Iowa State enters the Kansas game coming off a loss to TCU, and needing a win against Kansas to get to .500 in the conference. While Ames has been a bit of a house of horrors for the Jayhawks in recent times, there’s reason to believe that won’t necessarily be the case tonight.
For starters, the Cyclones are a pretty bad 3-point shooting team, at under 32 percent for the year. Of course, anyone can get hot for one game, and they do take about 38 percent of their shots from deep (surely more than that tonight), so one never knows. They do, however, have just one regular shooting over 40 percent from three, and we’ll come back to how Kansas might shut that down a bit later in the preview.
Elsewhere, Iowa State succeeds by getting a lot of shots up inside the arc, and making a lot of those. They rank 21st nationally in 2-point shooting, and if they can get Udoka Azubuike in foul trouble, they might not have to shoot a ton of threes. Just as important, though, is turnovers. Iowa State basically never turns the ball over; fewer than 16 percent of their possessions in fact, which ranks 16th nationally. (If Kansas could just steal that part of the Cyclones offense, they would be the best team in America by a wide margin.)
Defensively, Iowa State has been pretty bad. They do force quite a few turnovers (38th nationally), but sit roughly average almost everywhere else. Of course, these numbers have been put up against a reasonably tough nonconference schedule, so they may be a bit better than the numbers suggest. They’re not a very good 2-point defense, and rank 300th nationally in defensive rebounding, so expect Kansas to hit the glass hard and, and even though the matchup doesn’t seem to suggest it, play some 2 big lineups.
Players to Watch
Tyrese Haliburton, 6-5 sophomore guard
Haliburton put up insanely efficient numbers last year, but his usage rate was under 10 percent, leading me to wonder whether he could do it again but while being a higher usage guy. Well, mission accomplished. Haliburton’s usage has climbed to near 25 percent with an offensive rating still in the 120s. He has an assist rate near 40, barely turns it over, and is efficient from two and three. He’s probably going to be a lottery pick in June.
Fortunately for Kansas, he’s also the perfect size to be guarded by Marcus Garrett. He’s a pretty crafty guy, so he may get Marcus in some early foul trouble, but if Garrett can stay positionally sound I think he can at least keep Haliburton from going nuts, which is what Iowa State needs to win tonight.
George Conditt, 6-10 sophomore forward
Conditt shoots 69 percent inside the arc to lead the team and he’s also a really good shot blocker. He also lives for committing fouls, so a couple quick early ones with Azubuike backing him down could be a big gamechanger.
Rasir Bolton, 6-3 guard
Bolton actually leads the team in usage, and even though that shouldn’t be the case, that makes him a guy to keep an eye on. He’s an OK passer, and decent at scoring inside, but shoots under 28 percent from three.
Vegas has Kansas as just a 5-point favorite, and even with their history in Ames, I think it should be a few points more. It does make me wonder what they know that I don’t, but in the end I am going to take the few free points. I don’t think Iowa State has enough shooting to stay in it the whole way, and I think Garrett will make things rough enough on Haliburton to where Kansas can win this semi comfortably. Jayhawks 78-70.
Record ATS: 5-7.