Following their respective victories in the quarterfinals, Kansas State Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks are set for an inter-state matchup in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament today (7pm ET Friday on ESPN2).
So far, so good for people who predicted that that the Big 12 would neatly be holding to form. Eight teams took part in Thursday’s quarterfinal round with all four of the expected teams (top 4 seeds) taking home the victories. Two of the four winners did so pretty handedly as well, as both No. 1 Kansas and No. 3 West Virginia, won their games by more than 12 points each. No. 4 Kansas State and No. 2 Texas Tech needed to sweat it out a bit, winning their games by six points combined.
Either way however, the Big 12 held to chalk and as the tournament continues into the semifinals, that’s good news for those hoping to get a Kansas/Texas Tech (they’ll face West Virginia in their semifinal at 9 PM ET) rematch in the championship.
Semifinal 1: Kansas State vs Kansas
Referred to as the Sunflower Showdown due to Kansas being known as the Sunflower State, the Jayhawks of Kansas and Wildcats of Kansas State, are set for their third matchup of the season. In the previous two meetings, Kansas has come out on top.
In the first meeting, which occurred almost exactly two months prior to today’s head-to-head, Kansas State traveled to their rivals and played them better than they really had any right too. At the time, Kansas was ranked as the 12th best team in the nation and Kansas State, while unranked, did almost enough to be able to pull off the upset.
The game was a back-and-forth affair, almost from buzzer to buzzer with a series of lead changes taking place throughout, five of which happened in the final two minutes and 18 seconds of the game. Devonte Graham scored 23 points to lead all players with star Malik Newman hitting the go-ahead free throws with just 15 seconds left on the clock. Kansas State had a final opportunity to win the game but Kansas managed to put down a great final defensive stand to prevent losing their biggest rivalry game of the year.
Dean Wade led the Wildcats with 22 points and was aided by a career-high 18 points by Carter Diarra in the effort. Barry Brown, who made the final shot when the buzzer sounded to end the game, added 12 points and six assists.
This was Kansas’ sixth straight victory over Kansas State and 12th in a row at their home court of Allen Fieldhouse. It was the first of a pair of victories over their interstate rival, that Kansas would score on the year.
In the second meeting, which took place in Kansas State’s famed Octagon arena, the outcome was much more decisive. Then the seventh ranked team in the country, Kansas benefited from a dominant performance on both sides of the ball and were able to defeat Kansas State by a final of 70-56. The Jayhawks placed four in double-figures led by Svi Mykhailuik’s 22, and a combined 29 points from Graham and Newman.
Despite Kansas’ overall track record of beating Kansas State lately, it is not that the Wildcats have gone away quietly in most meetings. In fact, in the last four head-to-head matchups, Kansas has won by three points or fewer three times. The January 29th game being an outlier, this tournament game should once again, be a closely contested Sunflower showdown.
But both Kansas and Kansas State almost didn’t make it this far. Kansas overcame a 10-point deficit to finally defeat Oklahoma State. They had been the Jayhawks’ kryptonite this year, defeating them in both previous meetings. Kansas State required overtime to get past TCU. It was Brown who scored the game winner, but the team needed production from just about every position in order to avoid being upset by the Horned Frogs.
Our Preview’s Kansas Jayhawks vs Kansas State Wildcats Picks & Betting Predictions
In their history of meeting in the Big 12 Championship tournament, Kansas State has faced Kansas nine prior times and have lost every match-up. That’s not exactly promising for what could happen this time around. All eyes will undoubtedly be on Graham and Newman to carry Kansas forward the way they have all season and Kansas State will need huge games from Wade and Brown if they want to keep their hopes of snatching the conference title away from their rivals alive.
The Wildcats have the firepower to get it done but Kansas is playing just too good right now. The team finished first in the Big 12 with a 25-7 record, managing to barely top Texas Tech for the outright regular season championship. Those two teams, who split their regular season meetings, are definitely on a collision course for round three in the conference championship.