KU, K-State listed 1-2 in ESPN.com’s power rankings for 2018-19 Big 12 hoops season

They met again three times this season, most recently in the Big 12 tournament at Sprint Center earlier this month, but 30 years ago KU and K-State tangled for a prized spot in the Final Four. And back then, the two programs were on more equal footing. | Rich Sugg | rsugg@kcstar.com

By Gary Bedore gbedore@kcstar.com

Kansas and Kansas State top ESPN.com’s early Big 12 Conference power rankings for the 2018-19 men’s basketball season.

Reporter Myron Medcalf’s choice to win the league title is KU, followed in order by K-State, West Virginia, TCU, Texas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.

In discussing KU junior forward Dedric Lawson, a 6-foot-9 transfer from Memphis, Medcalf writes: “Don’t let his size fool you. Lawson could become the focus of the offense as a hybrid point forward. Four years ago, Fred Hoiberg successfully used Royce White, a 6-8 forward and first-round pick, in a similar role for Iowa State. But Lawson’s team is filled with playmakers. Lagerald Vick returns after withdrawing from the NBA draft and the Jayhawks have a top-five recruiting class.

“In a basketball era that prizes spacing, Kansas will have a floor general capable of pressuring teams to find lineups that can handle its versatility and ability to hurt opponents anywhere on the court,” Medcalf adds.

KU No. 1 of all teams at home

Allen Fieldhouse has often been called the toughest place for an opposing team to win. NCAA stats — compiled by Daniel Wilco — support that notion.

KU has a 276-15 home record this century for a 94.85 winning percentage. Duke is second (269-20, 93.08 percent), followed by Gonzaga (247-20, 92.51 percent), Michigan State (260-32, 89.04 percent), Kentucky (261-33, 88.78 percent), BYU (252-33, 88.42 percent), Wisconsin (262-38, 87.33 percent), Xavier (253-37, 87.24 percent), Arizona (254-40, 86.39 percent) and South Dakota State (118-19, 86.13 percent).

“No team on this list has more home wins or fewer home losses than Kansas. The Jayhawks have only lost 15 games in Allen Fieldhouse since 2001, an absolutely absurd statistic,” writes NCAA.com’s Wilco. “That’s an average of about one (loss) every 15 months. But this would be even more impressive without last year’s aberration. In 2018, Kansas lost three times at home, making it the first time this century that they’ve lost more than two home games in a year.”

KU to meet top two SEC teams

KU will be playing SEC school Kentucky on Jan. 26 in Lexington, Ky., and could meet Tennessee in the finals or consolation game of the NIT on Nov. 23 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Those two schools happen to be ranked 1-2 in ESPN’s power rankings for the SEC.

Kentucky had arguably the most significant roster addition of any team this offseason. He’s former Stanford power forward Reid Travis, who scored 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Cardinal’s 89-74 loss to the Jayhawks two seasons ago at Allen Fieldhouse. The graduate transfer set a fieldhouse single-game record for free throws made (19) and attempted by an opponent (22).

“John Calipari’s Kentucky teams have always possessed the talent to compete with any program in the country. What he’s lacked at times is a reliable, veteran leader. That’s why Travis (19.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg last year), an All-Pac 12 first-teamer at Stanford, matters,” writes Medcalf of ESPN.com.

“He’s a tenacious, disciplined senior who can help these young players stay focused. He’s also a force in the paint, strengthening a frontcourt already featuring NBA prospects like sophomores P.J .Washington and Nick Richards and five-star freshman E.J. Montgomery.”

Of coach Rick Barnes’ Tennessee Vols, Medcalf writes: “Last season, Tennessee was picked to finish 13th in the SEC’s preseason poll. The Vols finished the year as co-champions of the league, an effort led by Admiral Schofield (13.9 ppg, 40 percent from three) and SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams (15.2 ppg), who both return.”

Late Night festivities

Registration is open for Late Night in the Phog 3-on-3 and NBA2K tournaments that will be held Sept. 17-27 on Kansas’ campus. Championship games will be contested during Late Night festivities on Sept. 28 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The 3-on-3 tournament, to be capped at 128 teams, will include men’s and women’s teams, all made up of current KU students. Registration is available at KUathletics.com.

The NBA2K event will be capped at 128 entrants. Students can register at KUathletics.com. Registration for both events will be open until Sept. 10 or until limits are met.

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