Last Time Out
We all expected Saturday to be a showcase of the conference’s best two freshmen. They certainly didn’t disappoint as Lindell Wigginton and Cameron Lard lived up to the hype in Iowa State’s 88-80 victory over the nationally ranked Sooners.
Freshman phenom Brady Manek struggled early but rallied for 14 points for the Sooners. Unheralded newcomer Trae Young missed early and often from long range and assisted the Cyclones with several easy buckets via six turnovers. The young guard certainly has Sooner fans excited about the program’s future though, with three more years of collegiate eligibility.
The win was Iowa State’s fourth straight conference home victory, the last three coming against ranked opponents.
Bill Self and his team received quite the golden shower during their last trip to Ames, but they were still able to leave town with a victory. Every year doubters say Kansas’ conference title streak will end. Every year they are proven wrong. HOWEVER, the Texas Tech Red Raiders of all teams have the Jayhawks between a rock and a hard place, something they are only used to when it comes to dealing with law enforcement.
The Jayhawks won six of their first seven conference games with a minuscule +12 scoring margin. That was bound to correct itself and it has in their last three games as Kansas has just one win in that stretch, a 71-64 home victory over TCU.
When Billy Preston rolled up in a car worth more than all y’all’s tuition, Kansas’ front court depth began leaking oil. Kansas has a tank inside (more than likely supplied by Adidas) in Udoka Azubuike. Every tank needs a back-up and that is what Mitch Lightfoot provides. Lightfoot, much like your first vehicle, sometimes starts, but usually sits idle and rarely helps you score.
Their lack of front-court depth has forced Kansas to play #Hoiball. Over 37 percent of their points come from behind the arc. In past years Kansas had shooters but didn’t need to rely on their outside shot. This year, especially if Azubuike gets in foul trouble, they need the deep ball to find the bottom of the net.
Players to Watch
Devonte Graham, on the Perry Ellis eight year graduation plan, was supposed to be one of the front-runner's for Big 12 player of the year. No one could have accounted for the grown men in Bristol, Connecticut developing such a boy crush on the next Mike Taylor, also known as Trae Young. I’m sorry Moonlight Graham, until you hear your name during a Professional Bowling telecast on Sunday afternoon, you have no shot of beating out ESPN’s chosen one.
Graham is playing a Monte Morris portion of minutes this year for the Jayhawks while doing a little bit of everything for Bill Self’s crew. The point guard is drawing 2 fouls per game, but officials are calling opponents for 5, so Wigginton and company will need to play smart on the defensive end.
Outside of Graham, Self will roll out a small-ball lineup featuring Mykhailiuk, Vick, Newman and Azubuike. In Lawrence, Cameron Lard allowed Newman to go for a career high, which has proven to be closer to the norm than the outlier this season for Iowa State’s defense. Without much depth, and a gimpy Nick Weiler-Babb it will be interesting to see how Prohm adjusts the defensive scheme or if he forces Newman to beat them from deep again.
What to Expect
The first sign of growth in a young team is the ability to beat quality teams at home. Knocking off Kansas would be another notch in their belt. Steve Prohm indicated that Nick Weiler-Babb might be available, but in a limited role. To me, Prohm seems to like what he has found with this starting group the last few games.
In Lawrence the ‘Clones got a lot out of Weiler-Babb (13 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists), but virtually nothing out of Solomon Young and Zoran Talley. Kansas got exceptional performances out of Mykhailiuk and Newman, to go along with rather pedestrian games from Graham and Azubuike.
Like Oklahoma, Kansas’ reliance on jump shots makes them vulnerable on the road. Unlike Oklahoma, those jump shots can come from a variety of athletes. Iowa State can certainly win this game, but their margin for error is razor thin.
Kansas remembers they are Kansas and stays in contention for the regular season conference crown.
Kansas- 81 Iowa State- 72
- Iowa State is the first to 50 points
- Azubuike fouls out
- There will be no “underrated” chant
Game Time: Tuesday, February 13th, 6 PM
Line: Kansas (-6.5), O/U (151)