After suffering one of the most disappointing losses in recent memory at the hands of TCU last Saturday in Hilton, the Cyclones are headed to Manhattan, KS to take on Kansas State in a gigantic matchup that will give Iowa State a huge boost in potentially contending for the Big 12 regular season crown. Let’s take a look.
Last Time Out
After winning six of their previous seven games and jumping to second place in the conference, the Cyclones dropped a pivotal home game against TCU by a score of 92-83. After taking a 13-4 lead, the Horned Frogs went on a huge run, and ended up taking a seven point lead into halftime. Shooting woes and defensive miscommunications once again reared their ugly heads, as the Cyclones shot just 7-24 (29.2%) from three, and allowed a lot of easy baskets down low. Seemingly every time the crowd tried getting the good guys going and looked they would finally make the run to put them in the lead for good, a costly turnover or defensive lapse killed the momentum of the game. Marial Shayok led the team in scoring with 24 points, but went just 1-of-7 from distance, and really struggled in the first half. The Cyclones’ best performer, however, was Michael Jacobson, who added 16 points and 5 rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting.
About Kansas State
The meeting with the Wildcats in Ames ended in an incredibly disappointing loss that featured the first of a few late-collapses that would plague Iowa State over the next few games. The Cyclones will always look back on the game as one that they really should have won (very much like the football game at TCU last fall), with the game obviously being played at home, and Kansas State’s Dean Wade being a little banged up.
This time around, Wade is fully healthy, but breakout sophomore Cartier Diarra is out after having wrist surgery. His loss didn’t stop the Wildcats from beating Texas in Austin on Tuesday, but his absence could prove to be important in determining the winner on Saturday.
Without a doubt, Kansas State’s calling card is defense. Currently, the Wildcats sport the 7th best adjusted defense in the country, which is driven by contesting three point attempts and turning people over. Opponents are shooting just 31% from three against them, which is a bit worrisome for an Iowa State group that tends to be very streaky from three, even if they do shoot an above-average 36% as a team.
The turnover battle is strength on strength for the most part, as K-State is 16th in the country at forcing turnovers, while the Cyclones are 29th-best at not turning it over. Realistically, it could likely come down to how well Marial Shayok takes care of the ball, as he has the highest turnover rate of anybody in the regular rotation, and touches the ball on basically every possession. If he takes care of the ball, Iowa State has a great chance of taking away one strength of Bruce Weber’s defense.
However, there is one glaring strength-on-weakness matchup that could swing the game in Iowa State’ favor if they can take advantage. K-State’s defense blocks just 7% of shots, good for just 278th in the country, while Iowa State’s offense also only has 7% of its shots blocked, which ranks 27th-best. Given K-State’s lack of much rim protection, as well as Iowa State’s unbelievably respectable but still average free throw percentage of 73.7, the Cyclones would be very wise to really work the ball down low and try to use its bevvy of slashers to get to the rim. This game can be the perfect opportunity for Lindell Wigginton and Talen Horton-Tucker to really shine if they stay aggressive.
On the other end of the court, K-State generally varies between not good and “meh,” with them coming at just 111th in adjusted offense. Their struggles on offense can be pretty easily identified as just a simple lack of ability to knock down shots on a consistent basis. They rank very poorly in effective field goal percentage (241st), three-point percentage (215th), and two-point percentage (227th). They also turn the ball over quite a bit, ranking 118th and 281st in turnover and offensive steal percentage respectively.
However, even given their struggles on offense throughout the year, the Wildcats are still a very good basketball team, and almost always win if they can get even average production on offense. Iowa State’s balance will give them an advantage in withstanding any runs the K-State offense goes on, but the offense will need to be sharp and limit turnovers to remain productive against the stingy Wildcat defense.
Opponent Player To Watch
K-State’s success on offense largely revolves around the success of Barry Brown. If he’s knocking down shots, he can keep them in games whenever the opponent is actually having consistent success against their defense. In Ames, he led the game in scoring with 23 points, going 7-of-14 from two and 2-of-6 from three. If you can slow down Barry Brown and contest his shots, the K-State offense becomes bogged down pretty quickly. Dean Wade is the Wildcats’ most versatile scorer and will be a key factor, but Brown runs the show and leads the team in usage for a reason. Slow him down, and the Wildcat offense can get bogged down in a hurry, especially with the absence of Cartier Diarra.
What Will Happen
When these two teams faced off in Ames, Cam Lard didn’t play a single minute after suffering an injury early on vs. Baylor. His energy and ability to bang down low could have been a huge boost to the Cyclones, given the lack of rim protection in the Wildcat defense that I mentioned earlier. After a roller coaster stretch of inconsistent play to open up his season, Lard seems to have figured it out, and is contributing some really solid minutes as of late, providing some flashes of the same potential we saw last year. A solid game from Lard on both ends of the floor could be absolutely huge for Iowa State. A weird bonus is that it’s actually not that big of a deal if he ends up with four or five fouls, as K-State is a terrible free throw shooting team, coming in a 65.4% (323rd) from the stripe on the season.
On paper, Iowa State is the better team. On offense, that gap is pretty significant. K-State sports the better defense, but the gap between it and the Cyclones defense is quite a bit smaller. On any other floor, Iowa State is probably a 3-5 point favorite. In Bramlage Coliseum, they’re a 1-point underdog on KenPom, and 2.5-point underdog in Vegas. Bramlage Coliseum is regarded as a tough place to play, but Iowa State has actually had a decent amount of recent success there, taking two out of the last three.
In the end, I think Iowa State’s offense is too well-balanced to truly be held down for an entire game. Getting open shots hasn’t been an issue all season, but knocking them down consistently has. If the Cyclones knock down shots even at their average clip, they’ll be in a position to decide this game on the other end of the floor, which is where Iowa State has a significant advantage.
Force Barry Brown to make contested jump shots, and keep Dean Wade away from the basket, and Iowa State will be in a great position to win. Allow easy buckets at the rim like they did against TCU, and this game will be a significant uphill battle in which the Cyclone offense will have to play one of its best games of the season against one of the best defenses in the country.
I like the Cyclones to rebound from the tough loss last weekend and steal a huge road victory down in Manhattan.
Iowa State - 63
Kansas State - 56
1 - Talen Horton-Tucker and Lindell Wigginton score 18+
2 - Cam Lard ends up with five fouls, but racks up 8 points and 8 boards.
3 - Hillary Duff appears in the crowd and rushes out on to the court to ask Dean Wade to the 2005 Senior Prom.
The Matchup: No. 17 Iowa State (18-6, 7-4 Big 12) vs. Kansas State (19-5, 9-2 Big 12)
Where: Manhattan, Kansas - Bramlage Coliseum (12,528)
When: Saturday, Feb. 16, 3:00 PM (CST)
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network/TuneIn Radio Talent: John Walters (PxP), Eric Heft (Analyst)
TV: ESPN2 Talent: Rich Hollenberg (PxP), Robbie Hummel (Analyst)
Sirius/XM/Internet: 84/84/84 (internet)
Live Stats: Cyclonestats.com