KANSAS STATE WILDCATS (27-6)
vs. KANSAS JAYHAWKS (28-5)
Big 12 Conference Tournament - Championship Game
Sprint Center – Kansas City, MO
Tip-off: Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Line: Kansas -4.5, Total: 132
The top seeds in the Big 12 Tournament will meet in the championship game on Saturday night when in-state rivals No. 7 Kansas and No. 11 Kansas State square off in Kansas City.
Both teams posted back-to-back, double-digit wins in the Big 12 Tournament to reach the final game. The Wildcats trounced Texas by 17 points (66-49) on Thursday before beating Oklahoma State by 11 points (68-57) on Friday night. The Jayhawks put up 89.5 PPG in their two victories, crushing Texas Tech by 28 points (91-63) on Thursday and then taking down Iowa State by 15 points (88-73) in Friday's semifinals. This rivalry has been quite one-sided over the years with Kansas going 46-3 SU (94%) versus Kansas State in the past 49 meetings, including wins by four points on Jan. 22 in Manhattan and 21 points at home on Feb. 11. But since that most recent matchup, K-State is 8-1 SU (6-3 ATS), and this team has played well outside of Manhattan too with an 11-5 record (7-9 ATS) in non-home games this season. KU had lost three straight going into the last meeting with the Wildcats, but has gone 9-1 (SU and ATS) in its past 10 games. Kansas is 12-4 SU (8-8 ATS) outside of Lawrence this season, including a 5-1 SU mark (4-2 ATS) in neutral-court games.
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Kansas State has played excellent defense so far in this tournament, holding Texas to 49 points on 34% FG (26% threes) and limiting Oklahoma State to 57 points on 31% FG (24% threes). SG Rodney McGruder has been the most dependable scorer on this KSU team with 12 straight games of scoring in double-figures. He's been outstanding in his past three games with 22, 24 and 25 points on Friday, and has also been able to put up points against the Jayhawks with 16.5 PPG in the season series. PG Angel Rodriguez has also been on a scoring tear with 12 straight games of 10+ points. He finished Friday's game with 17 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Rodriguez also has 14.5 PPG, 7.0 APG and 2.5 SPG in the two meetings with the Jayhawks this season. PF Jordan Henriquez scored only eight points on Friday, but certainly made his presence felt on the defensive end with 11 rebounds and three blocks in just 22 minutes. Swingman Will Spradling tallied 10 points in last month's loss at Allen Fieldhouse, but he has gone cold in the past five games with a mere 2.8 PPG on 5-of-17 FG.
Kansas has scored at least 79 points in five of their past six games, averaging 85.4 PPG over this stretch. After pumping in 91 points on 66% FG (50% threes) versus Texas Tech on Thursday, the team scored 88 points on 53% FG in Friday's win over Iowa State. The Jayhawks also play outstanding team defense, allowing just 60.1 PPG in their past eight regulation games. A big reason for this low number is the interior defense of 7-foot senior C Jeff Withey, who is one of the best shot-blockers in the nation, averaging 4.2 BPG over his past five contests. Withey had double-doubles in both games versus KSU this season (14.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG) and swatted away five shots in last month's win. Offensively, there are not many players more gifted than freshman swingman Ben McLemore who has exploded in March for 21.2 PPG on 60% FG. And after scoring a pedestrian 11 points in the Jan. 22 win in Manhattan, McLemore dumped in 30 points on 9-of-13 FG (6-of-10 threes) in last month's blowout over K-State. PF Kevin Young also played much better at home (13 pts, 9 reb) in this series than on the road (3 pts on 1-of-6 FG), but has just 4.3 PPG and 3.3 RPG over his past three games. Kansas also has a strong senior backcourt in SG Travis Releford and PG Elijah Johnson. Although Releford has just 5.7 PPG in his past three games, he has averaged 11.0 PPG on 9-of-14 shooting in the season series with the Wildcats. On the flip side, Johnson is coming off a 14-point, seven-assist outing on Friday, but has shot terribly versus KSU this season, making only 4-of-16 shots.