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Basketball Preview: We’re Talking Kansas Part 1

Can the ‘Clones knock off #1 for a second straight year?

Drake v Iowa State Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

We are hearing that Kansas has somehow managed to travel to Ames despite ICEPOCALYPSE 2017. It really should come as no surprise, as Kansas has already gotten away with traveling when it wasn’t advised once this season.

Remember that one point this season when Kansas football had more wins than Kansas basketball? That seems like such a long time ago, and people may not remember that opening night loss to Indiana because Kansas hasn’t lost since that game.

For the second straight week a Big 12 team will be atop the college basketball polls, as this time it’s Kansas’ turn as the #1 team in all of the land. Last week Baylor lost merely hours after earning their first #1 ranking in school history.

They say history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Will ISU knock off #1 for a third time?

Last Time Out

Iowa State fell to Jamie Dixon and the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday afternoon. A win would have made tonight’s tilt a bout for first place, but it wasn’t in the cards. The Cyclones struggled with TCU’s size inside as they got dominated in the paint. Steve Prohm and company will have to make some adjustments going forward as they are sure to be the smaller foe in nearly every matchup the rest of the year.

The Jayhawks come into this game after slugging out a close victory at home against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Nearly every Big 12 contest Kansas has played in has been close thus far, including home matchups. Aiding KU in their win over the Cowboys was a disgusting foul discrepancy, resulting in Kansas shooting almost 40 (!!!) more free throws than Oklahoma State.

About Kansas

In years past it was Iowa State that relied on the long ball while Kansas waited for the Cyclones to go cold. This year’s Kansas team is shooting a blistering 41.5% from three point range as a TEAM. You could say they live and die by the three, but that wouldn’t be accurate. They have only been living and living large at that. The one thing holding them back is Self’s disdain for the 3-point shot. Just 34% of their shots come from outside 2-point range.

To go along with their exceptional 3-point shooting is an offense that rebounds over 35% of their misses. This is one of the most effective offenses Self has had at Kansas, and when they aren’t hitting from deep, they will end up at the free throw line. As a team they have already shot 140 free throws through just five games.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Jayhawks aren’t nearly as elite. Sure, like any Kansas team of years past they can defend, but it isn’t this team’s strength. They don’t force many turnovers and they are vulnerable at times to giving up offensive boards. The Jayhawks will try to force Iowa State off the 3-point line into the teeth of their defense, where teams are only shooting 42.8% from 2-point range. Landen Lucas and Josh Jackson, while not thought of as elite shot blockers, are blocking shots at a rate of 3.9% and 4.9% of the possessions, respectively.

Players to Watch

Obviously, this list is going to start with Frank Mason III. While his season hasn’t been terrific from a PG perspective, his all-around numbers are off the charts. His scoring and rebounding abilities have been huge for the Jayhawks thus far. Mason had 22 points in his last outing, and is averaging over 20 PPG on the season.

Josh Jackson, the highly touted freshman, is putting up some pretty darn impressive numbers for a Jayhawk freshman, especially when you consider Bill Self’s recent run of strange happenings with top recruits. He put up 20 and 11 vs OSU, and is averaging over 15 PPG despite not being a great shooter.

Landen Lucas is a player that Cyclone fans will have to keep their eyes on. While Lucas hasn’t done a whole lot up to now besides provide rebounds and minutes, he’s sort of come into his own this season. He’s been instrumental in key stretches, and his size and rebounding ability could cause problems for the Cyclones. Look for Jackson to run the high-low two-man game with Lucas from the top of the paint.

Finally, the other players to watch are Kansas’s two bench players: Carlton Bragg and Lagerald Vick. Keep an eye on their minutes more than what each brings to the table, however. Kansas likes to play small, much like Iowa State, and plays with a short seven man rotation.

What to Expect

This game reminds me a little bit of Iowa State’s matchup with Kansas during the 2014-15 season. The ‘Clones had just come off a road loss at Baylor, and needed to rebound in a big way. This year’s squad finds itself in a similar situation, needing a victory to help “right the ship” after a troubling road loss to TCU.

In all, this should be an interesting game. Kansas plays smaller than they have in years past, and while they have been great offensively, they have struggled a bit on the defensive end. These factors might just play into the Cyclones’ hands.

In order to win, Iowa State needs to rebound better than they did against TCU, and they need to keep Josh Jackson/Landen Lucas from getting easy buckets in the paint. This is a tall order, as Frank Mason is very good at getting into the lane, and has some good shooters on the wings to kick the ball to.

Offensively, the Cyclones are likely going to play fast, which has benefited them in recent matchups against Kansas. Look for the energy to be much higher, and for better effort collectively, than this team gave in their last outing.

Life on the road is tough in the Big 12, as Iowa State discovered this weekend. It gets even tougher when you have to travel to Hilton Coliseum. If the Cyclones can rebound better and tighten up their defense, the Cyclones can upset the freshly minted #1 team in the land.

Iowa State - 85, Kansas - 80

Pick Three

  1. The Cyclones get 20+ fast break points.
  2. Frank Mason scores 30 points
  3. Monte Morris has 10+ assists

Game Notes

Game Time: Monday, January 16th, 8 p.m. CST

Line Open: Kansas (-2); O/U (154)

The Foe: Rock Chalk Talk

TV: Big Monday - ESPN (Bob Wischusen, Fran Fraschilla; Holly Rowe) Game Notes: available here.