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Let's see if we can't find something to like about Kansas before tonight's three-quel
It's been a hell of a run for the Iowa State-Kansas matchup this year, with more points scored in two games than likely the entire Big Ten tournament. The viciousness between the two fanbases has gotten to a level that is possibly exceeding Cy-Hawk rivalry levels, so let's catch up with Owen from Rock Chalk Talk about how events unfolded in Ames, and how he's feeling about today's matchup. Maybe we'll even discover we don't hate KU fans that much!
What's your overall take on what happened with the last game between our teams in Hilton Coliseum? Thoughts on the officiating, Elijah Johnson, the aftermath with our fans?
Owen: I feel like generally speaking the consensus on Rock Chalk Talk was the exact response that you probably don't feel like any Kansas fan had. We felt lucky, I was sitting at dinner with several non-Kansas fans and at that moment I said we got away with one. I'm not apologizing for losing, but without question we were fortunate. You guys definitely have a good team, Fred Hoiberg is a good coach. I don't feel like the first game was as big of an atrocity as people are making it out to be. Fortunate with the shot? Of course we were, but it wasn't as if we didn't have to hit the shot and win in overtime. The no call on the charge was certainly different and I can understand the angst associated with that.
It's funny though, even today you can go look and generally speaking I think our group is expecting a great game, expecting Iowa State to be fired up and it's a very real possibility that we lose. Heck I'd say the smart money might be on Iowa State right now. On the flip side the thread from your side is filled with cheater this, bully that, kill, kill, kill from K-State fans mostly but even some on the Iowa State side. I think any obnoxious reaction you might have gotten out of me, theoretically, after the last game would have had nothing to do with feeling superior, or entitled as a Kansas fan and it would have had much more to do with the irrational hatred toward Elijah Johnson and Bill Self after that game. It was a little absurd.
I was born in Iowa City, but grew up for a time in Ames. I actually remember quite fondly playing flag football in my friends front yard with his older brother and some of their friends who were a juniors alongside Fred Hoiberg at Ames High. Hoiberg was the all time quarterback that game. I was in first grade, the guy was a legend, it was an awesome day.
I watched many games in Hilton, love it. Saw Danny Manning and Kevin Pritchard play for Kansas in Hilton when I was very young and I don't think I fully grasped that I shouldn't be cheering for Iowa State at that age and since I lived in Ames I did. I've always had a healthy respect for Iowa State as a program, as a fanbase etc. In my experience most Kansas fans share that respect because the program and the people have always been a class act.
Not sure what my point is anymore but generally speaking I love great games, I love the competition, these two have been incredible and the chips have fallen our way twice. But the vast conspiracy theories and evil empire talk that circulate tend to get old from the Kansas side. I guess we should expect some of that given the success, but it does tend to get personal in a hurry and I think that's when you start getting defensive reaction from the Kansas side. I'm sure everyone sees it differently, but I guess my perception is that rivalries and sports have become much more angry from a fan perspective and that's frustrating to see.
It seems like Iowa State can concentrate on shutting down a player by throwing Chris Babb on him, as was the case last time with Ben McLemore, giving Elijah Johnson open (and not so open) looks to the tune of 39 points. Elijah struggled previous to that game, so who's your choice as breakout scoring candidate for this game?
Owen: McLemore. The smart money is always on McLemore because he is the one that has the capability of doing it any game. The 39 point explosion by Johnson was an anomaly. The best thing that he and Naadir Tharpe can do is be aggressive from the point, get McLemore open looks, feed Jeff Withey and score when they have the opportunity. But at the end of the day McLemore going for 30 would be a pretty good sign for Kansas, although I think even then we have a close game.
This is the third time KU has seen ISU this season so what do the Jayhawks have to do differently to keep Niang from causing matchup issues?
Owen: I wish I knew. You guys are our nightmare matchup and we'll be watching closely for an Iowa State like clone in our ladder when the brackets come out Saturday. I think we have to stop dribble penetration, find a way to help out a little less defensively and limit the amount of open looks we give. That said, I'm not sure that's in Bill Self's nature. I've never known him to err on the side of caution with a three point shooting team. He always seems content to play his game and hope the shots don't fall. If it's one guy or two he'll find a way to lock them down, when you have guys all over the court spreading things out it can be a tough one.
Kansas plays a fairly short bench, with only 8 players averaging double digit minutes, and 4 players averaging 30+ minutes. Is fatigue a factor in a conference tournament setting with back to back games?
Owen: I don't worry about it. I think in short spurts like this it's fine. Bill Self almost always shortens his bench to around 8 by this time of year and I wouldn't say fatigue has ever been a huge issue.
Bill Self says of the two Iowa State games: "Those two games may be the two most exciting games played in our league this year," How do your fans feel about it? Is Iowa State the worst matchup for you guys in the Big 12? Whats the general confidence level with your fans for tonight?
Owen: I think one minute we're rationalizing a win based on our guys wanting to prove we are the better team and not just lucky. The next minute we're planning on a barrage of three's from Iowa State that buries us. Then we feel like we played great yesterday and we can carry that over. Two seconds later it's the thought of trying to overcome that extra motivation that Iowa State has. It's going to be a REALLY tough game. I would have taken OU in a heartbeat. I'd always rather play a team we lost to than a team we have swept because I think winning three, if it's a tough matchup like this one, is always VERY difficult.
A big thanks to Owen for his time, and if you want a perspective from the Kansas side, be sure to check out Rock Chalk Talk, SB Nation's KU community.