Kansas State (19-9, 9-6) is looking to set a new home winning streak record, and they’ll have to do it against the Big 12’s highest scoring team, Iowa State (22-5, 10-5). The Cyclones come riding into Manhattan with a four-game winning streak and all the confidence in the world after avenging their worst loss of the season by blowing out West Virginia on Wednesday night.
(15)Iowa State Cyclones vs Kansas State Wildcats
Fred Bramlage Coliseum | Manhattan, Kansas
Date: Saturday, March 1st, 2014
Tip-off: 6:00 PM CT | TV: ESPNU
Kansas State gave all of us the first spit-take of the college basketball season, dropping their season opener against Northern Colorado, 60-58, at home. They’ve rattled off 15 straight since, building a solid resume in the Big 12 despite not being able to find many wins on the road. In fact, they’ve only won two true road games this season – at TCU and their last game against Texas Tech.
But that doesn’t matter on Saturday. They’ve defeated everybody at home in the Big 12 including Kansas and a blowout over Texas. All that’s left is this game against Iowa State and Baylor to end the season.
What’s been the difference between the Wildcats on the road and at home? Plenty of things. Obviously, playing at home can energize the team as every Iowa State fan knows with Hilton Coliseum. But one of the trends is assists — six of Kansas State’s losses happened when they end up at or below their average of 15 assists per game. Also, not getting above 30 points in the first half has resulted in six of their losses too.
Marcus Foster has become the star of the team, taking most of the shots with 350 field goal attempts this year (currently 128 more than Shane Southwell, who’s second on the team). He’s still hitting at 42 percent and has been incredibly productive from downtown. Foster has made the most 3-point shots on the team and is hitting at a 39.5 percent clip from the perimeter.
Iowa State holds an 81-135 record all-time against Kansas State, and an even worse 22-78 in Manhattan. Playing at the Wildcats’ home court has always been a nightmare for the Cyclones, but they last won on the road two seasons ago. ISU has won four of the last five against KSU, and is currently 2-1 with Bruce Weber as their head coach.
What to watch for
Kansas State leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense, holding teams to just 40.2 percent per game, 28.4 percent per game from 3-point range. It’s generally been hard for Iowa State to get hot from downtown, so if nobody can hit from long range early, it will be up to the frontcourt tandem of Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang, and Dustin Hogue to get things going. Ejim and Niang had 38 combined points in the 81-75 victory against the Wildcats earlier this year.
Perhaps Matt Thomas or Naz Long will be able to spread out the Wildcats’ defense. Thomas hit 4-of-6 from 3-point range in the last game against KSU, while Long whent 5-of-7 from downtown in ISU’s latest win over West Virginia.
It’s easy to point to Kansas State’s road woes, but it hasn’t been wildly more successful for Iowa State. Four of their five losses have been on the road, and their road wins were against Texas Tech, TCU, and a weaker Oklahoma State squad.
Iowa State should prepare themselves for a defensive battle, especially if they miss their shots from downtown early, but Kansas State won’t overwhelm them with size. Sophomore D.J. Johnson is their only player over 6-foot-7 that sees regular playing time, and he saw just eight minutes in the first meeting.
Expect the Cyclone frontcourt to lead the team, and any additional help from 3-point range would be icing on the cake. The offense will be too much to handle in the end, and Iowa State will grab their fourth conference road win while snapping Kansas State’s home winning streak.
IAST 77, KSST 69 (Odds: IAST +1)