Men’s basketball looks for third-straight Top-25 win in first sunflower showdown of season

Then-senior Barry Brown Jr. leaps up for a one-armed slam dunk as the buzzer sounds during K-State's 74-67 win against KU in Bramlage Coliseum on Feb. 5, 2019. (Archive photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State men’s basketball team (10-7, 2-4) looks to keep its upset-streak alive as the Wildcats welcome No. 7 Kansas to Bramlage Coliseum at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.

The Dillon’s Sunflower Showdown series between the two Kansas colleges has long been dominated by the Jayhawks — Kansas leads the all-time series 200-94. The last time the Wildcats defeated their in-state rival was in 2019 when Barry Brown and Dean Wade led the squad to a 74-67 victory in Manhattan.

The first edition of this year’s series will look a lot like most years in the contest — an uber-talented Kansas squad will face a K-State team with players that have had to develop to the Division I level. The Jayhawks likely won’t feature a lottery pick in this year’s NBA draft, but, like some of the best Kansas teams, their reliance on three-to-four-year players has been key to them all season.

The Jayhawks boast one of the best — if not the best — backcourts in the nation with wings junior Christian Braun and senior Ochai Agbaji. The duo has led the charts in tandem-scoring and will likely be a big problem for the Wildcat offense to defend.

Braun is very reminiscent of former Duke star Grayson Allen — a scrappy guard who shoots at an elevated level but is a 6 foot 6 inch athlete who can take it to the rim against the best of the best. Also, like Allen, Braun is the type of guy you love to have on your team but hate to play against.

Agbaji has sneakily become one of the better Jayhawks in recent history, hitting 47 percent of three-pointers while averaging just under 20 points a game (19.9). Agbaji’s athleticism paired with his 6 foot 5 inch frame creates a problem on both ends of the floor.

With K-State’s leading offense coming from 6 foot Nijel Pack and 5 foot 8 inch Markquis Nowell, the Wildcats will likely have to lean on the on-ball defense of Selton Miguel, who has made a name for himself as one of the better defenders in the conference.

K-State will also have to keep an eye on sophomore Jalen Wilson — a stretch-forward who can knock down outside shots — and senior David McCormack — Kansas’s force down low who averages 8.6 points and 6.4 rebounds a game.

K-State will have to play a near-perfect game to win, as they are heavily undersized outside. Closing out strong on threes and having help for the dribble-drive will be key on defense. On offense, frankly, the Wildcats just have to hit open shots. If they can connect from a distance as they did in the first half against Oklahoma, they’ll have a good shot at taking down their third-straight conference opponent.

K-State takes on Kansas at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22, in Bramlage Coliseum. If you can’t make it to the game, it will air on Big 12 Now on ESPN+, with a recap on the Collegian after the game.