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Iowa State Men’s Basketball Preview: We’re Talkin’ Kansas State

The Cyclones welcome a top-five team to Hilton Coliseum

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

Last Time Out

Saturday’s action saw Iowa State fall on the road in Stillwater by a final score of 61-59. Osun Osunniyi led the Cyclones, scoring 15 points and adding 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. Gabe Kalscheur scored 14 points as well.

Iowa State played a very solid first half, leading at halftime by 10, and only gave up 25 points in the first 20 minutes. The second half saw Oklahoma State slowly climb back into the game, as they ratcheted up the defensive pressure. Specifically, pressuring Iowa State out toward half-court really interrupted the flow of the offense.

Oklahoma State offensively finally put together a good half. They sit 139th in adjusted offense after the game, but you wouldn’t know it looking at the box score, as they finished 44% from the floor and 43% from deep, canning 9-21 threes. They even got 2 from Avery Anderson, who was 0-16 in Big 12 play prior to this game. Drink.

The biggest takeaways for me were that losing Caleb Grill significantly hurt the offense (0 points in 17 minutes), Osun continues to play at a near-elite level, and Tre King, last shot notwithstanding, is getting better and better and maybe deserves starters minutes.

About Kansas State

Kansas State is on a roll, earning a top 5 ranking following home wins over Kansas and Texas Tech. They are also a bit hard to figure out. In general, their offense has been very good with a solid defense to pair with it.

In the non-conference, their best win was over either Nevada or LSU, with a loss to Butler sprinkled in. Big 12-wise, almost every opponent (sans WVU) is a common opponent with a common result (sans Kansas). They have beaten WVU at home by 6, given up over 100 points in a road win at Texas, beat Baylor by 2 on the road, won by 8 at home over Oklahoma State, lost by 14 at TCU, beat Kansas at home by 1, and won at home against Tech by 10. Kenpom-wise, they are 33rd in both adjusted defense and offense.

The statistics across the board are very similar to Iowa State’s, though they assist on more baskets and don’t get as many steals as the Cyclones. They are also better from the FT line, but Iowa State is below average in that area.

Opponent Player to Watch

There are really only two players worth watching in Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell, but both are probably worth watching. Let’s start with Johnson.

He is averaging 18.6 points per game to go with 8.6 boards per game in his last five on over 50% three-point shooting while going 48% from the floor. He doesn’t take many threes, but when he does, they are usually good looks and they go in. The 6’6” forward is difficult to guard from a skill standpoint, but Tre King and Gabe Kalscheur physically should match up fine with him.

Markquis Nowell is the diminutive straw that stirs the drink for the Wildcats. Scoring 19 PPG to go with 7.4 assists per game over his last 5, it’s easy to see what he does for this team. In addition to his distributing abilities, he can fill it up, shooting 34.4% from three in those games. He is an excellent free throw shooter and will get to the line fairly often as well.

Pick 3

  1. Kansas State has 15 turnovers
  2. Iowa State makes 10 three pointers
  3. Tre King scores 12+ points and grabs 6+ rebounds

What Will Happen

This should be a fun one and a tough one, but a game Iowa State can win. BPI gives them a 77% chance of winning this game, and I do like the Cyclones to rebound in this spot.

Kansas State, while dangerous, is easy to scout: Johnson and Nowell are the focal points, and the guys you have to plan around. Arkansas transfer Desi Sills has been a very good player off the bench, but their big two are who you must stop. King/Kalscheur will most likely get the assignment for Johnson, though Osun could take him at moments. Nowell will likely be Tamin’s responsibility, with Holmes guarding him as well. Grill, if he plays, will factor into this equation as well.

In close games or losses, turnovers and missing shots have been their downfall. Fortunately for the Cyclones, they excel at forcing turnovers, and primarily give up only tough shots. Tough shots, folks, are generally hard to make. Never say I don’t know ball. So long as the defensive intensity (with a little help from the Hilton faithful) is there, Iowa State should be able to disrupt passes and force contested looks.

Offensively, missing Caleb Grill certainly adds more questions. Tre King is likely to get the start, and he has been playing well the last 4-5 games. If Kalscheur and Holmes give you 15+ points with contributions from Osun and from King, they should be able to score enough to win this game.

Give me the Cyclones by a final score of 79-72.