Kansas (15-4, 6-0) enjoys a two-game lead in the Big 12, reminding everyone that they’re still the kings of the conference after bolting to an undefeated start. The 9-4 record during non-conference play gave the illusion that the Jayhawks weren’t the same Jayhawks that Iowa State (15-3, 3-3) fans all know and despise. Make no mistake; this Kansas team is just as good as any other team Bill Self has assembled, and the Cyclones can’t let another one get away like they did earlier in the month of January.
(16)Iowa State Cyclones vs (6)Kansas Jayhawks
Allen Fieldhouse | Lawrence, Kansas
Date: Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Time: 8:00 PM CT | TV: ESPNU
Three of Kansas’ four losses came against opponents currently ranked in the top 10 (Villanova, San Diego State, Florida). Their strength of schedule is still the toughest in the nation and it’s projected to be that way when the season ends. Their RPI is still at the top nationally. The Jayhawks have been the most challenged team in the nation, but that doesn’t put Iowa State at a disadvantage.
The Cyclones are 22nd in SOS thanks to facing a meaty portion of the Big 12 schedule already. That’s only shooting up with this road trip to Kansas and a home game against Oklahoma this upcoming weekend. Their three-game losing streak, obviously accounting for all their losses this year, came against those Sooners who defeated Oklahoma State on Monday night, this Jayhawk team, and Texas who joined the Associated Press top 25 poll after defeating three straight ranked opponents.
Interestingly enough, both these teams didn’t put on a great showing in their first meeting. A sloppy 77-70 victory for Kansas was the result of horrendous shooting by Iowa State (31.4 percent from the floor and going 4-of-25 from 3-point range), KU dominating the Cyclones on the boards 53-36, and them overcoming 24 turnovers and committing 26 personal fouls. Iowa State simply couldn’t take advantage of Kansas mistakes, making it a loss with the Jayhawks literally handing them the game.
Kansas holds a 174-59 record against Iowa State, 30-8 since the inception of the Big 12. More recently, the Cyclones are just 1-17 in the last 18 meetings and last won at Allen Fieldhouse back on February 19, 2005, when the Jayhawks were ranked 2nd in the Associated Press.
However, while the team is 1-7 under current head coach Fred Hoiberg, four of the last six games have been decided in single-digits and two of those games went into overtime.
What to watch for
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the problem was for Iowa State in their three-game slide. Outside of DeAndre Kane (and Monte Morris because he had just five attempts), everyone else shot 33 percent or worse from the field in the last meeting against Kansas. In large part, it was thanks to all the 3-point shot attempts. They took 25 or more attempts in each of those losses. In comparison, they shot just 18 perimeter shots in the win over Kansas State last Saturday.
No, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Iowa State just has to take less 3-point shots and everything will work out. They just can’t rely on it. Seeing Matt Thomas drilling 3-point shots should have reminded everyone how Tyrus McGee was always able to spark confidence in perimeter shooting.
Iowa State won’t have to rely on outside shooting if they can drive it to the basket and create offense in the post. Joel Embiid went off with five blocks, Andrew Wiggins collected an incredible 19 rebounds, and four other players had five or more rebounds (Embiid had nine). That will have to drastically change, and it will start by Dustin Hogue being more aggressive under the rim, Georges Niang shooting the ball better and not chucking up 3′s, and seeing both Kane and Melvin Ejim driving it in the lane a bit earlier in the game.
[Also see: ISU-KU Five players to watch]
Kansas is trending in all the right directions. They’re continuing to jump in the top 25 polls, they have outrebounded 16 of their 19 opponents with having their best margin against Iowa State, and their freshman are starting to get comfortable. This team is getting it done on both ends of the court; they’ve scored 80 or more points in 12 games and all opponents but Duke have been held to under 50 percent shooting.
Iowa State needs to show consistency. They lost their edge in the losing streak and unfortunately, they already had a good chance to beat Kansas when the Jayhawks turned the ball over 24 times and committed 26 fouls. Neither of those are likely going to happen in Allen Fieldhouse.
If the Cyclones don’t settle for 3-pointers like they did against Kansas State, they should be competitive throughout. But based on their recent history in Lawrence, shooting hasn’t been consistent, and rebounding could be a serious issue, it’s hard to believe they’ll get out with a victory. Kansas sweeps their northern rival in the Big 12 regular season.
KAN 86, IAST 79 (Odds: IAST +9)