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BYU-Kansas State Preview: Cougars Open as Double-Digit Favorites

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 05 Kansas at Kansas State Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

BYU will look to get back in the win column Saturday night when they welcome Kansas State to Provo in the first of two meetings this season. BYU is coming off a 16-point road loss to Oklahoma while the Wildcats upset rival Kansas at home, snapping a 4-game losing streak. Oddsmakers opened with BYU as a 10.5-point favorite.

BYU and Kansas State by the Numbers

KSU Record: 15-8 (5-5 Big 12)

KenPom: 72

NET: 76

Best Wins: Villanova (H), LSU (A), Baylor (H), Kansas (H), West Virginia (A)

Losses: USC (N), Miami (N), Nebraska (A), Texas Tech (A), Iowa State (A), Houston (A), Oklahoma (H), Oklahoma State (A)

BYU KenPom: 11

Net: 8

Record: 16-6 (4-5)

Best Wins: San Diego State (H), NC State (N), Arizona State (N), UCF (A), Iowa State (H), Texas (H)

Losses: Utah (A), Cincinnati (H), Baylor (A), Texas Tech (A), Houston (H), Oklahoma (A)

KenPom Prediction: BYU 76, KSU 65— BYU 85% win probability

Kansas State Overview

The Wildcats jumped out to a 4-1 start in Big 12, lost 4 in a row, and then rebounded with a huge OT win Monday night at home versus Kansas. Personnel-wise, the top contributors on this team are quite a bit different than last year’s team that made the Elite 8 in Jerome Tang’s first season.

Defense is the strength of this team. In Big 12 only games, KSU is first in 3-point defense and first in defensive effective field goal percentage. Forcing turnovers isn’t a huge part of their formula, but they have good athletes and good size they rotate on the inside.

The Wildcats have some good individual scorers, but they don’t have much depth and really struggle with turnovers. KSU is last in the Big 12 in turnover percentage and 350th nationally. They also take a fair amount of threes but aren’t particularly efficient, ranking 289th nationally in 3-point percentage.

Their top 3 scorers — Tylor Perry, Cam Carter, Arthur Kaluma — account for 63% of the scoring. All three pose matchup issues and can get on a heater on any given night, but they each average at least 2.5 turnovers per game and struggle at times with efficiency. They scored 58 of the team’s 75 points (77%) versus Kansas, and that was enough to upset the Jayhawks.

Players to Watch

Cam Carter, Guard — Carter had a supporting role on last year’s Elite 8 team and is now the leading scorer as junior. Carter averages 16 points on 42% shooting from the floor and 33% from three. He had a rocky start to the year from the three-point line, but in 7 of his past 8 games has made at least 2 threes and shot over 40% from the outside.

Tylor Perry, Guard — Perry, in my opinion, is the big wild card on the team. The 5-foot-11 point guard was a huge coup in the transfer portal but hasn’t quite lived up to what many K-State fans expected. Perry averages 15 points and just under 5 assists per game, but shoots 35% from the field and 32.5% from three. He shot better than 34% in just 1 of his first 7 Big 12 games, but has shot over 40% in the last three. He made some tough shots versus Kansas and scored 26 to spearhead the upset win. If Perry is hitting shots and dishing out assists, this Kansas State team has top 25 potential.

Arthur Kaluma, Forward — Kaluma is probably a familiar name to most BYU fans after he dropped 27 points for Creighton in BYU’s win over the Bluejays in Vegas. The 6-foot-7 forward plays both the 3 and 4 spots and averages 14.4 points and 7 rebounds. Noah Waterman and Richie Saunders will probably draw the main assignments.

Will McNair, Center — McNair has started in 19 of 22 games but came of the bench versus Kansas and played 29 minutes. The 6-foot-11, 265 pounds big man averages 7.4 points, 5.2 boards and 1.2 blocks. Him and Fouss likely will be pitted together quite a bit.

Prediction

Mark Pope said Thursday that he is “hopeful” Aly Khalifa will play. Khalifa missed the last two games after battling the flu, but longer term it’s his knee that will affect his minutes. He’s been battling knee pain all season and will continue to have to push through it if he’s on the floor. I’ll have a better idea Saturday, but if I had to guess now I think Khalifa will play. BYU can win at home without Khalifa, but having him just really opens up the offense.

Kansas State is a talented team. They don’t have a ton of depth, but they have good top-end players. Their backcourt rarely leaves the floor — Carter and Perry played all 45 minutes versus Kansas and have played at least 38 minutes in 3 consecutive games. Jerome Tang isn’t afraid to leave his guys on the floor if they pick up two fouls in the first half.

After winning their first two road games over LSU and West Virginia, the Wildcats have lost 4 consecutive road games. Losing at Texas Tech, Iowa State, and Houston is nothing to hang your head about, but the road loss at last-place Oklahoma State last Saturday hurt the Wildcats’ resume.

I think BYU wins this at home. BYU has done well versus teams that have a few top end scorers — think Texas and West Virginia. KSU hasn’t proven they can take good care of the ball, and that’s not going to be easy in front of a rowdy crowd in Provo. I think this game has some similarities to the Texas game where Kansas State keeps it close or leads for awhile and BYU pulls away for a fairly comfortable win, with or without Khalifa.

Prediction: BYU 75, Kansas State 68