Kansas Jayhawks vs. Kansas State Wildcats
Line: Kansas -8
Where: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas
When: Tuesday, 1/31 at 8:00 p.m. ET
Kansas State has already achieved one rare feat this season, beating Kansas for just the second time in the last 17 meetings.
The No. 7 Wildcats will try to pull off something even more shocking when they face the No. 8 Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse tonight. Kansas State has not swept the regular-season series between these teams in 40 years, which is when the conference was known as the Big Eight. Kansas is on a 16-game home winning streak in this rivalry, including a 102-83 win last February.
The Jayhawks, who were 1.5-point road favorites in their 83-82 overtime loss to the Wildcats two weeks ago, opened as 6-point favorites in the rematch. They were quickly bet up to -7 at offshore sportsbook BetOnline, as of Monday afternoon, and were up to -8 this morning. The total opened at 145 points before shifting to 147 after several hours of betting action. By this morning, the total had dripped back down to 146.
Kansas State has gone ‘over’ the total in seven of its last 10 games, including five straight on the road. The Wildcats have also gone ‘over’ in 14 of their last 16 games against Big 12 teams—they easily eclipsed the closing number of 147 in their first meeting with Kansas.
They followed up their Jan. 17 win over Kansas with a 68-58 win against Texas Tech before losing to then-No. 12 Iowa State by four points last Tuesday. Kansas State was able to bounce back during the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday, cruising to a 64-50 win over Florida.
Former Gator Keyontae Johnson had a team-high 13 points against his former team, completing a double-double effort with 11 rebounds. He leads Kansas State with 18.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this season.
“It was a special day just seeing my old teammates,” Johnson said. “It was fun out here playing against them. It felt just like practice. We were out there joking around throughout the game, but we were also competitive. It was a great experience. I’m glad that this conference had this game going on and let me play Florida.”
Johnson has spearheaded an offense that has been solid, shooting 35.5% from 3-point range and 51.9% from inside the arc as a team. Kansas State’s primary weakness has been its turnover rate, which is No. 235 in KenPom’s ratings. That has not stopped the Wildcats from getting off to their best start since the 1972-73 team, though.
Kansas presents a formidable challenge for any offense, ranked No. 16 nationally in adjusted efficiency. The Jayhawks tend to be even tougher to get past at home, although they have gone 0-5 ATS in their last five home games and 1-6 ATS in their last seven games overall.
They did an excellent job backing up last season’s national title early in the campaign, going 16-1 (5-0 Big 12) through their first 17 games. Some trouble arose following the loss to Kansas State, as they proceeded to add losses to TCU and Baylor. The Jayhawks were able to avoid their first four-game losing streak since the 1980s on Saturday, going to Rupp Arena and leaving with a 77-68 win over surging Kentucky.
Star Jalen Wilson scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds to halt the losing skid. He poured in a career-high 38 points against Kansas State two weeks ago and is averaging team-highs in points (21.4) and rebounds (8.6).
“It was important to get the train going again,” Wilson said. “It was important knowing what (Kentucky) did to us on our home court last year.”
KJ Adams had a strong outing as well, scoring 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting after getting held to just four points in each of his last two games. Freshman Gradey Dick continues to be in a slump from downtown, shooting just 6 of 26 from 3-point range over his last four games. However, he is still knocking down 42.7% of his attempts from the perimeter overall this season, averaging 14.8 points per game.
Kansas has similar shooting numbers to Kansas State at 35.8% from 3-point range and 52.4% from inside the arc. The Jayhawks are facing a Wildcats defense that is No. 43 in both defensive effective field goal percentage (46.8) and turnover rate. Kansas has a height advantage, but the teams were deadlocked at 38-38 on the glass in the first meeting.
The pick: Kansas State +8
It’s never easy to go on the road to Kansas, especially for a team like Kansas State that has historically struggled in this series. The Wildcats are led by one of the most experienced, battle-tested players in college basketball, though, and they have already proven that they can beat Kansas this season. They have been underrated in the betting market over the past three weeks, covering the spread at an 8-1 clip. Kansas has been trending in the opposite direction with just one cover in its last six games. The Jayhawks have not won a game by double digits since Jan. 7, and I don’t think this is the spot for them to win with that kind of margin.