The most unlikely thing to happen in tonight's game is for Kansas State to make a high percentage of their field goal attempts. They've shot 50 eFG% or better in just four of their twelve Big 12 games, peaking at 54.7 eFG% against Missouri in Manhattan. That's right, Kansas State's best shooting night in conference play is worse than Kansas's average shooting performance (55.5 eFG%) in conference play.
KANSAS DEFENSE v. KANSAS STAE OFFENSE
(Big 12 games only)
Despite their poor shooting from the field, the Wildcats score at about 94% of the efficiency at which Kansas does in conference play by rebounding a high percentage of their misses and making a lot of free throws. The game in Lawrence demonstrated that if you take away Kansas State's offensive rebounds, their free throws won't be enough to beat you. The Wildcats attempted 41 free throws in that game, making 30, and still failed to score a point per possession (0.985). Not because Kansas forced a lot of turnovers (19.7 TO%) or made Kansas State shoot an especially low percentage from the field (43.5 eFG%) but by limiting Kansas State to 19.4% of possible offensive rebounds.
If the Jayhawks can grab at least 70% of Kansas State's misses tonight, it will be very difficult for the Wildcats to score.
KANSAS OFFENSE v. KANSAS STATE DEFENSE
(Big 12 games only)
Kansas State's defense has taken advantage of the worst offensive teams in the league but has struggled against the better offensive teams (as well as Missouri and Nebraska):
As in non-conference play, Kansas State's defensive struggles have been more pronounced on the road. Factoring in that it would not be a surprise if we look back after the season and see that Kansas's offensive numbers peaked with the second Nebraska game, I expect Kansas State to do a much better job defensively tonight than they did in Lawrence (though it takes a massive amount of improvement to go from allowing 1.34 points per possession to anything resembling a good defensive performance). Kansas simply can't be expected to make 60% of their shots and rebound 50% of their misses again.
Just as Kansas State entered the game in Lawrence riding an unsustainable hot streak from beyond the three-point line, Kansas's three-point defense has been too good to be true (for an extended period of time) over the last four games. Kansas State, Missouri, Colorado and Nebraska have combined to shoot 20.4% from behind the arc. Whatever defensive boost Kansas gets relative to the first meeting by holding the Wildcats to fewer than 41 free throw attempts could very well be off-set by surrendering a couple more made three-pointers.
If Kansas State does a better job of controlling the tempo than they did in Lawrence (and they failed utterly in this respect in the first meeting), the game could be fairly close assuming Kansas misses a couple more shots and gets a few fewer offensive rebounds.
Prediction: Kansas 71 Kansas State 64