Who: #16 Iowa State Cyclones 23-7 Overall, 11-7 Big 12) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (20-11 Overall, 10-8 Big 12)
Where: Sprint Center; Kansas City, Missouri
When: Today at 11:30am
TV: ESPN 2
The Kansas State Wildcats are coming into this year’s Big 12 as the fifth seed after being the two seed one year ago and sharing the Big 12 title.
The Wildcats come in dragging a two-game losing streak to Oklahoma State on the road and then blowing a lead and losing to red-hot Baylor at home snapping a 15 straight game winning streak in Bramlage. Now, Head Coach Bruce Weber and his Cats must shift the focus to the Phillips 66 Big 12 tournament and they face the fourth seed Iowa State Cyclones for the third time this season.
The two teams did split the regular season with each team winning on their own home floor. Iowa State won the first meeting 81-75 in Ames; then later towards the end of the year Wildcats made clutch baskets towards the end to upset the Cyclones 80-73 in Manhattan. The winner of this first game of day will take on winner of Kansas 0r Oklahoma State.
Keys 2 Watch 4
Kansas State for some reason has bought the intensity on neutral sites since the beginning of the season where they struggled in the Maui tournament and then turned it around against fairly good opponents. One of those opponents was knocking off Top 25 team Gonzaga in Wichita.It is once again very important for K-State to start off strong. The biggest issue all year away from Manhattan is that the Wildcats start off to slow. If they do that against the Cyclones, Cats could be in for a long afternoon. Wildcats need to bring the energy from Bramlage to the Sprint Center.
Everyone knows in the Big 12 that Iowa State lives on the three-point line. Kansas State’s defense will be put to the test once again. Wildcats somehow in the last meeting in Manhattan survived a 30-point effort from Big 12 Player of the Year, Melvim Ejim. Rebounding will be key; Thomas Gipson, D.J. Johnson, Nino Williams will need to be ready for long caroms off missed three-point shots. K-State cannot afford to give the Cyclones second chances at the basket.
X-Factor: Marcus Foster
If the Cats are going to move on in the Big 12 tourney it will need it’s freshman star to come through. Marcus Foster, when on top of his game, can be a difference maker for the Kansas State Wildcats. Foster put up 20 and 11 points in the two game versus Iowa State.
Behind the Number: 80+
Seems like the winner between K-State and Iowa State has gotten to at 80 points or more. Iowa State had 81 points in their win earlier this year, while the Wildcats put 80 on the Cyclones a few weeks ago. That number could play large by the end of the afternoon.