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Battle of the Kansas teams

Posted on January 29th, 2010

Personally, I think too much stock is put into NCAA basketball rankings. This isn’t football, it’s highly unlikely one or more teams are going to go undefeated throughout the entire year. So there’s going to be changes at the top as the coaches and press react in an “in the moment” way from week to week. It certainly doesn’t mean the best team is always going to be in the No. 1 spot. This week, however, the No. 1 team is finally back in the top spot after pretender Kentucky couldn’t even defend it’s “title” win a single win. So much for handling the pressure.

Of course, as the cliche argument goes, you want your team to lose a game or two along the way. Whether superstitious fans and coaches think a loss is “due” at some point, or if you think a team benefits from having the experience to bounce back from a loss and realize its not invincible, the bottom line is even great teams have off-nights.

But Kansas is the reigning king again, for the moment. The 19-1 Jayhawks dropped rival Missouri earlier this week, and next face Kansas State on the road on Saturday. This is my matchup of the month, perhaps even the best regular season game from now until the middle of March. Kansas State is damn good, and at 17-3, they have the record to back it up (although a disappointing 4-2 in conference play thus far).

I’d expect Kansas, even on the road, to remain a slight favorite, probably by 3 1/2 points. Given K-State’s conference record, it’s likely going to handicap them a bit in the college basketball odds makers’ eyes. Kansas scores 3.5 more points per game on average, and more importantly gives up about 7 fewer. K State’s conference losses have come against Oklahoma State and a tough loss at Missouri, both this month. Kansas has momentum going its way as it searches for its sixth straight victory.

Four of K State’s starting five are averaging double-digit points this season, so they certainly know how to spread the offense around, as well. But Kansas is just starting to hit their stride, and they’ll be taking this game as a challenge to prove they belong in that top spot. I expect a hard-fought battle, but one where Kansas ultimately covers the spread. I’d also bet the over in this one. I think the emotion is going to fuel the offenses more than the defenses on Saturday.