Since the matchup of both teams' backcourts appears to be a wash, this will be where the victor is decided. Kansas will be at a huge disadvantage without second-leading scorer and top rebounder Wayne Simien out with a separated shoulder. Reserve Moulaye Niang, in Senegal attending a funeral, is also out for this game.
The Jayhawks will pair Nick Collison and Jeff Graves together for a battle inside against Cyclone posts Jared Homan and Jackson Vroman. KU will need to stay in foul trouble, as it has no scholarship reserves inside. This is where ISU has to take advantage. Chris Alexander could also figure into the equation after his 25 points, eight rebound and two blocks against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Always a stellar rebounding team under Larry Eustachy, the Cyclones were beaten decisively on the boards last season in two games against KU. They can turn the tables tonight against a smaller – yes, smaller – Jayhawk front.
Kansas' run-and-gun style could hit an even higher level tonight without the banging Simien inside. Roy Williams needs his team to score as many points as possible in transition to avoid a half-court grind-out game against ISU's balance.
The Jayhawks have one of the best transition offenses in the country with Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Miles and Keith Langford comprising a talented backcourt. However, they have missed departed senior Jeff Boschee's presence thus far. A rebounding advantage also leads to more opportunities in transition, and Simien's absence could play a role.
Role players figure in
During their only loss of this season against Boston College, the Cyclone bench didn't contribute much to the cause as their opponent's reserves gained a decisive advantage. That cannot happen on ‘Big Monday' against Williams' Jayhawks.
Eustachy knows what to expect from his starting five of Jake Sullivan, Adam Haluska, Tim Barnes, Vroman and Homan, but needs to get some positive minutes from Alexander, Marcus Jefferson and Omar Bynum. KU will figure out a way to score plenty of points and the Cyclones will need to get some scoring from other places.