Don't mind me if I make this preview about as abbreviated as I can. BBQ, beer, and best friends await me as I'll be on the road to Kansas City by the time most of you read this.
Big 12 Tournament Championship Game
(2) Iowa State vs (1) Kansas - 5:00 PM - ESPN
Iowa State survived a late Ryan Spangler miss that would have tied the game, Kansas systematically picked apart Baylor, and we find ourselves in the first championship game match up between the two schools since Iowa State took home the final Big 8 Championship in 1996. If you want to relive those moments here you go:
The Match Up
Kansas is hurting in the post right now with a banged up Perry Ellis and no Cliff Alexander. Guard play has been inconsistent with top guards Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden both battling through late season slumps. Kelly Oubre Jr has been the shining star of the tournament for the Jayhawks, but it's the weakness in the post that Iowa State will try to exploit.
The Cyclones ran as fast as they could in Ames and are going to look to do the same here and exploit the mismatches that Jameel McKay can create in transitiont. Ellis shot decently yesterday but Baylor's tempo never tested his knee. You can bet Fred Hoiberg will try to give him the work out early in the game and push it if he can.
Encouraging is the fact that Iowa State has won both of their games in Kansas City in different ways. On Thursday it was all about Monte Morris and Georges Niang, and last night it was about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. The only player that didn't have an impact on the stat sheet was Matt Thomas, and when seven men are affecting the game in different ways the Cyclones are hard to beat.
Concerning is the fact the Cyclones once again went on a first half dry spell that saw Oklahoma's lead balloon to 11, but the spurtability we were all familiar with pulled Iowa State ahead in the second half and a taste of that 2014 grit showed up late as Niang battled for a rebound off a Jameel McKay missed free throw.
At this point you can almost see the foam coming out of the mouth of Iowa State's players. They want this, Fred wants this, the fans want this, and hell, Kansas City might want this. There's no doubt that this game has the makings of a heavyweight title fight.
Despite the obvious issues in the post this game might very well be won behind the arc. Kansas pulled away from Baylor by getting back to their spacing and knocking down shots, and Iowa State managed their second half runs on the strength of the three ball. Considering both teams have been cold for stretches of this tournament it's going to be interesting to see if one of them can make a difference from deep.
If Kansas is hitting they're going to hang around, if Iowa State is they might end up chasing Kansas out of the gym.
The biggest contrast between the two previous match ups was Iowa State playing their game and taking care of the ball. They did that in Ames, and did it for 10 minutes in Lawrence before faltering. The Cyclones exorcised their demons against a Sooner squad that always gives them fits, and the focus this team is playing with right now is clearly their best of the season. It's a no brainer where I'm going next.
Iowa State 81
PS - Last one out, turn off the lights!