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Iowa State vs Kansas: Previewing the Cyclones

Hilton Magic.  Yes it's been a little bit low in power of late but Fred Hoiberg returns and with him comes a bit of a reminder of the days of old. 

Johnny Orr, Jeff Hornicek, Jeff Grayer, Julius Michalik, Justus Thigpen, Victor Alexander, Kelvin Cato, Dedric Willoughby, Marcus Fizer, Jamal Tinsley, Jake Sullivan.  Sure these most likely don't ring quite as true for Kansas fans as the names of Kansas greats, but Iowa State has a proud history of their own and without question it's a team and program that has given Kansas trouble over the years.

A little fact put out there by coach Manning the other day. Here's the fact: Danny Manning never won a game in Ames during his time in a Kansas uniform.  A small blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things, but time often referenced by Jayhawk fans due to the sentimental value.

Point is, Iowa State may not be on top of the world at the moment, but I view them much differently then a Nebraska or a Texas Tech or some other team that never seems to get there.  Tonight doesn't hold the promise of a classic Big 8 clash, but strange things do happen and win or lose Fred Hoiberg is exactly what Iowa State needs to move forward again.


AP Poll
SOS Projected

The Players

Iowa State is led by a pair of guards that can score in bunches and score in a hurry.  It starts at the point with 6'4" Diante Garrett.  Garrett has good size at the point and because of that he's able to create his own shot and make himself a threat to score at any time.  By the same token he's just as good at distributing the basketball and currently leads the Big 12 in assists per game. 

In a program that has experienced a significant amount of turnover over the last few years, Garrett is the exception being a fourth year senior starter and one of the key leaders in Fred Hoiberg's transitional year.  Garrett averages 17.1 points, 5.8 assists per game.

Adding to the potent backcourt is a big time three point threat in Scott Christopherson.  Christopherson is a 6'3" guard and should be the guy to watch for that off the charts night that Kansas tends to give up from time to time. Three times this year Christopherson has scored over 25 and three times this year he's hoisted double digit three point attempts.  He has a green light, as he should when shooting 51% from behind the arc.  Christopherson averages 14.5 points per game and with the combination of Garrett and Christopherson Iowa State has some pieces there to be dangerous.

Leading the way on the interior is a freshman forward in Melvin Ejim.  Just 6'6" on the roster, Ejim accounts for 12.7 points per game and 7.1 rebounds. 

Now here's an interesting stat and player.  6'2" senior guard Jake Anderson is actually the teams leading rebounder at 8.5 per game.  Now as a Kansas fan, I'm not sure Richard Scott could have even managed that at 6'2".  In addition Anderson is the team's fourth leading scorer at 11.3 per game.

Rounding out the starters for the Cyclones is a 6'11" senior forward in Jamie Vanderbeken.  Vanderbeken, the tallest member of the starting lineup, actually comes in third in terms of rebounding production at just 5.7 per game while adding 10.8 points per game.  That makes for five starters, four of which are upperclassman and all five averaging double digits.  That's a pretty solid makeup for a team looking to pull an upset.

Where it gets a little sticky for the Cyclones is when you look to the bench.  Why?  Well there isn't really one.  Realistically Fred Hoiberg goes about seven deep.  His starters are going to play the bulk of the minutes and Calvin Godfrey and Bubu Palo are going to spill those when necessary.  That's an area that Kansas can exploit and Bill Self's 9-10 man rotation can pay early dividends.


Cyclone Trends

To say the Cyclones have exceeded expectations this year might be a stretch, but considering the lack of continuity and the turnover there were quite a few putting this group in the Oklahoma category in the preseason. 

Fortunately for Iowa State fans, it's been a little better than expected.  Headed into conference play the Cyclones sat 12-2 with wins over in state rival Iowa, and an ACC opponent in Virginia.  Another nice feather in the cap was a win over Creighton and former coach Greg McDermott.  Close losses to Northern Iowa and Cal weren't overly alarming but obviously as with many teams there is some question as to the level of competition in nonconference play.

That said, the Cyclones did take a bit of a blow on the opening Saturday of conference play when they dropped on to Nebraska.  Now the game was in Lincoln and it was a one point loss in rather dramatic fashion, but it was one of the few road games that the Cyclones probably could have pointed to with a very real shot at winning. 

Either way, they'll be ready to play tonight and the home crowd will certainly provide a boost as they always do.

Offensive Averages:

46th / 5th
55th / 4th
35th / 5th
FG Pct
107th / 10th
Defensive Averages:
19th / 5th
62nd / 4th
270th / 5th
FG Pct
4th / 10th

Prediction Time

This one is a little scary.  Just like the Michigan game, there is no real reason that Kansas should walk away from Hilton with anything but a win.  Problem is, Iowa State has senior leadership and a few players that do have that "put a team on my back" ability. 

As you'd expect with a team of that nature the Cyclones don't turn the ball over much, they play good defense and they do a fairly nice job in shot selection.  Where they struggle is in rebounding and interior defense in general.

The Jayhawks have a huge advantage in terms of size and depth and they need to exploit it.  After that Kansas needs to defend the perimeter and minimize the impact that the Cyclone guards have on the game from the offensive end while taking care of the basketball themselves.  Do those things and this one should be manageable.  Fall into bad habits and you let a tough crowd get into the game and an experienced team gain even more confidence.