A few short weeks ago, Iowa State was being written off, their toughness was being question and fans were angry. Today, they will be playing for the Big 12 Tournament title. How quickly things can turn in the sport of college basketball. Let’s take a look at Kansas, tonight’s opponent.
Last Time Out
Marial Shayok hit two of the biggest shots of his Cyclone career to help send the Cyclones to the Big 12 title game for the second time in three years. Shayok rattled in a game tying 3-pointer and swished another, right in front of his own bench to take the lead and then added a couple of free throws late to ice the game as Iowa State took down Kansas State 63-59.
Things were looking grim as Kansas State stormed all the way back from a 10 point second half deficit after punching Iowa State right in the mouth. Early this season the Cyclones did not respond well to that type of adversity, Friday night it was different. The Cyclones kept battling and found a way to overcome the five point hole with 2 minutes left in the game and propel them into the title game.
Kansas defeated West Virginia, 88-74, on Friday night. The Jayhawks used a late surge in the 1st half to take a 48-40 halftime lead and pulled away early in the 2nd half after taking a 64-46 lead and they never looked back. Kansas shot 52% from the field and outrebounded West Virginia by a 43-33 margin. Leading the way for the Jayhawks last night was Dedric Lawson who had 24 points and 8 rebounds.
Coming into last night, Kansas was averaging 75 points per game on 46% shooting from the field. According to KenPom, the Jayhawks are the 30th ranked team in adjusted offensive efficiency. Their average possession length tends to be among the shortest in the country ranked 27th, their possessions last around 15 seconds, a style Iowa State is most comfortable playing. The Jayhawks are also averaging 7.5 three-pointers per game on 35.5% shooting from beyond the arc.
Defensively, the Jayhawks are pretty sound. This will be the second game in a row that Iowa State will play a top 25 adjusted defensive efficiency team. Kansas currently sits at 15th in this category. Kansas doesn’t typically turnover teams all that often, a problem Iowa State had last night against Kansas State. It should allow the Cyclones to play more freely and run the offense they want. Kansas is allowing their opponents to average 70 points per game on 41% shooting from the field.
Opponent Player To Watch
Dedric Lawson once again. If Kansas gets him going, they are a tough team to beat even with all the missing players. Iowa State did a wonderful job in the first meeting limiting Lawson inside but in the second meeting he had his way down low. Lawson is averaging 19 points on the season as well as pulling down 10 rebounds a game. Michael Jacobson has been an absolute monster down low this entire tournament and has been playing at an elite level. The Cyclones will need that again from him to slow down Lawson in some sort of capacity.
What Will Happen
Iowa State and Kansas split their regular season series as the Cyclones won 77-60 at home in early January, while the Jayhawks won 80-76 in Lawrence in late January.
Iowa State matches up very well with Kanas. This is one of those games that has a chance to be very fast paced and up and down the floor, a style Iowa State certainly is comfortable in. Iowa State couldn’t do anything wrong in the first meeting and in the second meeting, I think it was one of Iowa State’s worst defensive performances all season. The Cyclones allowed dribble penetration all night long and Dedric Lawson certainly was a force down low.
The keys to this one will be limiting that dribble penetrations but also playing solid defense on Dedric Lawson without doubling. Iowa State shows they can be slow on defensive rotations at times, I don’t think the risk to allow wide open guard with double on Lawson is necessarily worth it in this one. If Iowa State can do those two things well as well as competing on the glass like they have the last two games, they should be alright by the end of the night.
I am fully pumped up right now, and I don’t think a whole lot can stop this train right now. Give me the Cyclones in a Big 12 Championship thriller.
The Pick: Iowa State-78 Kansas-75
1- THT recovers from a poor night, drops 15 points
2- Michael Jacobson pulls down 15 rebounds
3- Bill Self gets one technical
Time: 5pm CST
Where: Kansas City, Sprint Center
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network, John Walters and Eric Heft