Backcourt: Toss Up
Iowa State has one of the best guards in the Big 12 in senior DeAndre Kane. The guard averages just over 16.3 points per game, and scores a lot of his baskets out of isolation. Cyclone head coach Fred Hoiberg runs an NBA-influenced system, meaning his plays will feature more one-on-one basketball. In addition, Iowa State does a great job of capitalizing on mismatches, especially when defenses are forced to switch on screens. At 6 feets 4 inches, Kane has the length to take prototypical point guards down on the block and post up.
The guard combination of senior Will Spradling and freshman Marcus Foster provides K-State with a very solid one-two punch. Spradling’s ability to make the right basketball play and guard relatively well on the defensive end makes him an ideal player in head coach Bruce Weber’s system. With the true point guard role under Spradling’s control, freshman superstar Foster is able to focus entirely on scoring the basketball. Foster leads the Wildcats at 15.3 points per game, and does so primarily with his jump shot.
Perhaps the most intriguing matchup in this game will be the Wildcat’s defensive effort against Kane. K-State will likely throw multiple players at Kane to give him different looks, but should settle in down the stretch depending on who has done the best job. Freshman Wesley Iwundu has the wingspan and toughness to limit Kane’s ability to get off easy baskets, but could struggle when left on an island.
There is no secret to the Wildcats approach to playing inside. Be tougher than the opponent, outwork them, out-physical them, and hope you don’t get in foul trouble. Senior Thomas Gipson and junior Nino Williams are both undersized, but work extremely hard and provide the Wildcats with a lot of energy. Senior Shane Southwell has struggled to find a rhythm all season, but matches up well with Iowa State’s ability to stretch the floor.
The Cyclones frontcourt stretches the floor as well as any team in the country, and makes you pay if your post players can’t guard the 3-pointer. Senior Melvin Ejim and junior Georges Niang are averaging a combined 35 points per game, and have given opposing defenses trouble with their versatility as forwards.
The only way the Wildcats can win the matchup in the front court is if Gipson is able to bully Ejim and Niang on the block. Defensively, K-State will struggle to find a lineup that can slow down the Cyclones, so the Wildcats will need to score lots of points to keep it close.
Matchup of the Game: Iowa State’s offense vs. K-State’s defense
The Cyclones average approximately 84 points per game, which is good for first in the Big 12. On the flip side, K-State holds its opponents to 64 points per game, which is the best mark in the conference. Both teams will likely flex their strengths at different points in the game, meaning the last team to impose their will, will probably come out the winner.
Iowa State is a better basketball team than K-State at the moment. They have fully bought in to Hoiberg’s run and gun system, and build momentum quickly with their high scoring offense. With that being said, it should be noted that K-State is a totally different team when playing in Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats are improved in nearly every major statistical category when playing at home, and that is confirmed by their undefeated home conference record. If K-State can get a B+ game or better from Foster and limit the Cyclones in the front court, it will be a battle up until the final whistle.