kansas Day, the 150th anniversary for the state of Kansas, and, fittingly, the University of Kansas plays Kansas State University today. Let's break down this 271st game in a rivalry series which began in 1907.

Here's what to watch for today:

Thomas Robinson. This list has to start with T-Rob, the young man who has been in the prayers and thoughts of so many this past week given the recent death of his mother. Robinson flew back to Lawrence from Washington, D.C. yesterday and is expected to play tonight. The reception from the crowd, when Robinson enters the game, will be electric.

Jacob Pullen. The emotional leader of the Wildcats has played a key role in past KU-KSU clashes. As a freshman, Pullen's drives and points were instrumental in Kansas State's only victory over Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan. Last year, Pullen and his Chicago buddy, Sherron Collins, went toe-to-toe in all three games of the series. Can Pullen play within himself and his team, and be the court leader which KSU needs so desperately?

Markieff Morris. The less heralded of the Morris twins, 'Kieff is the leading rebounder for Kansas. Interestingly, Markieff is the Kansas starter who typically gets the fewest minutes given his propensity to pick up an early foul or two. Kansas needs this twin to be in the game for 28-30 minutes.

Will Spradling. Like Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar of Kansas, Spradling is a Kansas kid and drew Bob Knight's praise on Monday night when KSU beat Baylor. KSU needs Spradling to complement Pullen's scoring but, more importantly, they need him to avoid turnovers today and play a solid floor game.

The Phog. The last time Kansas played at home, they lost. That hadn't happened in the previous 69 games, so the Jayhawks will look to start a new home court winning streak today. As always, the atmosphere will be electric in Allen Fieldhouse but today will have the extra buzz created by ESPN College GameDay being on campus, combined with Robinson's return and the jersey ceremony for Kansas native Wayne Simien at halftime.

Kansas State's shooting. The Wildcats shoot .439% per game, which is 169th in the country. The Wildcats' like games that get "muddy"--physical, every possession a battle--but even that percentage is not going to win any championships. The 'Cats can still win shooting worse then their opponent (they did it on Monday), but have to improve at getting the ball in the basket.

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