It has been an up and down season for the Cyclones thus far, with Iowa State sitting at 5-4 in Big 12 play, with no winning nor losing streak lasting more than two games. The Cyclones are perfectly mediocre statistically as well, sitting 5th in the league in offense and 4th in defense.
Offensively, Iowa State tries to maximize its good qualities as best it can by committing turnovers on just 15.1 percent of its possessions and attempting threes on 40.3 percent of its field goal attempts in Big 12 play. Considering Iowa State is shooting 37.6 percent from three and just 49.6 percent on twos, that’s probably a good idea. Of course, the good news from KU’s point of view is Iowa State is going to need to make a ton of threes to get the type of extra points necessary to pull an upset in Allen Fieldhouse if turning it over on 15 percent of your possessions, taking 40 percent of your shots from three, and shooting almost 38 percent from three only gets you the 4th best offense in the league. A lot of that, of course, is down to the fact that the Cyclones are only grabbing 25.5 percent of their misses, and often didn’t even try to grab an offensive rebound when the teams met in Ames. Kansas has gotten a lot better at first shot defense even since then, so the Jayhawks could see their defensive numbers rebound a bit.
Defensively, it is shocking Iowa State is even 4th in the league. It is basically all down to the fact that Iowa State forces turnovers on 23 percent of opponents possessions (3rd in the league), does a good job of limiting threes, and basically never lets teams get to the free throw line. But the Cyclones let teams shoot 53 percent on twos (9th), and let opponents rebound 37 percent of their misses (last). In the last matchup, Kansas consistently dumped it inside, and as a result shot 60 percent on twos. To be fair, they also committed quite a few turnovers doing so, but it was tough for them to go a possession without scoring when they got a shot up considering they shot 60 percent inside the arc, 40 percent from three, and rebounded 47 percent of their misses. I suspect a similar strategy by the Jayhawks on Saturday afternoon.
Players to Watch
Monte Morris, senior guard
Morris currently leads the league in minutes played, ranks 3rd in assist rate, and 2nd in turnover rate. He’s shooting just 42 percent on twos, but 43 percent from deep. Kansas likely won’t be going to its zone often, but it will be on Mason and Graham to harass him as much as possible.
Matt Thomas, senior forward
Thomas leads the league in eFG at 69.2 percent, and is making 49 percent of his threes in league play. Kansas should probably have Josh Jackson follow him around and run him off the 3-point line as much as possible, although Kansas has had some issues leaving shooters.
Deonte Burton, senior forward
I will get his height correct this time. The 6-5 forward made quite a few mid range jumpers in the last matchup, and overall is shooting 46 percent on twos but just 29 percent from deep. Kansas will do well to keep making him take those contested mid range shots. Burton also is 6th in the league in block percentage and 4th in steal rate.
Things to Watch For
- Finishing inside - Kansas has struggled scoring inside a bit lately, but should have the opportunity for quite a few free points Saturday. They need to do it again.
- Jump shooting - Iowa State is going to need to take and make quite a few threes to win on Saturday. They’re going to need to take and make more than they usually do to have a chance.
- Point guard battle - Monte Morris is going to have to severely outplay Frank Mason (and probably Devonte Graham as well) in order for Iowa State to have a chance.
Kansas needs a nice relaxing win after the victory over Baylor on Wednesday, especially with a tough week coming up at Kansas State and at Texas Tech. With the huge advantage they have inside, and their ability to shoot the three well enough to keep up with the Cyclones, I think they’ll semi-coast to a win, 84-73.