No. 8 Kansas (22-5, 11-3)
Frank Mason, sophomore, guard (5-star)
Leading the team with 4.4 assists per game, Mason’s distribution will be the key to orchestrating the Jayhawk offense. A mixture of steady assists along with double-digit scoring makes Mason the biggest threat to K-State. Look for consistency in taking care of the ball and setting up key plays to keep the Jayhawks going.
Wayne Selden Jr., sophomore, guard (3-star)
Aside from inconsistencies in the past few games, the Jayhawks look to Selden for crucial jump shots. Averaging 12 points in his Sunflower Showdown career, Selden has proven himself to be a serious scorer in the matchup. Watch for Selden to continue hitting threes to rev up the Jayhawks.
Kelly Oubre Jr., freshman, guard (4-star)
Oubre has the best all around game of any Jayhawk at this point. His steals, transition shots and rebounds all count for a much needed spark at any point in the game. He brings stifling defense and energy to the floor each game. You can count on Oubre to show us everything he’s got.
Cliff Alexander, freshman, forward (2-star)
It’s no secret that foul trouble comes easily to Alexander, and it haunts him. Staying out of foul trouble early on will be important for Alexander to contribute as he would like in this game. As the signature big man, his struggle to stay on the floor has costed the Jayhawks to lose the battle down low recently.
Perry Ellis, junior, forward (5-star)
Coming off a double-double in the last Sunflower Showdown, Ellis looks for a strong showing once again. Leading the team in scoring, Ellis is hands-down the one post the Jayhawks look to. It will come down to rebounding for Ellis to make remain effective against K-State.
At a glance
After losing to West Virginia last week and defeating TCU on Saturday, the Jayhawks are locked in on keeping their lead for the Big 12 crown heading into Manhattan. The Sunflower Showdown has been nothing but bragging rights for Kansas for most of the past few years. The Jayhawks hope to keep their seat at the top of the Big 12 as they travel to Manhattan.
Player to watch
Devonte’ Graham, freshman, guard
Graham had a game to remember Saturday against TCU – 20 points on 9-for-9 shooting. His spark off the bench was the difference-maker in the win against TCU. Look for Graham to dish out assists or step up to put points on the board.
Will we see much play from big man Landen Lucas?
Lucas is clearly Kansas’ backup big man. He usually enters the game due to foul trouble from Cliff Alexander, but produces needed rebounds and putback points. His ability to get fouled in the paint and produce points at the line makes him an asset the Jayhawks can depend on as the season continues.
By the Numbers
75-46 – Kansas leads the all-time series in Manhattan
1 – The Jayhawks hold a full-game lead on Iowa State for first place in the Big 12 Conference
2 – Kansas has the second-highest RPI in the country
Baby Jay will cheer if...
Perry Ellis has the strongest showing. As a leader of this team, Ellis is going into his sixth Sunflower Showdown matchup with the leadership and experience, knowing just how intense this rivalry can be. If Ellis can continue to lead the team in scoring and get a good number of rebounds, the Jayhawks should be able to have a solid game.
Kansas State (13-15, 6-9)
Tre Harris, freshman, guard (3-star)
For most of the season, minutes came sparingly for the six-foot-five freshman. Three minutes here. Four minutes there. Harris spent most of his time on the bench. But lately, his minutes have taken a significant spike in the right direction and he has shown flashes. He scored fourteen points in the loss to TCU on six-of-eight shooting (two-of-three behind the line) and 12 against Texas. Harris did not play against the Jayhawks in Lawrence earlier this year.
Jevon Thomas, sophomore, guard (3-star)
Hailing from Queens, N.Y., six-foot-one Thomas has fallen into favor with Bruce Weber lately. His minutes are up in the thirties over the past two games, and he may have had one of his best performances Saturday, scoring six points on three-of-four shooting, two steals and two assists with three rebounds. Thomas scored just 2 points in the game in Lawrence.
Wesley Iwundu, sophomore, forward (2-star)
The six-foot-seven sophomore saw his minutes increase in sophomore Marcus Foster’s absence. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to take advantage. Iwundu averages just five and a half points per game and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of one. In the loss to Baylor on Saturday, Iwundu scored just one point while turning the ball over four times and racking up four fouls. In 29 minutes against Kansas, Iwundu scored just four points.
Nino Williams, senior, forward (4-star)
Williams has battled through injuries this season, but his production is at an all-time high. The senior averages 11.4 points per game, up from 6.2 last season. Williams also rebounds well for his size, checking in at six-foot-five and averaging 5.2 boards per game. Against Kansas, though, Williams was slowed by a nagging knee and held to four points and two rebounds.
Thomas Gipson, senior, forward (3-star)
The Kansas State teams Gipson has been a part of (2011-present) have played the Jayhawks tight: a six-point loss in 2012, a four-point loss in 2013, and a three-point win last year. Gipson averages 11 points per game and 4.8 rebounds this season, and usually saves his best for the Sunflower Showdown. Last time out against the Jayhawks, Gipson dropped 19 points on seven-of-13 shooting in 30 minutes. He also led the Wildcats that afternoon with seven rebounds.
At a glance
The narrative of the Kansas State 2014-2015 basketball season can be cut up into three digestible chunks. First, the non-conference, where the Wildcats struggled to a 7-6 record. Second, the first seven games of conference play, where Kansas State went 5-2, beating teams it should with an early share of first-place. And third, a current stretch of seven losses in eight games. From February until the end of the season, six of the Wildcats’ nine remaining games come against top-25 teams.
Player to watch
Marcus Foster, sophomore, guard
Foster is one of the most exciting players to watch in the Big 12 conference. He ranks seventh in the Big 12 in points per game (13.4), and eighth in three-point percentage (37.5 percent). Foster served a three-game suspension following a violation of team rules in mid-February, and the Wildcats lost all three games (including to bottom-feeder Texas Tech). The sophomore will play Monday night, but may not start. In his last matchup with Kansas, Foster scored 19 points on seven-of-18 shooting.
Does Kansas State have any fight left?
Bruce Weber has run through multiple starting lineups this season. Star guard Marcus Foster served a mid-season suspension for a violation of team rules. The Wildcats have lost seven of its last eight. KSU’s struggles were illuminated most obviously Saturday, when former Wildcat guard Jacob Pullen voiced his disapproval over Twitter. Saturday, Pullen wrote: “I support kstate for life no matter what but I’m not a Bruce Weber fan… Bruce Weber didn’t think I was good enough to play at Illinois and I don’t think he is good enough to coach at Kansas State.” What Wildcat team does Kansas see in the Sunflower Showdown Monday amidst turmoil?
By the Numbers
304—Kansas State ranks 304th in the nation in rebounds per game, and last in the Big 12.
4-23—KSU wins over KU in Manhattan. Historically, the Wildcats have won close to 75 percent of their games in Bramlage Coliseum. Against Kansas, however, they’ve won just 17 percent.
3—Wins against 10 top-25 opponents this season.
Baby Jay will cry if...
Kansas doesn’t start the game strong. Keeping the crowd out of the game early and reminding Kansas State who owns the rivalry and the league will make things much easier for Bill Self and his team. The longer K-State is in the game, though, the more they’ll start to believe and the more the fans will get into it. Furthermore, and possibly most importantly, the referees may be invited to make influential calls. Kansas should get up early.