ISU vs. Kansas: Five Keys to Victory

While watching Iowa State basketball games in the last 20 years, I would have to say that few things were as entertaining to me as watching Larry Eustachy totally out-coach and psyche out Roy Williams and Kansas en route to back-to-back Big 12 championships.

One of my all-time favorite Cyclone victories was played at Lawrence in 2001. Jamaal Tinsley and Kantrail Horton were seniors and they both played tremendously well that night. I remember Horton nailing a bomb from about 28 feet on the right wing. And I remember Eustachy almost completely shutting off the Jayhawks' secondary break.

Jake Sullivan was a freshman on that team.

Three years later, it seems like Iowa State can't BUY a road victory in the Big 12…not even at Baylor, let alone at Kansas. Of course, that won't matter on Saturday as the Cyclones are at home. And ISU has an 11-0 mark at Hilton Coliseum this season.

Plus, the Jayhawks don't enjoy playing at Hilton. Just ask Danny Manning. You can bet the Kansas players are not looking forward to it. And the 13-3 team led by Bill Self knows that Iowa State will give them all they can handle. After all, ISU is 12-4 overall and 3-2 in the league. Not too shabby…and there is plenty to play for: A victory for the Cyclones would put them just one game behind first-place Kansas.

Can Iowa State win? Will they? Here are five keys to the Cyclones' success on Saturday…

Balanced scoring. ISU has four guys (Stinson, Sullivan, Vroman and Homan) averaging 12.7 points or more. And Will Blalock, who scored a game-high 22 points against Texas A&M this week, is averaging 9.3 points. In order to achieve some balanced scoring, the Cyclones will need to move the ball well in their half-court offense…and their three-point shooters will need to knock down some shots.

Win the battle in the paint. This will be a HUUUUUGE key. For starters, how healthy is Homan? Hopefully, healthy enough. Considering his monster numbers on Wednesday night (20 points, 10 rebounds, 7 blocks), I think he'll be ready. Iowa State will need to look for one-on-one chances in the mid- to low-post areas against guys like Wayne Simien, Jeff Graves and David Padgett. One of the Cyclones' goals should be to get one or two of those key Jayhawk players in foul trouble.

Defend the three-pointer. While I fully expect Iowa State to play a lot of 2-3 zone against the Jayhawks, the Cyclones must be on the ready to defend the perimeter. Keith Langford (20 of 54, 37%) and J.R. Giddens (28 of 77, 36%) are the biggest threats from downtown. I think the Cyclones can shade a little bit toward a shooter on the side of the floor with Aaron Miles. Miles is not the greatest shooter (12 of 40, 30%) from behind the arc. When the Jayhawks don't shoot well from the perimeter, they can be defeated. For example, in the three Kansas losses, the Jayhawks have made a total of EIGHT three-pointers in 49 attempts (16%).

Make more free throws than Kansas. Pretty simple formula, isn't it? If ISU can do the things it wants to do on Saturday—like feed the post on offense, take away the low post on defense and attack the Jayhawks' best players—the Cyclones have a good chance to win the game. All of these things will lead to a free-throw advantage for Iowa State.

Rebounding. Jackson Vroman is averaging 9.9 rebounds per game, but he's going to need a lot of help on Saturday. It would be great if each starter could grab at least 4 rebounds…and each substitute player could grab a pair. Or maybe the numbers are 6 and 3.

My Prediction: Kansas will enter Saturday's game with a 13-3 record, including a 5-0 record in the Big 12 Conference. In addition, the Jayhawks are 3-0 on the road in the Big 12 so far this season. But, all good things must come to an end…even for Kansas. I look for Sullivan to score 18 points, and Vroman to total 17 points and 11 rebounds. Depending on ISU's foul situation, the Cyclones may need to rely pretty heavily on Damion Staple, who needs to be prepared to provide a spark.

Two of these three players—Simien, Miles and Graves—will be in foul trouble, which will slow down the Kansas offense considerably.

"Hilton Magic" will be in full force on Saturday, helping Iowa State maintain a high energy level. Look for freshman J.R. Giddens to have a poor shooting percentage for the Jayhawks.

Final score: Iowa State 77, Kansas 72. (This will help take some of the sting out of the loss to Baylor…and it will keep the Cyclones in the hunt for the Big 12 title.)

(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)


AllCyclones Top Stories