One of the oldest rivalries in college basketball will tip-off at 6 p.m. on ESPN on Tuesday, as No. 2 Kansas will travel to No. 13 Kansas State.
Bramlage Coliseum is an environment that shows up and shows out whenever Kansas is in town. The Jayhawks have already played in a hostile environment this season when they defeated Missouri back on Dec. 10.
“I kind of think Mizzou was a great way to prepare for that,” said redshirt-junior forward Jalen Wilson. “I think Mizzou’s gym probably was a little bit more louder and I think Mizzou has just more of a hatred for us. As far as K-State and Mizzou go, so I think it's great prep for us.”
Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang has done phenomenal in his first year at the helm for the Wildcats, as they’re a much better team than previous years with their 15-2 record.
“This year, they know they can beat teams,” Wilson said. “They know they can play with a lot of different people, and that's kind of the difference… going to Austin and playing like that, I mean, they’re a good team this year.”
Senior guard Keyontae Johnson, a transfer from Florida, is having quite the impact for the Wildcats. Johnson leads the Wildcats in scoring as he averages 18.4 points per game, and also leads the team in rebounding with 7.1 per game.
“He's very athletic, very tall for a guard position, and I think he can score three levels very well,” Wilson said about Johnson. “He hasn’t got to play a lot because some of his health problems, but he's been around college for a long time, so he knows exactly what to do. He's been a key role in their success this year.”
Outside of Johnson, there are other players who can score the ball well for the Wildcats. One of those players is senior guard Markquis Nowell.
“They lost [Nijel] Pack obviously, but they've replaced him with some guys that can really score the ball, and Nowell’s having a player of the year type year,” said head coach Bill Self.
Even without Pack, who transferred to Miami following last season, the Wildcats play with an offensive freedom. Nowell averages 17.1 points per game. He is a familiar face to Kansas, as last year in Bramlage, he had 16 points with three steals and six assists.
“Their entire team plays with a freedom offensively that you don't see very often,” Self said. “I mean they have freedom to go make plays and to shoot the ball, and Nowell, he gave us fits last year over there. He and Pack dominated the game.”
Kansas looks to make it eight straight wins over the Wildcats, as they hold the all-time series lead 203-94, including a 29-5 advantage inside Bramlage.