A True Sunflower Showdown

Allen Fieldhouse promises to be a different kind of electric come Monday night, when the Kansas Jayhawks host in-state rival Kansas State, in what amounts to a battle for first place in the Big 12.

Allen Fieldhouse promises to be a different kind of electric come Monday night, when the Kansas Jayhawks host in-state rival Kansas State, in what amounts to a battle for first place in the Big 12.

The difference will be that the Wildcats, not the Jayhawks are in first place in the conference. Kansas State (19-4, 8-2) has played good basketball since losing to Kansas on January 22nd. Meanwhile, Kansas (19-4, 7-3) is nearing a rare crisis point, as they have dropped three straight games for the first time since 2005.

Yes, Allen Fieldhouse will be electric as always, but the atmosphere will be one of anger and determination, the kind of atmosphere you will see in the NBA when a team comes home down 0-2 in a best of seven series.

Generally, the historic old barn has an electric atmosphere that oozes dominance and while Kansas can always expect that on its home floor, after three straight losses, the confidence and psyche that is usually rock solid is shaken and the Jayhawks could really use an all time atmosphere and a smackdown of its new biggest rival.

It won't be easy. That's out of respect to a Wildcats team that is playing really good basketball for their new coach Bruce Weber. Their leaders, Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling have rolling into Lawrence after Saturday's 79-70 win over Iowa State.

K-State's biggest advantage is their depth, with 10 players averaging over 10 minutes a game. Added to that, they are playing cohesive basketball and appear to be peaking at the right time.

But, the story tonight will be the once seemingly unbeatable Jayhawks, who just 10 days ago seemed to be a lock for a ninth straight Big 12 title. Now, with road games at Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor to come, nothing is guaranteed, not even tonight's game with Kansas State.

A team with senior leaders and high-flying talent is in the rare position of a crossroads. After a home loss to Oklahoma State and consecutive road losses at TCU and Oklahoma, Kansas finds itself, essentially searching for themselves.

The result will be one of the loudest environments inside historic Allen Fieldhouse since, well, the Missouri game last year and as for the Sunflower Showdown, as there will be memories of great battles between the two schools from year's past.

For Kansas State, it'll be a chance to score a landmark victory and to put them in the driver's seat in the Big 12, which was unthinkable three weeks ago. For Kansas, it's a chance to make a stand and assert their position in the league that they have pretty much owned since its inception.

More importantly, it's an opportunity for the Jayhawks to right the wrongs of the past week and get their season back on track, as the time to begin playing your best basketball of the season is at hand.


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