KU advanced to the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament with their win over West Virginia, and Iowa State’s triumph against Baylor means the two will meet tonight.
ISU has not defeated a team besides Baylor in nearly a month. They picked up some bad losses along the way, specifically falling to Oklahoma on their home court.
Although they are an erratic team, the Cyclones can be a tough squad to beat. Kansas saw that firsthand when ISU routed the Jayhawks in Hilton Coliseum in February.
Even though senior guard and Iowa State’s most prolific three-pointer shooter Caleb Grill unexpectedly left the program, the Cyclones have seven senior contributors. Their lineup is extremely experienced throughout.
Part of what makes ISU such a well-rounded team is its stringent defense. Osun Osunniyi is one of the best-shot blockers in the Big 12, while they have six players who average one or more steals per game. They allow just 62.2 points per game, good for the 16th best in the nation.
Tamin Lipsey, in particular, is a pesty freshman guard recording 2.1 steals and 4.9 assists a game. He was two rebounds short and one point shy of a triple-double in their last meeting with Kansas.
Lipsey is a very good finisher for a player at his frame. He is just 6′ 1″, but is quick enough to beat defenders off the dribble and strong enough to draw contact at the rim.
His defense is far more complete than his offense. He has quick hands in the passing lanes and forces lots of turnovers. Lipsey has the potential to be a Jevon Carter-esque Big 12 guard if he can develop a jump shot, and it is extremely impressive what he has done in his first year there.
Iowa State’s menacing defense inside forces opposing schools to take shots from deep. Their opponents take just 26.1 two-pointers per game, which is the second-lowest number in the country. That statistic is largely in part to Osunniyi’s presence in the paint.
Considering teams attempt plenty of threes against ISU, Kansas will need Gradey Dick on his best game. He caught fire yesterday against West Virginia, and he must do so today.
Aside from the arduous job that KU faces defensively, Jaren Holmes and Gabe Kalscheur both average double figures for the Cyclones. The team lacks a go-to three-point shooter with Grill away from the program, but they can beat KU inside because their lineup has much more size.
Defeating ISU will be a tall task for Kansas without Bill Self at the helm. Norm Roberts will have to pull out his best offensive plays to overcome their stifling defense.