Know the Big 12 Basketball Foe: BYU faces Kansas State in a battle of the cats

The BYU men’s basketball team currently sits at 10th in the Big 12 standings. Yet, many people view the Cougars as a dangerous NCAA Tournament team with a projected No. 6 seed. This shows the level of competition that the Big 12 brings. Kansas State is a program coming off of its biggest win of the season as it upset the No. 4 ranked Kansas Jayhawks at home last Monday. A win against a nationally ranked BYU would likely place the Wildcats back into the NCAA Tournament field. Here is a look at Kansas State prior to Saturday’s showdown.

Highs and lows

Coming off of an Elite 8 performance in last year’s NCAA Tournament, Kansas State had high hopes for the 2023-2024 campaign. After a 10-3 non-conference start the Wildcats started off their Big 12 slate with a 4-2 record. However, they then went on a four-game losing streak that culminated in a 75-72 loss to last place Oklahoma State. During this stretch they lost by an average of 15 points. Two days later they shocked the country with a 75-70 overtime win against perennial powerhouse Kansas.

What this Kansas State team has shown to be is beatable, but dangerous. The Wildcats have also managed to knock off the Baylor Bears as well as a tough UCF squad by 25 points on Jan. 6. As we reach the midpoint of the conference schedule, Kansas State sits above the Cougars in the Big 12 with a 5-5 record. A win in Provo would bolster not only the Wildcats’ confidence, but their NCAA Tournament resume at a critical time in the season.

The Story of the stats

At first glance the Wildcats’ defensive numbers do not jump off of the page. However, in the context of Saturday’s game there is one area that could prove to be important.

Right now Kansas State is ranked 9th in the Big 12 in terms of point per game allowed at 68.7. However, they are 3rd in the conference in opponent 3-point percentage only allowing an average of 31.2% per game. On Tuesday BYU faced an Oklahoma squad that severely limited their number of 3-point attempts. The Wildcats will likely attempt to do the same. Kansas State also has had success in terms of blocked shots. The Wildcats currently are 4th in the league with 4.4 blocks per game.

Offensively, the Wildcats rank 11th in points per game with an average of 72.2. They have particularly struggles as a team from beyond the arch shooting a conference worst 31.2% from the 3-point line. They also average a league-worst 15.0 turnovers a game. Against a dangerous squad like BYU, they will have to improve on these numbers if they hope to keep pace offensively.

The Kansas State big 3

As of this point in the season the Cougars do not have a single player averaging over 14 points. Kansas State has three. Guard Cam Carter leads the Wildcats with an impressive 16.0 points per game. Senior point guard Tylor Perry is close behind at 15.1 ppg and a team high 4.8 assists. Forward Arthur Kaluma is 3rd in scoring with 14.4 ppg to go along with a team leading 7.1 rebounds.

In the win against Kansas, this trio combined for 58 of the Wildcats’ 75 points. In fact, one of these three players has been the leading scorer in all 23 of their games this season. The trio accounts for 63% of the teams average points per game.

Kansas State has also been bolstered by senior big man Will McNair Jr., who, at at 6’11 and 265 pounds, provides the Wildcats with an impressive inside presence. McNair is averaging 7.4 points per game while shooting 60.3% from the field and 1.4 blocks which is good for sixth in the Big 12.

Conclusion

BYU is looking to even up its conference record at 5-5 with a potential win at home on Saturday. This will be the eighth meeting between the two schools in a series that Kansas State leads 4-3. Both teams are looking to establish their footing in a league that currently projects nine NCAA Tournament teams and current six Associated Press Top 25 teams. A win against any team in the Big 12 is a big deal. Saturday’s contest will surely be evidence of this as well.

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