Each of Kansas and Kansas State’s last two games against each other have ended in controversy and outrage.
The last time these two teams played at Bramlage Coliseum, Kansas State defeated Kansas 70-63. That involved the court storm that set off the most recent insufferable court storming discussion, as fans from Kansas State ended up shoving Jamari Traylor while filing onto the floor to celebrate their triumph. They also crushed Bill Self up against the scorers table and an assistant at Kansas ended up putting a State fan in a headlock.
But discussion of that incident is nearly going by the wayside due to the incident that happened last time the two teams played. As time wound down in the game, Kansas forward Brannen Greene threw down a dunk while the players around him were walking off the court. That drew the ire of his own coach, Bill Self, who called it “the biggest d*** move I ever had a player do during a game.”
That’s the background heading into Saturday’s game between the two schools, which will be played at 6 ET on ESPN2. Earlier this week, Greene commented publicly for the first time on the most recent incident.
“To me, it was pretty meaningless,” Greene said. “I didn’t really mean much out of it. But I just look forward to keep working and keep getting better. I just kind of tuned it out.”
However, that hasn’t stopped the Wildcats from using it as motivation. Kansas State wing Justin Edwards even used the same expletive to describe the feeling in the locker room about Greene according to the Kansas City Star.
“It wasn’t sportsmanlike of him to do that,” Edwards said. “The players kind of just said he was a d***. I don’t know if I should say that or not, but, yeah, players talked about it.”
It’s clear there’s a lot of animosity heading into this game, and there will be quite a few storylines to follow. Will we see escalation? Or will we just see the two teams play a tough, hard-nosed game that will see the Wildcats try to spoil the momentum Kansas has built coming into the game.
Hopefully it’s the latter, but only time will tell.
Here is a quick outline of what else to look forward to this weekend:
Best game: No. 11 Miami at No. 5 North Carolina (1 p.m. ET CBS / CBSSports.com)
The story here is North Carolina, which comes into this game having lost three of five, including a stunner against a Duke team on Wednesday that only had five healthy players. Can the Tar Heels rebound against Miami, or will we see more of the problems that cropped up against the Blue Devils rear their ugly heads again? The Heels’ guard play has, simply put, not been good enough over the last three weeks, and their complete lack of shooting from the perimeter seems to be catching up with them. At some point, Marcus Paige is going to need to provide more if this group wants to reach its full potential.
On the other side, this is a critical, critical game for Miami. The Hurricanes are flying about as far under the radar as anyone in America this season. Seriously, Jim Larranaga’s group is tied for the lead in the ACC with the team they’re playing in this one, making this game for the outright lead in the league. This kicks off a string of three critical games for the Canes, as they go back home to take on Virginia and Louisville in their next two. If they can pick up a win here and hold their homecourt, they’re going to be the outright favorite for the crown in the league. I don’t think I’d bet on it happening, but there’s at least a very real road to Miami being the champion in one of the two best conferences in America this season.
Second-best game: No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 10 West Virginia (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Sooners are in a critical place right now, facing adversity for the first time this season. They’ve lost three of four, and now have to go on the road to take on a West Virginia team that is as frustrating to play as anyone in the country. The Sooners have the ball-handling to nullify the press, but they’re going to need to do better than their 168th overall ranking on the defensive glass indicates. If they have a bad day with the turnovers and a rough day on the glass, the Mountaineers can easily send them spiralling to a crisis.
Also worth noting: if Oklahoma does pull out the win and Kansas takes care of business at Bramlage, the Jayhawks are going to be extremely well-positioned for another Big 12 title with a two-game lead and four games left.
Third-best game: No. 20 Duke at No. 18 Louisville (Noon ET, ESPN)
The Blue Devils are coming off of two rather remarkable, notable, shocking wins against Virginia and North Carolina, one of which involved an uncalled travel and the other involved them leading for a grand total of 106 seconds in the entire game. Now they have to go on the road to take on Louisville without Matt Jones, who will miss the game with a sprained ankle. That means unless the the Blue Devils can get some sort of contribution from either Sean Obi or Chase Jeter, this is basically a five-deep team right now.
That could come into play against a Louisville team that isn’t afraid to tire you out by pressing you constantly, and a team that plays among the most foul-ridden games in college hoops on both sides. This is a real test for the Blue Devils, and it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Fourth-best game: No. 17 Purdue at No. 22 Indiana (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Following Iowa’s shocking loss to Penn State earlier in the week, Indiana finds itself tied for first place in the Big Ten. With a win here, they can keep pace with the Hawkeyes and continue to set up a collision course for when the two play on March 1. But to do that, they’re going to have to get past rival Purdue. The key here is just who can impose their strength on the other team. Purdue is a team that wants to get the ball inside, and Indiana doesn’t have a great interior presence. The Hoosiers want to play perimeter-based basketball with floor-spacing, slashing, and shooting, and they matchup well to do that against Purdue. It’s a battle of wills here basically. Which one can impose that will on the other?
