After a close, last-second victory over Kansas State on January 13, Kansas grasped control over the Big 12 conference.
The Jayhawks further seized control over the conference after K-State responded to their loss in Lawrence by beating then fifth-ranked Oklahoma by 18.
That Wildcat victory pushed KU to a two-game lead in the Big 12 conference, seemingly handing them a 14th-straight Big 12 title, but after Kansas’ blunder in Norman on Tuesday night, the second edition of the Sunflower Showdown means a lot more.
Monday night, Bramlage Coliseum will play host to the 288th chapter of the Sunflower Showdown, with Kansas holding a 194-93 advantage, including six victories in a row. Monday is likely to be the first ranked matchup between the two teams since January 11, 2014, an 86-60 Kansas victory in Lawrence.
Since losing 73-72 in Allen Fieldhouse earlier this month, Kansas State has gone on a tear, ripping off four wins in a row, including the aforementioned victory over OU, as well as TCU, Baylor and Georgia.
The main key to those victories, is the combination of Dean Wade and Barry Brown. The two juniors average a combined 43.1 points per contest in Big 12 play.
The duo has finally seemed to click over the last two weeks, both in the top three in scoring in the conference, behind only Oklahoma’s freshman sensation Trae Young.
Their success has seemed unexpected, as after the Wildcats got waxed on the road against Texas Tech, they found out that junior point guard Kamau Stokes would be out for an unspecified amount of time with a foot injury, but redshirt freshman Cartier Diarra has stepped in and given the ‘Cats an added gear, averaging 10.8 points per conference contest.
Kansas State has been close, but not close enough against Kansas in their last three meetings, losing all three by a combined six points.
The Jayhawks are looking to hold their one game lead over conference competition Monday night, and will be forced to do so in one of the most intense environments they will face all season, but this team seems to strive in hostile venues. That is, they did until Tuesday in Norman, where Oklahoma utilized the “Hack-A-Shaq” method to get a win over KU.
Kansas got back on the winning track out of conference play, beating an old foe, Texas A&M, 79-68, thanks to 24 points from Svi Mykhailiuk and 15 points from Malik Newman.
The Jayhawks netted 12 three pointers in the win, but went much of the game without much contribution from senior leader Devonte’ Graham, who shot just 2-11 from the field in 40 minutes of action. Graham has played all 40 minutes in each of KU’s last four contests, and many wonder if his recent struggles are due to fatigue.
The Jayhawks will need Graham and all his counterparts to perform on all levels Monday night in order to escape Manhattan victorious.
Bramlage Coliseum will be the most charged up it’s been in a long time, as a likely ranked Kansas State team hosts their most hated rival in a revenge game. This will be a close matchup from tape to tape, but Kansas will likely emerge victorious to once again seize control over the rest of the Big 12 Conference.
Kansas 78, Kansas State 73
Kansas -2, over/under 147
Tip-off will be at 8pm on ESPN, but you can follow all of the action on Twitter, with Jackson Schneider live from Bramlage Coliseum, as well as post game coverage right here on KJHK.org.