Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Saturday’s game: Kansas vs. Iowa State, 5 p.m., Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.
Opponent’s record: 22-11
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KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 17
Point spread: KU by 1.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Ball security: Iowa State has continued this Steve Prohm characteristic, ranking 32nd in offensive turnover percentage after also finishing in the top 75 the last three seasons.
▪ Avoiding whistles: The Cyclones are a non-physical defensive team, posting the fifth-lowest defensive free-throw rate nationally.
▪ Finishing inside: Iowa State doesn’t get many shots at the rim, but with help from great spacing and strong play in transition, the team is amazingly efficient on those attempts, ranking first nationally with 75-percent accuracy.
▪ Defensive rebounding: Iowa State was the Big 12’s worst team in league play when it came to grabbing opponents’ missed shots.
▪ Three-point defense: The Cyclones allow a higher number of perimeter shots than NCAA average, putting more focus on keeping opponents away from the rim.
▪ Drawing fouls: Iowa State doesn’t rely much on post-ups offensively, and this style characteristic is part of the reason the team rarely gets to the free-throw line.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-6 guard Marial Shayok (No. 3)
Plus: Ranks third in KenPom’s Big 12 player of the year metric
Plus: High-volume, efficient offensive player
Plus: Outstanding three-point shooter who attempts a lot of them
Plus: Strong finisher at the rim and in transition
Plus: 89-percent free-throw shooter
Minus: Doesn’t get to free-throw line as often as you’d expect
6-foot-5 guard Tyrese Haliburton (No. 22)
Plus: Strong three-point shooter
Plus: One of team’s best passers
Plus: Active defender with long wingspan and good steal/block numbers
Plus: Rarely turns it over
Minus: Super choosy offensive player who rarely creates offense for himself
6-foot-9 forward Michael Jacobson (No. 12)
Plus: Strong offensive rebounder
Plus: Secure with basketball
Plus: Elite finisher at rim in half-court situations
Plus: One of Iowa State’s best at drawing fouls
Minus: 25-percent career three-point shooter in limited attempts
The most interesting part about this pick is trying to determine who has home court.
Sites like KenPom have this listed as a semi-home game for KU, but as Bill Self talked about Friday, Iowa State is likely to have more fans at the game based on what we’ve seen at Sprint Center this week.
This is a bigger difference that one might think. These two teams would be expected to be about a pick ‘em on a true neutral court, meaning that if one considered this a semi-home game for Iowa State (with a two-point bump for that), one could easily shift the Cyclones to becoming the favored team even though they’re currently 1-point underdogs in Vegas.
On the court, I don’t love this matchup for the Jayhawks as they’re currently constructed.
Many times in the past, Self has countered Iowa State’s four-guard lineup by simply playing big, believing that his 5 man (read Udoka Azubuike or Joel Embiid) could simply take advantage of his mismatch offensively against a smaller player.
With David McCormack, this is a little trickier. The freshman has played well lately, but he’s not — at this point — a focal point offensively. He certainly could help KU’s offense by dominating the offensive glass against a smaller Iowa State front line, but if he doesn’t do that right away, Self will be tempted to match Iowa State small for small so the Jayhawks don’t get burned with threes on the defensive end.
That change would be asking a lot from this team, which suddenly finds itself without much guard depth. Ochai Agbaji would need to be more consistent. Quentin Grimes would have to be counted upon a second straight game, and Self would have to push Marcus Garrett while also hoping to get a little more out of K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore.
No matter how KU plays, it seems like Iowa State will get lots of threes up, and the Jayhawks will also need to take (and make) some outside shots of their own against a defense that purposely tries to keep opponents away from the rim.
I’ll shade the home court to Iowa State’s side, while also believing the team will continue to confidently shoot perimeter shots even if the first few don’t go down.
If both those follow through, I like the Cyclones in a close one.
Iowa State 73, Kansas 70
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Iowa State
Hawk to Rock
Dedric Lawson is the only choice here. Iowa State’s defensive weaknesses are rebounding, guarding players with in-between games and allowing too many threes. All those match up with Lawson’s strengths, and as a bonus, he also should get some unchallenged rebounds on the other end with the Cyclones content to get back defensively. This has the potential to be one of Lawson’s best statistical games.
Last game prediction: Kansas 79, West Virginia 63 (Actual: KU 88-74)
2018-19 record vs. spread: 19-14
Last five seasons’ record vs. spread: 96-76-3