Fifth-best game: No. 14 Kentucky at Texas A&M (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
How Texas A&M has fallen is beyond me. Just three weeks ago, the Aggies were the No. 5 team in the country at 17-2 with a 7-0 mark in the SEC. Now though, they’re 19-7 following a string of losses that has placed them two games behind Kentucky in the SEC race. That’s going to be easier said than done against a Wildcat team that is playing better than nearly anyone else in America, but this is a home game for the Aggies. The key here will be the backcourts. Can Alex Caruso and Anthony Collins slow down Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray? If they can even hinder them at all, A&M should have a good chance to get things back on the right track.
Again though, easier said than done.
Sixth-best game: No. 25 Baylor at No. 24 Texas (2 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Seriously, this is probably the best day of basketball yet this season. FIVE games between ranked teams, as well as a few others with major league title implications. This one is the last of the ranked games, as Baylor comes in riding high off of a tough overtime win over Iowa State without Rico Gathers. Gathers’s status is currently unknown, as he missed the Bears last two games with what was called “the flu.” Without him, Baylor does still have enough inside to match up with this terrific Texas team, as Johnathan Motley showed in their last game with 27 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. This will be a fun one.
Another big one: Butler vs. No. 1 Villanova (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
The Wildcats are the No. 1 team in the county right now for a reason, and it’s largely based around discipline. They defend like crazy, do a solid job of limiting turnovers, run terrific offense night-in, night-out, and constantly get open looks. Maybe they do have a bit of a limited season compared to others in the country, but there isn’t anyone playing better right now, that’s for sure. Again Butler, they’ll face off against a like NCAA Tournament team that has been better recently. Watch for the Josh Hart-Kelan Martin matchup that should be terrific.
- Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga are in a battle for the league’s regular season title. The Gaels took the first game, but it’s looking like there is only room for one of them in the NCAA Tournament. Their game at the Kennel on Saturday will be critical to saying which one it will be. (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
- Georgetown’s hopes are hanging on by a thread, and they get to take on No. 8 Xavier in what could be a bit of a last stand for them until the Big East Tournament. (Noon ET, Fox)
- LSU has a critical road game against Tennessee that it can ill-afford to lose and stay on the right side of the bubble. (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
- Notre Dame’s not necessarily on the bubble, but a loss to Georgia Tech wouldn’t be the best look. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
- Oregon State has a chance to pick up a critical road win against rival No. 16 Oregon. If they can get that one, look for the Beavers to feel better about their hopes. (10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
- Connecticut and Cincinnati are likely on the right side of the bubble, but the Bearcats have to feel a bit worse about those hopes. A win against the Huskies would be big. (4 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
- Neither Florida nor South Carolina have punched their ticket to the Dance yet. Both could use a big win when the Gators travel to Columbia this weekend. (Noon ET, SEC Network)
- Florida State can ill-afford to pick up another loss against Virginia Tech. (3 p.m. ET)
- Texas Tech is squarely on the bubble now, but a loss to Oklahoma State would not help. (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
- Clemson goes to North Carolina State in a tough game that could hurt their hopes. (3 p.m. ET)
- Colorado needs to get back on the right rack at UCLA, which is a tricky place to play. (11 p.m. ET, FS1)
- St. Joseph’s goes to Davidson to take on a tough offensive team after its huge win over Dayton. (2 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)
- Pittsburgh needs a win against Syracuse, pure and simple. The Panthers are reeling and their resume doesn’t inspire much confidence. (2 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
A Big Ten Showdown: Michigan at No. 6 Maryland (1 p.m. ET, CBS / CBSSports.com)
Maryland is coming off of a stunning loss on Thursday night to Minnesota. A dumbfounding one, really. The Gophers came into that game at 0-13 in Big Ten play, and the Terps just went out an laid an egg. They’ll get Diamond Stone back, which will help against a Michigan team that needs a win in the worst way. Their resume isn’t as strong as their record, so getting a sweep over the Terrapins would be a nice feather in their cap. Having said that though, the rest of the season is important for Maryland in order to build momentum toward the Tournament. This is a national title contender that really needs to figure a few things out, particularly on offense.
A Pac-12 contender showdown: Utah at USC (6 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
These two are tied one game below Pac-12 leaders Arizona and Oregon. One team will leave the Galen Center feeling like it still has a shot to win the league, while the other won’t exactly feel great about their hopes. USC is undefeated at home this year, so Utah has a pretty tall task. The key matchup here will be inside. If Nikola Jovanovic can match up reasonably well with Jakob Poeltl, the Trojans should pick up a win.