Iowa State is a bad defensive team. They don’t force their opponents into bad shots. They don’t rebound those shots their opponents miss. They put their opponents on the free throw line a lot. To their credit, they do create more turnovers than almost any other team in the nation. Unfortunately, that’s only mostly good news for the Jayhawks.
Rebounding figures to be a huge advantage for Kansas. Iowa State converts only 57.8% of their defensive rebounding opportunities and 34% of their offensive rebounding opportunities in conference play. Kansas checks in at 67.8% and 37.1%, respectively, in conference games. Looking at individuals, Rashon Clark is Iowa State’s only effective defensive rebounder and Shawn Taggert is the only Cyclone making an impact on the offensive glass. Whatever combination of big men Kansas features on Saturday must take advantage of this.
Furthermore, the Cyclones have held only Missouri below 55 eFG% in conference play and in that game, they still sent the Tigers to the line 32 times. Missouri’s 58 points had more to do with missing 18 free throws than outstanding Cyclone defense. In fact, Iowa State has allowed conference opponents a little over one free throw attempt for every two field goal attempts. That’s an even higher rate of free throws allowed than Texas A&M had entering Wednesday night’s game. Iowa State is allowing 1.08 points per possession in conference play despite their opponents shooting only 62.5% from the free throw line. There defense may be even worse than it initially appears.
To the extent the Cyclones make up for their poor results in three of the four defensive factors they do so by forcing turnovers. Conference opponents have turned the ball over on 28.1% of their possessions. In comparison, Kansas, even with national steal rate leader Mario Chalmers and 53rd ranked Russell Robinson, are only forcing turnovers on 24.3% of opponents’ possessions in conference play. On the offensive end of the court Kansas hasn’t really cured their predilection for turning the ball over, but they have minimized the negative effects of the turnovers by forcing more turnovers themselves and getting their better free throw shooters the bulk of the team’s free throw attempts.
Also, bear in mind Kansas fans, that Kansas State turned the ball over on 34.6% of their possessions in Ames and still scored 1.01 points per possession (that’s about 11% more efficient than the Wildcat offense was in their win in Lawrence) and Texas Tech turned the ball over on 31% of their possession against Iowa State and scored 1.18 points per possession. Kansas will commit turnovers, but they’re unlikely to cost the Jayhawks the game.
Everyone knows that Iowa State’s offense is largely a two man show. Curtis Stinson is the volume scorer while Will Blalock scores almost as many points much more efficiently while getting the role players involved. I think Kansas can do a decent job defensively on Stinson and Blalock, especially if the shot-blocking big men (Giles, Wright, and Kaun) can stay on the floor. Robinson and Chalmers should be able to do a better job than previous Jayhawk guards of limiting Stinson’s forays into the lane, but they’re not going keep him out of the lane altogether, and he’s going to push off (and get away with it) to create space. If the big men can alter Stinson’s shots (and if another big man or Rush cleans up the defensive glass) without fouling him, they should be able to hold Iowa State to around a point per possession. Stinson uses about 30% of his team’s possessions himself when he’s on the floor. Iowa State’s role players are generally efficient when they get a chance to shoot the ball, so it’s imperative that the Jayhawks limit Stinson’s efficiency first.
I don’t think Kansas can limit Iowa State to much less than a point per possession offensively. They are a uniformly solid free throw shooting team. Only Tasheed Carr and Anthony Davis struggle shooting from the field and Davis has seen only limited action in conference play. The two best defensive teams in the country, Texas and Iowa, only held Iowa State to 0.88 and 0.96 points per possession in Ames, respectively.
The Cyclones will force the Jayhawks to outscore them. If Kansas can display a little patience against the Iowa State zone (hopefully with a heavy dose of Julian Wright’s passing and athleticism) they’ll get good looks. Kansas has shot the ball extremely well in their last three games. Though I doubt they’re good enough to shoot that well consistently for the rest of the year, Iowa State may help keep the good shooting around for another game.
Prediction: Kansas 72 Iowa State 68