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Basketball Preview: We’re Talking Kansas State Pt. 1

Cyclones look to tame the purple kitties

NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

This preview will focus solely on the Kansas State Wildcats, and will not touch matchups or the Iowa State side at all. If I’ve learned anything in doing these previews this season, it’s that this team is completely unpredictable. In games you’d expect Iowa State to go big, they’ve gone small. In games you’d expect Deonte Burton to have an advantage, it’s guys like Naz Mitrou-Long or Monte Morris that go off. So forget it.

The Wildcats have been a semi-surprise this season after many national pundits put Bruce Weber firmly on the hot seat prior to the season. Once the ball tipped, they cruised through the non-conference with just a single, one-point loss to Maryland, and have started 4-3 in the Big 12 with the signature win over West Virginia just three days ago.

Last Time Out

Saturday was a big day for both programs as the Cyclones pulled out a double overtime thriller in Norman to get back on track after back to back losses. Meanwhile, Kansas State secured their first ranked win of the season as they took down the rugged West Virginia Mountaineers in a roller coaster game in which the Wildcats forced 23 turnovers.

My favorite stat of the game is that West Virginia had its first player of the season foul out...and its second.

About Kansas State

These aren’t your typical Bruce Weber Wildcats. They come to Ames sporting the 27th most efficient offense per Kenpom - their best, and first appearance in the top-100, since Bruce Weber’s first year in 2012-13 (23rd). Kansas State lost their first four attempts at picking up a top-50 location adjusted win, but have won their last two by winning at Oklahoma State and against West Virginia. Conveniently, the two games before coming to Ames.

The Wildcats’ starting front court features Wesley Iwundu at 6’7”, DJ Johnson at 6’9” and Dean Wade at 6’10”. When all three are on the floor it will be difficult for Iowa State to go small unless they can force turnovers and run them to death. The Wildcats’ rotation will only go 7-8 players deep with freshman, Isaiah Maurice being the only real size off the bench at 6’10”. While that may seem intimidating, Iowa State was able to rack up fouls on OU’s big men by attacking the rim and being aggressive offensively. It’ll be imperative that they do the same in this match up to take away Kansas State’s biggest advantage.

Players to Watch

DJ Johnson and Dean Wade provide the biggest mismatches for the Cyclones. Iowa State can either counter and go small to try and push the tempo, but if that’s ineffective, Prohm will have to turn to Holden/Young to make things difficult for the K-State bigs. While Johnson won’t beat you from deep, Wade is a very, very good 3-pt shooter (42%) and while Holden excelled against OU, he wasn’t asked to defend away from the hoop.

On the perimeter, Kamau Stokes is a 41% 3-point shooter with a 25.0 assist rate. He’s the catalyst for this offense, and it’ll be up to Monte Morris and Naz Mitrou-Long to try and contain Stokes and run him off of the 3-point line.

What to Expect

The reality of this matchup is that you couldn’t find two more evenly matched teams in all of college basketball. KSU’s 27th ranked offense will go up against ISU’s 25th ranked defense. The Cyclones’ 42nd ranked offense will be pitted against the Wildcats’ 48th ranked defense. Kansas State turns its opponents over at the 8th highest rate while the Cyclones are the 2nd best team in the country at not turning it over.

Both teams are lead by familiar faces, and while the Wildcats are younger, they have the edge in size. Weber’s squad is in the top-50 in both 2-pt and 3-pt shooting percentage, but they are a little susceptible to turning the ball over. The key to this game will be who can succeed at their strengths and who dictates the pace and physicality of the game. If Iowa State allows the Wildcats to shoot like they allowed the Cowboys and Horned Frogs, this will be a long game. If they’re able to force turnovers and get easy baskets, they should pull away in the end.

If Kansas State can slow the game down, beat up the Cyclones on the boards and possess the ball, they could make this game as frustrating as the Cincinnati game for Cyclone fans. Iowa State was able to nullify its size disadvantage against OU by attacking the rim and getting Khadeem Lattin and Jamuni McNeace in foul trouble. That same tactic would be beneficial to use against Dean Wade and DJ Johnson if the guards are able to penetrate.

Pick 3

  1. The end of the Louisville/Pittsburgh game runs long
  2. The game is actually played
  3. The team with the most points, wins

Iowa State - 70; Kansas State - 66

Game Notes

Game Time: Tuesday, January 24th, 8:00 p.m. CST

Line Open: Iowa State (-4); O/U (143)

The Foe: Bring on the Cats

TV/Webcast: ESPNU/WatchESPN (Mark Neely, Reid Gettys)

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network/TuneIn Radio App (John Walters, Eric Heft) Game Notes: Available here