A full slate of conference games is on tap this weekend in Big 12 basketball, but two stand out above the rest. Kansas State, one of the hottest teams in the conference currently, puts its 10-game winning streak on the line on the road against perennial Big 12 champion Kansas, and Oklahoma, which lost to Kansas earlier this week, tries to rebound at home when it hosts current league leader Iowa State.
Kansas State @ Kansas
The Kansas-Kansas State ruvalry ranks as the eighth longest, continuous basketball series in the country, now in its 107th year dating back to 1907.
The young Jayhawks, who feature a starting lineup with three freshman – albeit extraordinarily talented first-year players – looked like some of the Kansas teams of old in holding off Oklahoma and capturning their first conference road victory of the season on Wednesday. On Saturday, KU takes its act back to the comforts of Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, where the Jayhawks have lost just three games in the past seven seasons. Seven is also the number of consecutive home conference openers Kansas has won at the legendary basketball palace the KU fans affectionately call “The Phog.’
In games played at Kansas between the two Sunflower State rivals, the Jayhawks hold a 75-45 series lead. K-State head coach is seeking his first win over the Jayhawks in four previous tries. On the opposite bench, Bill Self is 18-3 vs.. the Wildcats and 9-1 in games at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas State’s last win at Kanaas was around this time in 2006, a four-point victory, 59-55.
Kansas State (12-3, 2-0) is last in the Big 12 in scoring offense, averaging only 67.7 points per game, but that has worked out for the Cats because they are holding their opponents to a Big 12-best 58 points a game. The Wildcats’ leading scorer is freshman guard Marcus Foster, who is averaging 14.1 points. He is the only Kansas State player in the top 20 in the league in scoring. Foster has scored in double figures in 13 of his last 14 games and is one of only four true freshman to lead his top-25 team in scoring at this point of the season. The Wildcats broke into the top 25 this week for this first time this season, at No, 25 in the Associated Press poll.
During K-State’s 10-game win streak, the Cats have been beasts on the boards, especially on the offensive boards, outrebounding their opponents by plus 91.
Kansas’ four losses this season have been by a total of 17 points. The Jayhawks (10-4, 1-0), ranked 18th in the country iu the latest AP poll, are led in scoring by super-freshman Andrew Wiggins, who has been very good but not great most of this season, averaging 15 points per game. He was held to nine at Oklahoma. KU has held all but one opponent under 50-percent shooting this season, while shooting 50 percent or better themselves in nine games.
The battle on the boards will be interesting. Both teams have done well in this category in 2013-14. The Jayhawkss have outrebounded their opponents in 12 of their 14 games.
Iowa State @ Oklahoma
It may be starting to seem like every league game in the Big 12 this season is a big game. And that’s because they are, and that’s the way it is going to be for most, if not all, of the conference season. We are only one week into Big 12 play, and we’ve already had Baylor vs. Iowa State, Oklahoma State at Kansas State, Texas at Oklahoma State, Kansas at Oklahoma and Oklahoma at Texas, all big games in the big scheme of things. And this weekend, we have Kansas hosting Kansas State in a Sunflower Showdown and undefeated Iowa State at Oklahoma.
The Sooners (12-3, 1-1) are 111-81 all-time against Iowa State (14-0, 2-0) and have won 81 of the 103 games played in Norman. That may not mean much this year, however, as the seventh-ranked Cyclones come to Oklahoma undefeated and playing the best basketball of any team in the conference. Iowa State was picked to finish fourth in the Big preseason Big 12 coaches poll.
Three Iowa State starters rank in the top 10 in the Big 12 in scoring and four in the top 20. Senior Melvin Ejim leads the Cyclones in scoring, averaging 17.8 points per game. He is followed by three other teammates in double figures: DeAndre Kane (16.1), George Niang (15.4) and Dustin Hogue (12.3).
Iowa State has held its opponents this season to under 40-percent shooting, while averaging 50-percent shooting on the offensive end.
Saturday’s game at Oklahoma should be a high-scoring, up-and-down game, as the Cyclones 87-points-per-game team average is tied with Oklahoma for sixth best in the nation. The Sooners boast some scoring power themselves, led by senior forward Cameron Clark, who leads the conference with an 18.7 average, including a game-high 32 in his last game vs. Kansas. The Sooners are the only conference teams to use the same starting lineup in every game this season, and each of the OU starters are averaging in double figures.
Oklahoma has exceeded the century mark twice this season, after reaching the 100-point level only once in the previous eight years. The Sooners have scored 90 or more points six times this season, while bettering 90 points only once a year ago.
The remainder of the Big 12 weekend schedule looks like this: TCU at Baylor, Oklahoma State at West Virginia and Texas Tech at Texas.
Weekend Big 12 Basketball Prediuctions (Jan. 11)
Kansas State @ Kansas – Kansas by 14
Iowa State @ Oklahoma – Iowa State by 11
TCU @ Baylor – Baylor by 15
Oklahoma State @ West Virginia – Oklahoma State by 16
Texas Tech @ Texas – Texas by 10
Results for the season: 5-3 (.675)