6-2 conference records are not created equal. Kansas (+16) has a significantly stronger average efficiency margin in conference play than Kansas State (+7). How was that difference created?
Kansas hasn't lost as badly as Kansas State did at home against Texas Tech and has been more likely to blow out the poor-to-mediocre Big 12 teams they've faced. Breaking down the manner in which those efficiency margins came to be, we see that Kansas's advantage is entirely down to defense.
|Team||Off Eff||Def Eff|
Kansas State is coming off of two excellent offensive performances in a row. The Wildcats scored 127 points per 100 possessions against Missouri (allowing 107 pts/100 in conference play) and 124 pts/100 @Texas (allowing 111 pts/100 in conference play). Over those two games, Kansas State has unleashed a deadly combination of excellent three-point shooting (20-39) and offensive rebounding (48.6 OR%). Neither rate figures to be sustainable, as, over their first six conference games, K-State shot 33.7% from three-point range and grabbed 36.3% of possible offensive rebounds.
KANSAS ST OFFENSE v. KANSAS DEFENSE
(Big 12 games only)
Like Texas A&M (though it did not come to pass), Kansas State has the potential both to get to the free throw line more often than Kansas would prefer and make a higher percentage of free throws than Kansas's opponents have thus far in conference play.
Despite my habitual worries about free throws, rebounding will almost cerainly play a larger factor in determining the outcome of the game. Even with their recent hot streak from behind the arc, Kansas State still only ranks eighth in the conference in eFG% (and stand a mere four-tenths of a percent ahead of eleventh-placed Texas Tech). They're sustaining their offense on the aforementioned free throw shooting and excellent offensive rebounding. With Kansas's tendency (WARNING: anecdotal opinion of an extreme partisan with no evidence cited to back it up to follow) to play outstanding defense on their opponents' initial shot attempt but (at times) to struggle to rebound those missed shots, this may be the rare basketball game where field goal percentage is not the most important of the four factors.
If Kansas can control the defensive glass reasonably well, they should be able to limit Kansas State's offensive efficiency as the Jayhawks figure to force the Wildcats to commit more turnovers than usual.
KANSAS OFFENSE v. KANSAS ST DEFENSE
(Big 12 games only)
Whatever boost Kansas State's defense will get from playing a team that is extremely unlikely to shoot 73.6% from the free throw line should be offset by the boost Kansas's offense will receive by facing a team that hasn't forced turnovers on more than 19% of an opponents' possessions in their last five conference games.
Unless, of course, the Jayhawks, in their efforts to take advantage of Kansas State's undersized (or, equally sized but underskilled) frontcourt, force a number of passes with little-to-no chance of succeeding toward their post players, and prove definitively that it is they and not their opponents that determine their turnover rate.
Despite the events of the final 6:41 of the Texas A&M game, Kansas had a pretty good offensive night by their own standards. The Jayhawks scored 1.04 points per possession (about 11% more than Texas A&M has allowed their other Big 12 opponents). Thirty-three minutes of good offensive play and thirty-eight minutes of good defensive play isn't enough to beat Texas A&M. Kansas State isn't Texas A&M. Futhermore, the Wildcats undersized frontline should necessitate more minutes for Wright and Arthur and fewer for Sasha Kaun.
Prediction: Kansas 72 Kansas State 63