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At this point, there's not much else to be said. Wednesday night's abysmal effort in Lubbock happened and now Fred Hoiberg's Iowa State team is going to have to drag that anchor behind them for the rest of the year. I thought Cyclone Fanatic's Chris Williams nailed it when he Tweeted, "Loss was a season changer. Much more of an uphill fight now. But not a season ender. A lot of basketball still to be played." Well put. The loss to Texas Tech is unquestionably the worst of the Fred Hoiberg era given the talent disparity, circumstances and timing. Best not to dwell anymore on that setback, but you do have to wonder; when we look back on this season, will that game be the aberration on the schedule, or will we say that was the harbinger of worse things to come?
For weeks and even months, I proclaimed to anyone who would listen that Iowa State would get out to a 5-1 start in conference play. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen, but 4-2 suddenly doesn't look too bad. That's the funny thing about this college game and the fickle nature of the young men who play it; unpredictability and surprise are the only constants. At this point, we'd all be surprised if Iowa State came out on Saturday and beat the #13 Kansas State Wildcats up and down the floor for 40 minutes. Surprising as that may be, in the back of your mind, you're not going to rule it out. Not with Fred Hoiberg at the helm and a 17-game home winning streak on the line, which includes nine straight Big 12 wins inside Hilton Coliseum. Still, this game and this team is unpredictable. What's the current team psyche? Who's stepping up in the face of adversity? What is this team going to do on Saturday to show that Wednesday night's loss is in the past? Players, coaches and fans included, we're all eager to tune in and in see.
About Kansas State
Record: 15-3, 4-1 #11 AP & #13 Coaches
KenPom.com Ranking: 44
There might be a new coach in Manhattan, but this Kansas State team still resembles the game-hardened and mentally tough squads of Bob Huggins and Frank Martin. Bruce Weber has smartly recognized what type of horses he has in the barn and he is letting them run a race they're comfortable and familiar with. It also doesn't hurt that he has a world-class thoroughbred in his stable that goes by the name of Rodney McGruder. The senior sharpshooter has been arguably the best player in the Big 12 through five conference games, leading the league in scoring (conference games only) at 19.8 points per game while shooting 50% from the field and 45% from outside. You could get dizzy watching McGruder move without the ball. He'll come off screens, run the base line, set slip-screens and do just about anything else he can to get open. He's an outstanding player, but his constant movement is what makes him special and what will earn him a paycheck in the Association for years to come.
The Wildcats are far from a one-man show. This team is deep and on any given night, a guy like Shane Southwell, Thomas Gipson or Angel Rodriquez can go off. Then you toss in the length of C Jordan Henriquez, veteran savy of Will Spradling and playmaking ability of Martavious Irving and it's easy to see why most people believe this is the only team in the conference that can seriously challenge Kansas for the league crown.
As you'd expect, K-State does a lot of things well, notably taking care of the ball (league low 10.4 turnovers in conference play) and shooting the three (league best 37.6 3PT% in Big 12 games). This team also ranks among the league's best in Field Goal % (44.5), Assists (15.4) and Turnover Margin (+3). The Wildcats haven't been dominant on the boards, but they haven't been bad. As well as they've shot the ball, it's no surprise they're last in the conference in offensive rebounds. There just aren't many caroms to grab when everything is going in.
The numbers don't lie and if those numbers showed you anything, it's that Kansas State is solid in most areas and does a few things particularly well. One area that has been occasionally troublesome for the Wildcats though, is fouls. Post players Thomas Gipson and Jordan Henriquez are no strangers to foul trouble, nor is point guard Angel Roriquez, who's physical style of play and frequent gambles often lead him to extended stretches on the bench. Luckily, K-State has the depth to withstand a little foul trouble, but on the road, we all know the 50/50 calls don't always go you're way.
And speaking of the road, K-State really has been a different team away from Bramlage Coliseum. This will be K-State's 4th true road game and while they're 3-0 in hostile arenas, they struggled at George Washington, escaped West Virginia with a one point win and did about as well at TCU as Iowa State did. No offense to those three schools, but none of them have an atmosphere like Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. While the Wildcats have been tested on the road, you might say that this is their first true road test. It took a game-winning shot by Royce White in the closing seconds for Iowa State to top Kansas State in Ames last year, but up until that point, K-State played pretty well in front of the Cyclone faithful.
As I mentioned, it's tough to tell what Iowa State team is going to hit the floor on Saturday. Is the locker room splintered and defeated or does this team have the resolve to put an embarrassing loss behind them and protect home court? This could be a high scoring game filled with brilliant outside shooting and adept passing, but after what Iowa State's last three opponents were able to do, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bruce Weber's team play possession-to-possession in an attempt to keep this game in the 50s or 60s. Kansas State has shown that they can win those types of games. Iowa State really hasn't.
This is a long-winded way of getting to an actual prediction, but I think Fred Hoiberg is able to rally this team and Iowa State plays a passionate 40 minutes en route to victory, if for no other reason than they have to. The turnovers will be down as will the empty possessions and the Magic continues at home.
Iowa State 72 - Kansas State 67
Tip: 12:30 PM CST, Ames, Iowa - James H. Hilton Coliseum
TV: Big 12 Network (ABC5/WOI Central Iowa)
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Kansas State SBN Site: http://www.bringonthecats.com/
Big 12 Weekend Predictions
West Virginia @ Oklahoma State - 12 PM CT, ESPNU
The Mountaineers picked up a much needed win against TCU on Wednesday night, but don't have the horses to make it two in a row against an Oklahoma State team that plays well at home.
Oklahoma State 68 - West Virginia 60
Oklahoma @ Kansas - 3 PM CT, ESPN
This is a sneaky good game as the Sooners sit at 4-1 in conference play and the frontcourt duo of Romero Osby and Amath M'Baye could give Kansas trouble. Kansas is also coming off a big win over in-state rival Kansas State and could be in for a let down game. I like Kansas to win at home, but Oklahoma makes it anything but easy for the Jayhawks.
Kansas 73 - Oklahoma 66
Baylor @ TCU - 3 PM CT, Big 12 Network
Shouldn't be much of a contest. I can see TCU scrapping in this one for a little while, but Baylor blows out the Frogs in the second half.
Baylor 78 - TCU 52
Texas Tech @ Texas - 7 PM CT, Longhorn Network
Could this be the 'Horn's first conference win or does Texas Tech show that their win over Iowa State was no fluke? Texas grinds out a victory over the improving Red Raiders.
Texas 65 - Texas Tech 57
One Man's Big 12 Power Rankings
1. Kansas 5-0
2. Kansas State 4-1
3. Baylor 4-1
4. Oklahoma 4-1
5. Oklahoma State 2-3
6. Iowa State 3-2
7. West Virginia 2-3
8. Texas 0-5
9. Texas Tech2-4
10. TCU 0-6
Full disclosure here; I started writing this piece on Wednesday afternoon prior to the start of the Iowa State-Texas Tech game. It was unfathomable to me at the time to even consider a loss by the Cyclones in Lubbock. Well, silly me. I went from debating about whether to put Iowa State or Kansas State second to dropping ISU down to the #6 spot. The fact of the matter is that Iowa State allowed West Virginia to erase an 18-point second half deficit and needed a last second shot to beat the Mountaineers, then followed up that near collapse with two ugly performances on the road against the two worst teams in the league. That win over Texas is looking less and less impressive and "we almost beat Kansas" just doesn't cut it.
As always, share your toughts, comments and predictions below.