In what was one of the better college basketball games we've seen in quite a while, the Kansas State Wildcats eked out a win over the rival Kansas Jayhawks 83-82. The first ranked matchup between these two squads is the first ranked matchup between them since 2017, and proved to be worth all the hype. With another matchup in Lawrence only two weeks from now, we could see even more fireworks. What does this game in particular mean to both teams though? Let's analyze, shall we?
For Kansas State, this is a gigantic confidence booster for them. A win over "big brother" as the Jayhawks are colloquially known around the college basketball world is always big, but when it has national ranking and conference implications it just means more. This gives the Cats a ton of momentum going into the heart of conference play, momentum that they will need if they are to finish at the top of the Big 12. Not only that, but it solidifies head coach Jerome Tang as the Wildcats' answer to years of basketball woes. "Expect to win from here on out." Tang stated from atop the scorer's table after the big win, and there's little doubt he means what he says. Kansas State could very well make some tremendous noise throughout the rest of conference play and into March Madness, the question is can this momentum be sustained that long? Not only that, but what does the upcoming matchup at Allen mean now? If they are to come out victorious from Allen, it could mean we are seeing one of the greatest turnarounds in college basketball history. These next couple weeks will be huge in determining just where K-State's season will be going heading into the most important months of the season. This win is a great start in defining this year's legacy, but the key is to continue that momentum.
As for the Jayhawks, it was a tough loss. The Jayhawks mainly beat themselves throughout the game, losing three stars to foul trouble and just making too many mistakes down the stretch. It was a tough one to lose, but not the end of the world as we know it for Kansas. The keys here are the fact that they did lose those key guys down the stretch, and in turn lost the edge over the opponent. At full strength, this Jayhawk team can beat anyone, and they almost beat a very, very good K-State squad when not at full strength. If I am Kansas, I take this one on the chin and move onto the next games, one of those next games includes a bout in Lawrence against these same Wildcats. An opportunity for revenge, and an opportunity to get the momentum back. Bill Self is very good at his job and will get these mistakes that were made corrected, and a reminder that last year's national championship squad suffered some bad losses as well. The regular season definitely means something, but what means more is what you can do over these next couple of months. The meat and potatoes of your conference, and of course the postseason. The Jayhawks have had plenty of success there, and don't expect this loss to falter the vision that the Jayhawks have for themselves, which is repeating a championship run. The Jayhawks have all the ability to do so, and in the end I believe this loss will serve as a reality check that gives the Jayhawks a boost rather than hinderance. A blue blood program does not stay down for long, so don't expect the Jayhawks to dwell on this loss, especially if they can win convincingly over these same Cats when the come to Allen.
Overall, both teams I think benefitted from this game. Iron sharpens iron, and these are two excellent programs that will do some serious damage in the postseason if they play at their best. As a Jayhawk alum, credit to the Wildcats for giving a thrilling contest to watch. Ref show aside (on both ends) it was still an emotional rollercoaster that has set itself as one of the greatest basketball Sunflower Showdowns of all time. I am certainly looking forward to seeing what both teams end up doing with the next couple of months, it should be a treat to watch!
Burn Notice: 9/10 The flames of rivalry well-stoked