Bill Self's Jayhawks sit atop the national polls this week, but the team dropped a stunning 84-68 setback at rival Kansas State the same day it earned the top spot in the polls. The loss to the Wildcats leaves Kansas (9-2) with a great deal of work to do down the stretch, as the defending conference champions now sit two games behind the Texas Longhorns (11-0) in the standings with very little time left to make up the difference.
The Buffaloes would like nothing better than to add to Kansas' woes and dethrone the Jayhawks from their seemingly constant perch atop the conference. Colorado has long been out of the league race (5-6), but the team does possess enough talent to play the role of spoiler. CU has not played since last Saturday when the team narrowly defeated Kansas State in Boulder, 58-56.
Kansas has won 16 straight meetings with Colorado to push its series advantage to a whopping 120-39 overall. The Jayhawks are seeking yet another regular- season sweep after edging out the Buffaloes in Boulder on January 25th, 82-78.
The Buffaloes are a strong offensive team at 79.9 ppg overall, although that number has dipped considerably in conference play at just 73.2 ppg. Alec Burks is the team's catalyst offensively, ranking among the conference elite at 19.5 ppg (second in the Big 12). Help comes in the form of fellow guards Cory Higgins (16.3 ppg), Levi Knutson (11.3 ppg) and Marcus Relphorde (11.2 ppg). Knutson is the team's resident sniper, shooting a sizzling .490 from behind the arc and leading the team with 51 three-pointers. It was almost a second straight last-second loss that would have had Colorado reeling, but the Buffs got a break, as KSU's Rodney McGruder's three-pointer at the buzzer was ruled to have left his hand just a little too late, turning what looked like a one- point loss into a two-point victory for the hometown team. Although there weren't many offensive highlights in a 58-56 game, Higgins and Knutson led the attack for Colorado with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Burks finished the game with eight points and 10 rebounds, but was also responsible for five of the team's 16 turnovers in the game.
KSU's Jacob Pullen was not phased by Kansas' new top-billing and made the Jayhawks pay the price as he went off for a whopping 38 points to lead his Wildcats to the upset win on Valentine's Day. Kansas shot .522 from the floor in the first half, but failed to carry it over into the second stanza (.370) and fell victim to a hot-shooting Kansas State squad, which delivered on 56.3 percent from the floor overall. Tyrel Reed led the way for KU in the loss with 14 points. Marcus Morris added 13, but Kansas' offensive depth never surfaced in Manhattan. The team has been much more reliable at that end this season, leading the country in field-goal percentage (.521), while ranking second in the Big 12 in scoring (83.3 ppg) and first in scoring margin (+18.5), three- point accuracy (385) and assists (18.3 per game). Twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris lead the way up front. Marcus paces the team in scoring at 16.7 ppg, while grabbing 6.8 rpg. Markieff is putting up 12.8 ppg and leads the team with 8.2 rpg. Freshman guard Josh Selby (11.4 ppg) has missed time recently due to injury, but Reed (9.7 ppg), Thomas Robinson (8.9 ppg) and Tyshawn Taylor (8.8 ppg) provide plenty of offensive depth.
While the Buffs would like nothing more than to end the season strong, getting the job done in Lawrence against a Kansas team coming off a loss, is a tall task indeed.
GAME NOTES: The top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks will attempt to jump back into the win column when they play host to the Colorado Buffaloes in Big 12 action from Lawrence this afternoon.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Allen Fieldhouse (16,300) -- Lawrence, Kansas. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Colorado 13-2, Kansas 13-1. Away Record: Colorado 2-7, Kansas 7-1. Neutral Record: Colorado 1-1, Kansas 4-0. Conference Record: Colorado 5-6, Kansas 9-2. Series Record: Kansas leads, 120-39.