Kansas head coach Bill Self reacts to his players performance during the second half of Tuesday’s game against Oklahoma inside Allen Fieldhouse. © Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
Location: Lawrence, Kan.
Time: 3 p.m.
KenPom Prediction: 70-62, Kansas
1 – Jalen’s Jump
Few players in college basketball have made a bigger leap from one year to the next than Kansas junior forward Jalen Wilson. The 6-foot-8 Denton, Texas native has been one of the best players in the country this season, averaging 20.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
The increased production has not come without some level of cost, though. Wilson’s efficiency has taken a dip as his usage rate has increased, and he’s shooting a career-low 40 percent from the field.
No game better exhibits Wilson’s growth, and simultaneous inefficiency, quite like the Jayhawks’ come-from-behind win over Oklahoma earlier this week. Wilson finished the game with 17 points, but was only 2-of-10 from 2-point range and 1-of-2 from behind the 3-point line.
Wilson’s night was salvaged by going 10-of-12 from the free-throw line. He’s attempted more than twice as many shots from the charity stripe than any of his teammates at this point in the season.
For Iowa State, keeping Wilson from getting easy straight-line drives to the basket and keeping him off the free-throw line will be the keys. The Cyclones will likely force Wilson to try and beat them over the top with contested jumpers and 3-pointers, where he’s shooting a career-high 34 percent.
2 – Top Five
While Bill Self’s team certainly isn’t deep, and will play only six guys double-digit minutes on some nights, the Jayhawks’ top five are as good as any in all of college basketball.
In addition to Wilson, Kansas has seen significant a significant leap for point guard DaJuan Harris, who hit the game-winning layup against Iowa State last season at Hilton Coliseum. He’ll be one of the favorites to win the Bob Cousy Award given to the nation’s best point guard. He’s elevated his game even more with the addition of a more consistent jumper, including a 50 percent mark from 3-point range on 28 attempts.
Kevin McCullar is no stranger to Iowa State fans or the rest of the Big 12 after starring for three years at Texas Tech. The 6-foot-6 senior wing is one of the league’s best defenders and is a capable scorer from every level of the floor.
Gradey Dick is one of the best freshmen in the country and is one of the favorites to win the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award. He’s been one of the best shooters in college basketball, connecting on 47 percent of his 3-pointers on the season. I expect to see Iowa State play physically off the ball on Dick and make it difficult for him to get easy catches for in-rhythm catch-and-shoot attempts.
It also seems likely Gabe Kalscheur will draw the match-up with Dick, and we’ll see how the youngster does while being guarded by one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.
Kansas’ starting five is rounded out by sophomore center KJ Adams, who has gone from playing 10 percent of Kansas’ minutes a season ago to playing nearly 65 percent of the team’s minutes this season. The 6-foot-7 Austin, Texas native had a breakout game against the Sooners, going for 22 points on 8-of-13 from the field and 6-of-7 from the free throw line.
3 – Nothing to Lose
What does Iowa State have to lose in this game? The Cyclones are already 4-0 in Big 12 play with a pair of wins on the road. T.J. Otzelberger’s team is playing with house money anytime it goes on the road at this point in league play.
This is why I expect to see this Iowa State team come out early in the game on Saturday and look to really dictate the pace and physicality of the contest from the outset. The officiating early in the game will be key, and we all know how the whistles tend to lean inside Allen Fieldhouse.
This is not an unbeatable Kansas team. They’re not overly deep, and any semblance of foul trouble could force Self into doing some things from a rotation standpoint that he normally wouldn’t.
The Jayhawks have had to come back from double-digit deficits in each of their home wins so far in Big 12 play. Those two games serve as a reminder that nobody really has Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse until that clock hits all zeroes.
The Iowa State team we’ve seen in the first four league games has the ability to go to any arena in the country and have a chance to knockoff any team that lines up across from them. We’ve seen better teams than this one go to Allen Fieldhouse and walk away with a loss, though.
The Cyclones can walk into Lawrence on Saturday, feel loose and have a goal of waking up everyone who isn’t already aware of what’s happening right now in Ames.
A win would be nice, but there is no pressure to get one on Iowa State’s side. That makes this team especially dangerous going into a hostile environment.
They have absolutely nothing to lose.