Can KU basketball learn from its mistakes? A closer look at K-State: Opponent breakdown

After a big win over fellow blue blood Kentucky on Saturday, the Kansas men’s basketball team looks to halt its three-game Big 12 conference losing streak against in-state rival Kansas State.

The two teams last met roughly two weeks ago, with the Wildcats winning an 83-82 overtime thriller over the Jayhawks in Bramlage Coliseum.

K-State enters off a 64-50 win over Florida on Saturday.

The Wildcats are currently tied with Texas for first in the conference, primarily due to their elite play on both ends, plus an athletic forward that is a favorite for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.

Below is a scouting report and prediction of the game.

Tuesday’s game: No. 8 Kansas vs. No. 7 K-State

When/where: 7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse

TV/Streaming: ESPN+

Opponent’s record: 18-3, 6-2 Big 12

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 25

All statistics are from, and EvanMiya. KenPom stats only include Division I competition.

Kansas State Team Strengths

  • Stalwart defense: The Wildcats ranks 27th in adjusted defensive efficiency (95.1). Adjusted defensive efficiency is the number of points a team allows per 100 possessions, adjusted for opponent. They also rank 46th in opposing team effective field goal percentage (46.8).

  • Sharing is caring: K-State ranks 6th in the nation in assist rate percentage (65.5).

  • Elite against the long ball: Kansas State does a terrific job defending three-pointers. The Wildcats rank 11th in the nation in opposing team three-point percentage (28.4).

Kansas State Team Weaknesses

  • Foul heavy: Though K-State has a pretty good defense, opposing teams get fouled at a high rate. The Wildcats rank 286th in the nation in opposing-team free throw rate (36.1).

  • Prefer twos over threes: Kansas State doesn’t take a lot of threes. K-State ranks 271st in three-point attempt percentage (34.6).

  • Limited depth: First-year coach Jerome Tang doesn’t go deep into his bench. The Wildcats rank 326th in bench minutes percentage (24.3).

Kansas State Name to Know

6-foot-6 Senior forward Keyontae Johnson (No. 11)

Kansas State forward Keyontae Johnson puts up a shot during the second half of a game against Florida Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Manhattan, Kan. Kansas State won 64-50.
Kansas State forward Keyontae Johnson puts up a shot during the second half of a game against Florida Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Manhattan, Kan. Kansas State won 64-50.

+ Great rebounder for his size (7.7 rebounds per game)

+ Quality finisher around the rim (68.1%)

+ Sharpshooter (38.3% FG from three)

- Struggles to take care of the ball (3.1 turnovers per game)

- Not much of a passer (2.2 assists per game)

Tale of the Tape

K-State guard Markquis Nowell is the biggest threat to shoot from anywhere beyond the arc. On this play, he received a pass deep beyond the three-point line from forward Naq’Quan Tomlin. Nowell pump-faked, then canned the three over the outstretched arms of the Florida defender. Nowell is 5-foot-8, so one of the ways he creates space is by taking shots well beyond most players’ range; he shoots 38.9% from three.

Last time, KU limited Nowell to four points on 2-for-8 shooting from the floor. Look for Kansas to face-guard him when he doesn’t have the ball and run him off the line. Anytime the Jayhawks can prevent a shot from Nowell or Johnson, it’s a win for them.

In the last game, K-State was missing its starting center, David N’Guessan. He’s back this time around … making the Wildcats a lot bigger.

On this play, Nowell drove in the paint and dumped off a pass to a trailing N’Guessan, who promptly dunked it. Nowell is second in the nation in assists per game (8.2), so there’s a good chance he will pass when he drives. KU needs to have good situational awareness on defense, which means not losing K-State players and avoiding over-helping — plus rotating when needed.

Game Prediction

Kansas looks to avenge itself against K-State on Tuesday … plus avoid making history in the process.

KU hasn’t lost four straight conference games since the 1988-89 season. Under Kansas coach Bill Self it’s never happened.

Still, history is on KU’s side. The last time K-State beat the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse was in 2006. In fact, Kansas has a 52-18 record against the Wildcats at Allen Fieldhouse.

The biggest key for the Jayhawks is to hit their threes; the last time the two teams played, KU shot 6-for-29 from three (20.7%). The Jayhawks’ bench has also struggled all season and this game was no exception. The Wildcats had 23 more bench points (31 for K-State compared to eight for KU).

Last time on offense, Kansas didn’t have many players play well besides Jalen Wilson, who dropped a career-high 38 points. The Jayhawks desperately need Gradey Dick or KJ Adams to provide scoring to complement Wilson. They also need guards Kevin McCullar and Dajuan Harris to not be hesitant when shooting the ball and take open shots — something they didn’t do in Manhattan.

On the other side of the ball, KU needs to play defense without fouling. Kansas had three players foul out (McCullar, Adams and Dick), which led to wonky lineups and poor late-game execution.

Historically, Kansas has blown K-State out at home. After playing their best basketball in weeks against Kentucky and desperately needing a conference win, I like the Jayhawks in this one. It should be close regardless.

Kansas 75, Kansas State 69

Shreyas’ pick to cover the spread: K-State (+6.5)

Shreyas’ season record: 8-5

Shreyas’ record against the spread: 8-5

KU Player to Watch: Dajuan Harris

After four-straight games where KU guard Dajuan Harris failed to score more than three points, he bounced back against Kentucky on Saturday. Harris scored eight points on 3-for-8 shooting from the floor. Seeing Harris shoot more than a few shots is a good sign.

Last time against K-State, Harris scored three points on 1-for-7 shooting. He looked hesitant to take open shots, which affected KU’s spacing and allowed K-State defenders to sag off him. The Jayhawks need him to shoot the ball without hesitation, as it adds another layer to the offense.

On the defensive end, Harris will likely guard Nowell. For him to limit Nowell, he needs to run Nowell off the three-point line and contest every shot. If Harris can make his open shots and make Nowell uncomfortable, the Jayhawks should win.