Time – 6:00pm CT
TV – ESPNU
Where – Allen Fieldhouse; Lawrence, KS
Odds – KU wins by 12, total set at 148
After an incredibly easy non-conference with just one true road game, Iowa State will see a gigantic leap in quality opponents to open up Big 12 play on Wednesday when they have to play the sixth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Cyclones were only able to beat Yale 80-70 in their last game on New Year’s Day, having to come back down by eight points at half. Those Bulldogs are now 5-11, easily ISU’s worst showing against their weaker opponents. Perhaps a span of 20 off-days surrounding the game made the team look sluggish, but they need to look a lot better in this recent week off out of the gate.
“If we play like this throughout conference play we may be done winning,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said in the AP preview. “It just can’t happen.”
One of the main key areas Iowa State needs to focus on is ball control. If Korie Lucious expects to get into the NBA, his assist/turnover ratio will have to improve. Currently it sits at just 1.4 a game, and he already leads the Big 12 in turnovers with 50 before conference play even starts.
3-point shooting and bench play will also be a key area not only for this game, but for all conference play. The Cyclones have the depth to compete with Kansas, along with playmakers like Tyrus McGee who’s previously won the sixth man award and Georges Niang who’s been a beast off the bench all season long. They had 14 points each to help spark ISU to a win over Yale.
Shooting from the perimeter will be the Cyclones’ best shot to win the game, as Kansas will have the dominant edge inside defensively already smacking 109 blocks which is fourth in the nation.
Iowa State shoots far more three-point shots than any other Big 12 team. They’ve hit 118-330, that’s 67 more attempts than the second-place team in the conference but the percentage is still at 35.8, good for second-best. Kansas has the best percentage (37.7) making 84-223 attempts.
Ben McLemore leads the guards with 15.6 points per game, and Travis Releford will need to be watched for his 3-point efficiency making 47.7 percent of his perimeter shots. Jeff Withey is the beast inside, not only tying scoring the second-most points per game on the team (13.4) but he leads the team with 8.2 rebounds and an astounding 5.2 blocks per game.
Somehow, the Cyclones need to lower that Jayhawks’ shooting percentage. Along with the best 3-point percentage, they make 49.9 percent of their shots overall. If this can’t be avoided, then they’ll have to hope to be efficient from the 3-point line and not give them any more advantages by turning the ball over.
This is just too much layoff and too hard of a test for Iowa State to open conference play with. They are nowhere near ready to handle a Kansas team who’s rattled off 11 straight and are just dominate on both sides of the ball. Considering that the Cyclones have played one game in 21 days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Iowa State down early and Kansas thoroughly dominating from start to finish. Perhaps the chance will come to knock them off in Ames when ISU should be a bit more ready.
Kansas 89, Iowa State 62