In Kansas's most recent press conference, sophomore guard Wayne Selden said that he had the secret to stopping Iowa State forward Georges Niang, because the two had both grown up in Massachusetts and had played against each other multiple times.
I don't really care whether or not Selden actually has the secret to stopping Niang, but I do care whether Kansas does. Niang hasn't had a great start to conference play, shooting 10-28 on twos and 3-9 on threes in the team's three conference games. He also has 5 assists and 8 turnovers. In fact, while Niang is consistently billed as one of the favorites for Big 12 player of the year, it's pretty easy to make an argument that this is his worst year in an Iowa State uniform.
Still, it's Niang and point guard Monte Morris who mostly make the Cyclones go. So, needless to say, stopping the two will be important.
Niang operates mostly in the mid range, taking 44% of his shots from that middle area (via hoop-math), though he shoots 64.4 percent at the rim as well.
To get a better handle on how to stop Niang, let's examine has game against Baylor. Like Kansas, Baylor doesn't have a very big team, ranking 149th in effective height and featuring a front line whose tallest player is just 6'9". Baylor allows opponents to shoot roughly the same percentage on twos as Kansas, though it's worth noting that the Jayhawks are much better at rim protection.
Nonetheless, Baylor limited Niang to shooting just 3-10 in the restricted area, and 0-4 on layups. How?
I won't examine all of Niang's attempts, but let's examine a few:
(caveat that is obvious but I still need to say: this is just one game, so be aware of sample size warnings, etc. Sadly I don't have time to watch 15 games of Georges Niang film in a day, unless some college basketball team would like to hire me to do so)
These three are all misses in the Baylor game (against the zone, interestingly enough). And after we look at a turnover as well as his horrible attempt to win the game, we'll examine what these shots have in common:
While I don't expect Bill Self to go to the zone, especially in a regular season game, I think it would be an interesting strategy against Iowa State, especially if Niang is playing like this. While the Cyclones are shooting 40 percent on threes in Big 12 play, they're shooting just 35 percent overall, and rank 114th nationally compared to 3rd nationally on twos. Clearly this is a bit of pick your poison with an offense like Iowa State's.
However, a couple things I noticed about Niang. First, it seems like some of these shots are just bad luck. He's getting some good attempts, he's just missing. It honestly reminded me a bit of the struggles Perry Ellis is going through. Obviously Ellis isn't having as good of a season (he's shooting 8 percent worse on twos and 10 percent worse at the rim) but the same type of struggles are there.
Secondly, Baylor isn't spending a lot of time denying Niang the ball. Some of that is the zone, and while I don't expect Kansas to do that, I do expect them to have Cliff Alexander patrolling the paint to deter a lot of Niang attempts at the rim, but some of it is they don't really need to. Niang gets pushed around pretty easily, and not even by Baylor's bigs. In the second gif, 5'11" Lester Medford plays good enough defense to force Niang into a screen and roll action.
What really got to me, though, was Baylor's actions after Niang caught the ball. He was immediately rushed at by at least one defender, forcing him to make a quick decision. With how good of a passer he is for a big, I thought this wouldn't be the way to go, but it appears making him make extremely quick decisions worked well for the Bears defensively. I believe that it also forced him into taking quicker, tougher shots than he probably needed to. See the third gif, from the first half, where he took multiple dribbles and gathered before going up for a shot, compared to the second gif, from the second half, where he must have realized defenders were coming immediately and he forced up a quick look as a result.
Kansas probably won't replicate this same defensive gameplan, but I think they'll duplicate parts of it, and with their ability to throw bigger bodies like Wayne Selden to bother him on the perimeter, or lanky forwards like Kelly Oubre, or even Perry Ellis who is much improved defensively, plus Cliff Alexander and Jamari Traylor providing some rim protection, the Jayhawks have the ability to stop Niang and win the game. Now it's a matter of executing.