LAWRENCE, Kan. (KSNT)- Kansas men’s basketball will travel to Manhattan, Kansas, on Tuesday for the 298th Sunflower Showdown.
The Jayhawks have owned this rivalry both recently and historically and come in as hot as any team in the country. KU’s current 10-game winning streak is the sixth-longest active winning streak in college basketball. The Jayhawks have won each of their last seven meetings with K-State and nine of the last ten.
All-time, Kansas holds a 203-94 advantage in the series. This year’s Showdown might have more anticipation and excitement around it as the ‘Cats are off to their best start in many years. K-State is 15-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play.
“It’s a rivalry game regardless if we’re both ranked or not,” KU head coach Bill Self said. “But it certainly adds to it when both teams are good. And both teams are good.”
Self has coached in enough of these matchups to know the atmosphere will be a crazy one.
“I’m sure [K-State fans] will be excited to see Gradey [Dick] when he first walks out there for warmups,” Self joked.
He says to players like Dick, who is from the state of Kansas, the game likely holds special value.
“I’ve always thought it meant more to the kids that were local,” Self said. “We don’t have a lot of those kids, but we got enough that it’s going to mean extra.”
He says the team won’t just be fired up for this game because it’s a rivalry. Put simply, KU will play a Top 15 team on the road. It’s a chance to get a big win, no matter where that team is located.
“They’re good,” Self said. “It actually adds to the excitement of the game, the anticipation of it, knowing that you got two really good teams playing.”
Coach says KU will not have an easy win on Tuesday.
“For us to win, we’re going to have to really, really do a lot of things really, really well,” Self said. “But that’s also a great challenge and fun to go into it with that type of attitude.”
He says this year’s K-State team, behind Jerome Tang, plays with a different style and swagger than previous groups.
“Their entire team plays with a freedom offensively that you don’t see very often,” Self said. “They have freedom to go make plays and to shoot the ball.”
The Jayhawks Hall of Fame coach says shutting down K-State forward Keyontae Johnson and guard Markquis Nowell will be key for his team. However, he knows the Wildcats’ team is deeper than that.
“We got to limit [Nowell] and Johnson from having big nights,” Self said. “But their other starters and their supporting cast off the bench… it’s much improved [from last year.]”
K-State and KU tipoff at 6 p.m. in Bramlage Coliseum on Tuesday, Jan. 17. The game will air on ESPN.