Kansas State has quietly jumped to the top of the standings after opening Big 12 play with two losses. The start of the turnaround came when these teams met a month ago and Kansas State stole a win in Ames. Iowa State should’ve won that Game at home, but it didn’t Scorein the final 2:40 and also missed the front end of a free throw late. The Wildcats grabbed the lead with a few seconds to go and haven’t looked back since.
That Game ended 58-57 and it’s exactly how K State wants to win Games, low scoring and with defense. The Wildcats are 9-2 in Conference play, but aren’t blowing away teams, often winning by single digits, home or away. They’ve won their last nine in the Big 12 and the last two came on the road at Baylor and Texas. It’s been a little different for Iowa State, as inconsistency has been an issue. While it’s getting a full week of rest before this Game, it’s coming off a bad 92-83 home loss against TCU. The Cyclones had defensive issues all Game and now travel to the team in first place.
The Cyclones didn’t play bad in that first meeting and that’s why it’ll be hard to back them on the road. They scored almost one point per possession and went 9-for-24 from three and got a variety of scoring with seven players between six and 11 points. The main issue was their free-throw shooting (6-for-12) and defensive rebounding, as K State grabbed 13 offensive boards. Even worse for Iowa State is that Dean Wade only managed two points in 22 minutes because it was his first Game back from injury. Wade is arguably the team’s best player and has played at least 36 minutes in each of the last three Games, averaging 13.9 points and 6.7 boards for the season. Combine him with Barry Brown, who had his way in the first Game with 23 points, and Iowa State needs to do something different.
Brown and Wade, two seniors, have been the reason K State is on its current run and the Cyclones have to figure out how to stop them. When Wade plays as the Four, ISU doesn’t exactly have a good player to throw at him with Marial Shayok and Talen Horton-Tucker often playing as the power forward in this lineup. The Cyclones could use Michael Jacobson and Cameron LArd at the same time, but that’s not something they do often.
The reason this Game will be close is because ISU has a variety of scoring with Shayok leading the way at 19.3 points per Game, but Four others average at least 9.8. That includes Lindell Wigginton, regarded as a future NBA player, Jacobson, Horton-Tucker and point guard Nick Babb, who does a little bit of everything on offense. The Cyclones have the players to beat anyone in the conference, but they don’t put that on the cOurt every Game, most recently giving up 1.21 points per possession against TCU and that came at home. This Game will be lower scoring, but with a subpar Wade in the first meeting, KSU still won. Now with Wade at full strength, the Wildcats get the edge, though plenty of people will be looking at the revenge card.
Our Pick – Kansas St -2.5