Kansas State Preview & Big 12 Weekend Watch

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

When I wrote this weekend preview one week ago going into the Baylor game, Iowa State had just come off a painfully close road loss to Oklahoma State and two major games sat in front of Fred Hoiberg's team. The Cyclones passed both tests as they wore down Baylor and followed that up with a resounding, blowout win over Oklahoma. In the mean time, Kansas was off losing 2 games in a row and all of a sudden, Iowa State sits only one game behind league leaders, Kansas State and Kansas.

That sets the table for a crucial weekend in the Big 12. The Jayhawks face a major challenge, traveling to Norman to face Oklahoma, but the Iowa State-Kansas State match up could go a long way in determining which team has staying power and has to be considered a legitimate threat to bring home the Big 12 regular season title.

Let's get to Indoor Farmageddon: Part Deux...

Kansas State

Record: 18-4, 7-2 #13

Kenpom: 30

RPI: 23

Statistical Leaders: Scoring - Rodney McGruder, 14.6; Rebounding - Thomas Gipson, 5.5; Assists - Angel Rodriquez, 4.8

First Meeting: Iowa State 73 - Kansas State 67

Kind of bizarre game when these two teams met in Ames. Iowa State got out to an 8-point lead in the first half, only to have K-State bounce back and take a half time lead. ISU then started hot from outside in the 2nd half, but KSU continued to hang tough, answering each and every Cyclone basket with a crowd silencer of their own. Even when it appeared that ISU was going to put the game away in the closing minutes, going up 63-56 with about 5 minutes to play, the Wildcats battled back and the game wasn't over until the closing seconds. Iowa State benefited from inconsistent officiating, but also knocked down 11-22 treys and outrebounded K-State by 8.

Kansas State has won three in a row since that game and is currently tied with Kansas for the best record in the league.

Prediction

After losing 8 straight in Manhattan from 2002-2009, the Cyclones have actually won 2 of the last 3 games in Bramlage Coliseum and hold 3 straight wins over K-State overall. Whenever these teams get together recently, it always seems to come down to the wire. In fact, 6 of the last 7 games in this series have been decided by 6 points or less. Indoor Farmageddon indeed. I don't expect anything different from Saturday's game. Bruce Weber's team has to have payback on their minds and they know that while they've dropped 3 in a row to Iowa State, K-State had a chance to win all 3 games.

Whoever wins this game truly could challenge to take the conference crown from Kansas. Both teams are playing well and a win would be a nice resume booster for each squad. Iowa State's small-ball lineup resulted in K-State big men, Thomas Gipson and Jordan Henriquez playing a combined 18 minutes in Ames. The chess match between Weber and Hoiberg will continue Saturday, but the head-to-head match up between Chris Babb and Rodney McGruder should steal the show.

McGruder is a scoring machine, but in three games matching up against Babb, ISU's ace defender, he's only shot a combined 16-40 (40%) while going 3-9 from 3 and averaging just 12.3 points. For a little perspective, McGruder has averaged 15.2 points on 45.3% shooting and 36.7% from outside overall between last year and this year. Not a huge drop, but when you remember how close these last 3 games have been, those numbers take on a new meaning.

If Iowa State is going to steal one on the road, the hot outside shooting will have to continue and the Cyclones will need another solid effort on the boards. This game could go either way, but after agonizingly close losses at Kansas and at Oklahoma State, I think ISU's luck changes and the Cyclones finally pick up that statement road win.

Iowa State 75 - Kansas State 73

Game Info

Tip: 5 PM CT - Manhattan, Kansas - Bramlage Coliseum

TV: ESPN2

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Kansas State SBN site: http://www.bringonthecats.com/

Big 12 Weekend Predictions

Oklahoma State at Texas - 12:30 PM CT, Big 12 Network

Kind of a sneaky game for the Cowboys. Texas clearly has struggled this year, but they can be a little pesky at home and this will be no cakewalk for Travis Ford's bunch. Coming off three emotional wins (Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor), I'll be interested in seeing how OSU responds to a lesser opponent.

Oklahoma State 67 - Texas 61

West Virginia at TCU - 3:00 PM CT, Big 12 Network

Does anyone want to play in Ft. Worth right now? The Frogs should come into this game with a lot of confidence, but their win over Kansas will certainly grab the attention of Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers, who are still playing for a post season tournament (though not the post season tournament). I think TCU makes it tough, but West Virginia is used to playing a physical game and will adjust to Trent Johnson's style of play.

West Virginia 54 - TCU 46

Kansas at Oklahoma - 3:00 PM CT, ESPN

Time to find out what the Jayhawks are made of. Kansas has never lost three games in a row under Bill Self and Oklahoma is a solid team that will be out for blood. I think the Sooners put a serious scare into Rock Chalk nation, but I just can't see Kansas losing three in a row.

Kansas 69 - Oklahoma 66

Texas Tech at Baylor - 3:00 PM CT, Big 12 Network

Baylor has lost two in a row and Texas Tech will make a pretty good punching bag for the Bears to take their frustrations out on.

Baylor 83 - Texas Tech 62

One Man's Power Rankings

1. Kansas State 7-2

2. Kansas 7-2

3. Oklahoma State 6-3

4. Iowa State 6-3

5. Oklahoma 5-4

6. Baylor 5-4

7. West Virginia 4-5

8. Texas 2-7

9. TCU 1-8

10. Texas Tech 2-7

If you lose two in a row, including to bottom dweller TCU, you lose the top spot. Congratulations Kansas State, you get the top spot for this week. The conference race is starting to sort itself out. Oklahoma State and Iowa State look just a little better than Oklahoma and Baylor, while the bottom four teams in the league really are about as good as their records. How about TCU moving up to #9 though? I honestly didn't think it would happen, but congratulations Horned Frogs, you're not the shittiest team in the league (this week).

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