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Iowa State

College Basketball Pick


Kansas hasn't lost in a while, since its first game to be exact, but as conference play picks up, that could change soon enough. It was only last year in a similar situation in January, Iowa State won this game 85-72. In fact, the Cyclones have won their last two meetings in Ames, and this matchup has been close for most of the past decade.

One of the differences this season is that Iowa State isn't ranked coming into this game, but that's not to say they won't be by season's end. Iowa State barely lost to undefeated Gonzaga on a neutral court, to Cincy in overtime, at Iowa and by two points to previously No. 1 Baylor. At home, where the Cyclones are usually untouchable, they might as well be a ranked team in this matchup.

Kansas only has one loss (Indiana), but has arguably had an easier schedule outside of that early meeting against Duke. The Jayhawks don't really have another good non-conference win, while their two road wins in Big 12 play came against TCU and Oklahoma, and neither came easy. Even at Allen Fieldhouse, KU barely got by Kansas State.

As is normally the case, this is set to be an up-and-down game with both backcourts taking the lead. That's possible because neither team has many options in the post. Landen Lucas and Carlton Bragg Jr. are the bigs for the Jayhawks, while Deonte Burton leads the Cyclones in rebounding, yet is only 6-5.

Starting with the road team, Kansas has one of the best backcourts in the nation with Frank Mason III (20.4 ppg, 4.4 reb, 5.6 ast) and Devonte' Graham (13.0 ppg, 4.6 ast) running the show. Combine their consistencies with freshman Josh Jackson (15.4 ppg, 6.4 reb) and it's obvious to see why the Jayhawks have been one of the better teams around. But winning this game is going to require all three of them to be on, which is a tall ask, especially on the road.

The difference in this game as opposed to previous years is that Perry Ellis isn't around to draw fouls and post up Iowa State's smaller players. And that could be an issue in this game for KU, especially if Burton gets going. Burton can score down low, but also can take his defender beyond the arc, which will make things interesting if Burton ever plays at the 5. Darrell Bowie is their main center, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Cyclones went a little smaller in this game because the Jayhawks don't really have the bigs to beat them up down low. But if they don't have shot blockers to take out Mason and Jackson when they drive, then that's a different issue in itself.

Of course, Burton isn't everything for Iowa State, as he's third on the team in scoring. Monte Morris (15.9 ppg, 5.1 reb, 5.7 ast) still runs the show and he's joined by Naz Mitrou-Long (15.5 ppg, 4.9 reb), who returns from last season's injury.

Playing in Ames, the Cyclones get that edge, but also could have an advantage with Burton. Kansas has a great backcourt, but to win games on the road and go far in the tournament, the Jayhawks will need more from Lucas and Bragg going forward.

Our Pick - Kansas by 6

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