Iowa State basketball: Game preview vs. Kansas


Every Big 12 game is important, but there’s a little extra emphasis compared to every other game when Kansas comes into Ames. Never unfazed by Hilton Magic, the Jayhawks are getting stronger and stronger as they roll through their season. However, it will be extra crazy with ESPN College Gameday in the house, and a game like this could set the tone for Iowa State basketball.

(9)Kansas Jayhawks vs. (11)Iowa State Cyclones

James H. Hilton Coliseum | Ames, Iowa
Saturday, January 17th, 2015 | Tipoff – 8:00 PM CT
TV: ESPN | Stream: WatchESPN

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UPDATE: The doors at Hilton Coliseum will not open until 8:00 AM Central time for College GameDay. It was changed from the original 7:00 AM time per ESPN’s request.

Iowa State (12-3, 2-1) comes in after losing to Baylor in a game they were dominated in, but would never go away. The Bears were on pace to run them out of their own arena early, but the Cyclones kept responding until they ran out of time. Bryce Dejean-Jones quietly got out of his slump, but the rest of the team showed inconsistency.

Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay were great in the first half, but faded in the second. Georges Niang couldn’t make a basket until the second half and wasn’t an impact in the scoring column until late in the game.

Kansas (14-2, 3-0) has looked devastating on the defensive end since entering Big 12 play. They’ve held their three conference opponents to 55.3 points per game. One game was against Texas Tech, but the others were against two top-25 opponents — the aforementioned Bears and Oklahoma State.

That game against the Cowboys wasn’t pretty. They struggled with 16 turnovers, didn’t hit 3-pointers, and their leaders Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis struggled. However, their depth may be starting to fill out with both Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre putting the team on their back. Also, Frank Mason III answered the bell at the free-throw line.

Series history

Kansas has a 176-60 all-time record over Iowa State and is the only team that’s thwarted Hilton Magic with a 69-37 record in Ames. It hasn’t been a good recent history and it can hardly be called a rivalry, but the Cyclones did defeat the Jayhawks 94-83 in last year’s Big 12 semifinals. Iowa State hopes to start a new era against Kansas on Saturday night.

What to watch for

Mar 15, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Perry Ellis (34) dunks the ball as Iowa State Cyclones forward Georges Niang (31) defends during the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament at the Sprint Center. Kansas won 88-73. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The impact of College GameDay’s first visit to Ames will be huge. It’s already a crazy game every single year where ticket prices reach a ridiculous high. Until football gets into a winning tradition, Iowa State basketball’s annual tilt against Kansas at Hilton Coliseum is probably the biggest sporting event each year.

Kansas will try to kill the crowd, but the difference between this game and others is the crowd will never go away. Even if the Jayhawks start to pull away, any basket Iowa State makes will give a jolt to the fans.

There is blood in the water. Kansas has struggled in non-conference play and they haven’t been close to their dominant selves as they have been in the past. They’ll still have a lot of talent that will be drafted to the NBA, but they lack those obvious high first-round picks this year.

Iowa State has plenty of issues to fix themselves. They have to improve at shooting from the free throw line; in Big 12 play, the Cyclones are just 35-for-58 (60.3 percent). They need a better effort from their leader, Niang, who’s been really inefficient from the field making just 13-of-37 attempts in conference play. Most importantly, they aren’t going to win many rebounding battles, but they need to find a way to shrink the margin.

Final thoughts

Also see: Big 12 predictions for Saturday of Week 10

A game like this will set the tone for two teams that have expectations to win the Big 12 regular season title. This is going to be the Jayhawks’ toughest game left on the schedule. They’ve been the only team in the last few years to beat Iowa State at home.

The Cyclones have all the talent to beat this team, and now they have to hope it gels together in one night. BDJ wasn’t dominant, but received a little confidence at Baylor. Niang still has the power to close out games. Naz Long couldn’t be any hotter from downtown in the second half on Wednesday night. Morris is the always reliable point guard that never lets the team down.

One of the big keys will be the bench. Can Nader bring his success from the road to Hilton Coliseum? Will McKay’s back problems slow him down? Any additional production from Matt Thomas would be gravy.

Kansas is likely going to win the rebounding battle with their size and will have more possessions, so it’s monumental for Iowa State to not turn the ball over, hit their 3’s, and make free throws.

Next: AOTC: Five takeaways from ISU's loss to Baylor