Gameday Revenge?

Rewind a month ago to Jan. 30 at Bramlage Coliseum. After starting the season 20-0 and dominating opponents, the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks fell to No. 22 Kansas State, 84-75. The loss also ended KU's 24-game winning streak in Manhattan.

The Jayhawks have been waiting for the rematch ever since. Their time for revenge comes this Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse at 8 p.m. ESPN’s College Gameday will be in the House all day with a live broadcast from 10-11 a.m. and 7-8 p.m. Dick Vitale will make his first appearance in the Phog this season for the game broadcast, and sideline reporter Erin Andrews will also be on hand.

KU (25-3, 10-3), which is fighting for a fourth straight Big 12 championship and No. 1 NCAA seed, should have no trouble getting hyped for this Sunflower Showdown. And K-State (18-9, 8-5) now needs as many wins as possible for an NCAA berth.

"I do think we will be excited to play,” KU coach Bill Self said. “We will be geeked up for this one and I am sure they will be also. ... The way I look at it, you have a couple of teams that really feel like they need a win.”

Unlike the last game between the two rivals, K-State is no longer ranked. And KU has dropped from the No. 2 spot in the country to No. 6. The Wildcats have gone just 3-5 since their win over KU, and head into this matchup losing their last three games. K-State is coming off a 74-65 loss to Texas in Manhattan on Big Monday.

Meanwhile, KU is trying to finish the season strong after its 75-64 victory at Iowa State on Wednesday. The Jayhawks, who had lost two of their last three games before their win over the Cyclones, are one game behind Big 12 leader Texas. Kansas has just two regular-season games remaining after K-State. The Jayhawks face Texas Tech at home next Monday on Senior Night and then travel to Texas A&M next Saturday.

While K-State is on a losing streak, the Wildcats are still a very dangerous team. Freshman sensation Michael Beasley headlines the attack, averaging a Big 12-leading 26.2 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. The 6-10 Beasley, who has scored at least 40 points three times this season, broke Carmelo Anthony’s record for most double-doubles in a freshman campaign. Beasley now has 24 double-doubles.

Beasley’s sidekick Bill Walker is a potent weapon as well. The 6-6 freshman forward averages 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds, and is one of the most athletic players in America. Freshman guard Jacob Pullen is next in scoring at 10.3 points per game, while also leading the team with 36 three-pointers and 90 assists. Senior guards Clent Stewart (7.1 ppg) and Blake Young (6.2 ppg), junior forward Andre Gilbert (4.7 ppg), freshman forward Ron Anderson (3.5 ppg), freshman guard Dominique Sutton (3.1 ppg), and junior center Darren Kent (2.3 ppg) also contribute.

The Wildcats lead the conference in rebounding average (42.1) and rebounding margin (8.8).

Self knows KU must do a good job on Beasley and Walker, while not letting other guys have career nights. Beasley and Walker scored 25 and 22 points, respectively in the last KU-KSU game, while Pullen burned the Jayhawks for 20.

“You could win the battle and lose the war,” Self said about focusing so much on Beasley and Walker. “The battle is limiting those guys' touches, but opening it up for everybody else is not exactly playing to your strengths either."

Self said KU did a “very poor job” of defending the Wildcats in Manhattan, but did a “decent job on Beasley.”

“At one time he was four of 12 or four of 13 and then he makes his last five and ends up with 25,” Self said. “I have seen teams play box and one and he still gets 30. I have seen teams play primarily man and he gets 44. What you have to do is what is best for your team. ... I do think there are different things you have to look at before you make a final determination on exactly how you want to try to limit his good touches and still not let other guys have big nights.”

Self certainly doesn’t want to see Pullen get 20 points again.

"I think he is a key, but I think they are all keys,” Self said. “I think Clent is a key. Blake Young is positively a key because he is a great loose ball, extra possession guy. Sutton and Gilbert are long athletes, who can make life tough on you and are great offensive rebounders. The biggest thing is you have to find a way to definitely slow down Beasley and Walker and very few people have done that. They may have slowed one down, but they haven't been able to corral both of them regardless of what kind of defense has been played against them.”

While KU may play some zone to contain the Wildcats, Self said the Jayhawks are “still not a zone team.”

“Even if you play a zone, there is a guy with the ball in front of you that you have got to keep in front,” Self said. “There are a lot of the same principles even when you are playing zone."

Whatever defense KU plays, expect the Wildcats to attack. But don’t expect Walker to guarantee a victory like Beasley has.

“Nah, I’m not going to guarantee victory,” Walker told in a chat session on Thursday. “Allen Fieldhouse is a great environment to play in. Hopefully, we can go in there and steal one away from them.”

Walker, who was out with a knee injury and didn’t play in last season’s game in Allen Fieldhouse, said Nebraska and Texas A&M have been the two toughest environments to play in the Big 12.

“They really come out in numbers to watch their team,” he said.

Walker will get his first taste of playing in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday. He hopes the Wildcats can rebound after three straight losses.

“I wouldn’t say we lost confidence,” he said. “Everyone has ups and downs during the season. It's about how fast you can bounce back. If we can get this one on Saturday, we can get rolling and go deep into the NCAAs.”

Asked about KU’s biggest threat, Walker chose Chalmers. The junior guard averages 12.2 points and leads the league in steals (2.37 spg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.72).

“People say they don't have a go-to guy, but at the end of the game, he's the guy that creates for them,” Walker said.

There should be a lot players creating plays on Saturday night. After great anticipation, the Jayhawks and Wildcats are ready to battle.

“This is one I've had circled and looked forward to for a long time and it's come at the most important week of our season thus far,” said KU senior guard Russell Robinson. “We just have to go out and play hard and be aggressive. We definitely need to win. Especially at this point in time, this late in the season, we need everything to be positive. We can't have any losses set us back right now. We just have to move on and continue to work hard." Top Stories