Dec 9, 2021; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes forward Kris Murray (24) watches as Iowa State Cyclones guard Izaiah Brockington (1) dunks the ball at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Location: Hilton Coliseum
Time: 8 p.m.
KenPom Line: 63-62, Texas Tech
1 – Cutting down turnovers
Iowa State has largely been able to prevent turnovers from being a major issue so far this season almost purely on its ability to force turnovers at the other end.
Still, the Cyclones have turned the ball over on 20.2 percent of their possessions through 13 games, which ranks No. 241 nationally and is 1.1 percent higher than the Division I average.
Those turnover problems came back to bite Iowa State in a big way in Saturday’s loss to No. 1 Baylor. The Cyclones turned it over 17 times in that game, and a large portion of them were live-ball turnovers that allowed Baylor to create easy transition opportunities and score before the defense could set.
Additionally, a significant portion of those turnovers were easily avoidable, coming on unnecessary cross-court passes or poor decisions.
Iowa State still more than likely won’t be killed by turnovers on a given night because the Cyclones are always going to force a considerable number on the other end.
But, cleaning those turnovers up and avoiding the ramifications they cause can be the difference in a win or loss. Teams in Big 12-play will be too good to give extra possessions, especially in a game like Wednesday night that figures to be a low-possession, low-scoring affair.
2 – Cleaning the glass
There are only three teams in college basketball better than Texas Tech at crashing the offensive glass. The Red Raiders are securing an offensive rebound on 40.1 percent of shots and have three rotation regulars with offensive rebound rates higher than 10 percent.
Iowa State has been solid in keeping teams from killing them on the glass, but this game will be a different type of animal. It will require bigs being disciplined and boxing out on every possession plus guards crashing from all angles to clean things up.
This is a game when gang rebounding must be the norm with all five guys doing their best to secure every miss.
Cutting down on dribble penetration, which forces scrambles and creates rebounding leverage for an offensive team, will be key in this area as well.
Baylor’s ability to penetrate the lane played a significant role in the Bears grabbing 12 offensive rebounds. Those offensive boards opened up numerous open looks that wouldn’t have been available against the Cyclones’ set defense.
Iowa State has not played a game this season where crashing the glass was more important than it will be in this one. Texas Tech’s offense is not the juggernaut Baylor’s was, but it can certainly be deadly if allowed multiple opportunities to get up a shot on each possession.
3 – Backcourt conundrum
As Scott Christopherson and I discussed at length on the newest episode of Corner 3, T.J. Otzelberger is at a bit of a crossroads in regards to how the team’s backcourt rotation should be handled.
Gabe Kalscheur played his worst offensive game of the season against Baylor and it had a significant negative impact on Iowa State’s offensive performance. Regardless of how good he is on the defensive end, you simply can’t have your two-guard turning the ball over six times and not appearing confident with the ball in his hands.
Kalscheur has been awesome for Iowa State at times this season. He’s more than capable of attacking the paint and creating looks for others (as exhibited by his eight assists against Chicago State) even when his own shots aren’t falling.
That’s the version of Kalscheur that Iowa State needs on a night-to-night basis if the version we saw against Memphis isn’t going to be consistently present.
If that Kalscheur isn’t the one we’re seeing, then Caleb Grill needs to be on the floor more. He’s Iowa State’s most consistent and confident shooter to this point while coming close to matching what Kalscheur brings defensively.
I don’t envy Otzelberger having to make these choices, because Kalscheur has brought a ton to this program as a leader and on the defensive end while showing the talent to score in bunches. But, this is Big 12 basketball and you’ve got to be able to perform at a Big 12 level night in and night out to maintain your minutes.
As unfortunate as it may be, the Big 12 grind stops for no one. It just rolls on regardless of how unforgiving it may be.