Dec 7, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward Cameron Lard (2) dunks against the Iowa Hawkeyes at James H. Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones beat the Hawkeyes 84 to 78. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State will begin one of its most difficult conference schedules in recent memory Friday night when Kansas State visits Hilton Coliseum for an 8 p.m. tip on ESPNU. The Cyclones have won the past four meetings between the two teams and enter the game riding a nine-game winning streak.
On the flip side, Kansas State has been impressive on its way to a 12-2 record with the only losses coming to No. 3 Arizona State and Tulsa, a team Iowa State beat in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off last month.
Here are three things to watch in Friday night’s matchup.
1 — Will Iowa State be close to full strength?
Don’t expect to see junior forward Zoran Talley back on the court for Iowa State. The graduate transfer from Old Dominion is still recovering from the effects of a stress fracture in his foot, but there is a chance the Cyclones won’t be as injury-bitten as they were against Maryland-Eastern Shore last week.
Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm told the media on Wednesday Hans Brase (sprained ankle) and Jakolby Long (concussion) are both questionable for Friday night. Long suited up for the Cyclones’ win over the Hawks before Christmas break, but was not available to play.
It sounds like his availability against the Wildcats would be determined by how he reacted to participating in live drills in practice this week. For Brase, he continues to only rehab his ankle, but Prohm said previously if they needed to hold him out of practice all week in order to have him ready for the game, they would do it.
Beating Kansas State without those two guys and only seven rotation players available might be an uphill battle. If Brase is able to play, I’ll feel a lot better about the Cyclones’ chances in their conference opener.
2 — Is Kansas State’s offense as good as the numbers show?
The Wildcats are in the 91st percentile nationally in points per possession with 1.008 points each time they have the ball. Their adjusted field goal percentage of 55.6 percent is pretty dang good as well.
The Wildcats haven’t really played a weak schedule so far, but their two best wins are against Washington State and Vanderbilt, a pair of teams that combine for a 13-11 record. They did go toe-to-toe with Arizona State before losing 92-90, but the Sun Devils’ success hasn’t exactly been built on defense.
I’m interested to see how Kansas State’s impressive offensive numbers carry over into Big 12 play, especially their half-court offense that ranks in the 90th percentile nationally at 0.982 points per possession.
3 — Is Bruce Weber an elite coach?
Okay, I write that question facetiously because anyone who has followed college basketball for the past decade-plus knows Weber is not an elite coach. He’s a good one. Probably better than the public perception, but he is far from elite.
With that said, somehow the Wildcats are in the 95th percentile in points per possession coming out of timeouts. What is Bruce Weber saying in those huddles that helps the Wildcats perform so well the next offensive possession? I’m starting to wonder if he has a supply of Michael Jordan’s secret stuff hidden behind the bench, in which case the whole team should be tested for PEDs because it does not seem legal for a real college basketball team to be drinking the stuff that allowed the Looney Tunes to beat the Monstars.
Wow, this really got off the rails for a second. Let me get back.
This stat is probably just a trivial one, but I found it really interesting when I was doing my research on the game and it is something I’m going to keep an eye on throughout.
Let’s just hope the game doesn’t come down to a Kansas State possession following a timeout.