It’s the matchup every Iowa State (24-7, 11-7) fan wanted. Another crack at Kansas (24-8, 14-4), the only team that’s been able to defeat the Cyclones at Hilton Coliseum this season. While the fans have traveled to try and re-create Hilton Magic in Kansas City, the Jayhawks were heard loudly and proudly as they saw their team close things out against Oklahoma State.
It’s going to be one of the loudest venues when it comes to neutral site games compared to other conference tournaments. It’s a matchup that’s deserving of the Big 12 championship itself. Who will have the edge, and who will end up on the big stage on Saturday night?
(16)Iowa State Cyclones (4) vs (10)Kansas Jayhawks (1)
Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship – Semifinal #1
Sprint Center | Kansas City, Missouri
Date: Friday, March 14th, 2014
Tip-off: 6:00 PM CT | TV: Big 12 Network / ESPNU
It’s the second straight year that Iowa State and Kansas will meet in the first Big 12 semifinal. Last year, the Jayhawks came away with an 88-73 victory, pulling away in the second half after the Cyclones had an eight-point lead early in the contest. Kansas dominated in the paint, scoring 50 points compared to Iowa State’s 32. The Cyclones struggled from 3-point range; similar to Oklahoma’s barrage from 3 last night, they went 9-of-33 from the perimeter. They also had just 10 assists on 26 field goals made.
If Iowa State wants to compete this season, they need to take advantage of Joel Embiid’s absence. Giving up 50 points in the paint is unacceptable even if the center for Kansas was playing. Tallying up the assists would boost shooting efficiency, which is exactly what the Cyclones’ bread-and-butter has been this season.
How they played against each other
Kansas swept the season series, stealing one from Hilton Coliseum in one of the most poorly-played games by both teams in the entire Big 12 season. The Jayhawks won, 77-70, despite committing 24 turnovers and giving Iowa State 34 free throw attempts. The Cyclones responded by missing 12 of those, and shot 31.4 percent from the floor (16 percent from 3-point range).
Both teams played much better in Lawrence. Iowa State battled back after its usual slow start in the first half of the season. But Kansas was able to regain control and sustain it throughout the second half, eventually winning 92-81.
What to watch for
Iowa State’s frontcourt demolished Kansas State, outscoring the Wildcats in the paint 46-34. The Cyclones need to gain an edge in that department, especially since they can keep Tarik Black and Perry Ellis from scoring. The problem will be if Iowa State can grab the boards. Both Black and Ellis scored just 16 points combined against Oklahoma State, but picked up 20 boards.
Aside from Kansas being weaker inside without Embiid, another weakness is turning the ball over, committing the act 13.2 times per game this season. Iowa State would love to get them in the 15 or more category.
Finding a way to stop Andrew Wiggins is near impossible at the current time. He’s scoring at will, recording 41 points against West Virginia in the regular season finale and getting 30 to lift Kansas over Oklahoma State in the quarterfinal. Instead of just double-teaming Wiggins, something that Iowa State should do is attack the source.
Naadir Tharpe is the team’s distributor, averaging five assists per game. If the Cyclones can knock him off his rhythm and even out his assist-turnover ratio, that will both keep Wiggins from going off and create more easy transition baskets for ISU.
Honestly, Iowa State should have an unblemished record at home. It’s painful to look back at the lone loss and see how much Kansas struggled in Hilton Coliseum, yet the Cyclones could not capitalize in multiple facets of the game.
It may not sound like a home game in Kansas City, but Iowa State can get their fans into it with a fast start. That would be ideal, but something tells me that we’ll see the more typical slow start and comeback.
Unlike last season, the Cyclones should stay in it throughout the second half. The way to beat Kansas is punching them in the mouth; the frontcourt needs to have similar production as it did against Kansas State, and it should actually be a little easier to do so. Then, that’s when Iowa State should attack from the perimeter to seal the deal.
Everything in me expects Kansas to win yet another game over Iowa State. But I also went 1-3 in my Big 12 tournament predictions yesterday — so why not put the Cyclones in the championship?
IAST 80, KAN 76 (Odds: IAST +4.5, O155.5)