The Kansas Jayhawks (24-8, 14-4) face the Iowa State Cyclones (24-7, 11-7) for the the third time in the last 2 months today in the semi-finals of the Big 12 Conference tournament.
Kansas won both previous matches, by 9 in Ames, and 7 in Lawrence, but both games were closely contested to the very end. Last season, the two regular season match-ups between these school ended in overtime with Kansas winning in the end, then the Jayhawks won a third tilt in the Big 12 Tournament.
Kansas Jayhawks fans are hoping for a similar outcome today. It won’t be easy, but at least the Cyclones like to go up and down the floor, which suits the Jayhawks just fine.
The Cyclones are the 6th highest scoring team in the nation, putting up 82.8 points a game. They put up over 24 three-pointers a game, making over 8 a contest.
The Jayhawks 79.5 points an outing, 25th best in the nation, hoisting up just over 16 long range shots a game, connecting on about 5.5 a contest.
Both of these teams like to put up points, but they go about much differently. When Kansas is playing well, they pound the ball inside. That task is harder now because they are without their talented man in the middle, Joel Embiid. Perry Ellis is the only other interior player that can be considered a scorer, but there are just too many games where he is missing in action.
Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor are supplemental players at best on the offensive end, and red shirt freshman Landen Lucas, is still unpolished for the most part. The Jayhawks have struggled to dominate the paint in Embiid’s absence, relying instead on super frosh, Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins has been fantastic over the past two games, dropping in 41 in the loss at West Virginia, and propping up a sputtering Kansas offense in the quarterfinals against Oklahoma State with 30. He is playing with a lot of energy, and carrying the team on his slender shoulders, but he is getting the job done.
If Iowa State can contain Wiggins, or he has a bad night shooting, the Kansas Jayhawks are in trouble. No one else seems capable of scoring regularly right now. The Jayhawks are struggling at the rim to finish, and no one can seem to get hot but Wiggins.
While it is incredibly fun to watch his growth as an offensive player, it is difficult for a team to succeed with one guy providing all the offensive punch. Perry Ellis must become a bigger factor in every game going forward. No more disappearing acts for Ellis.
Iowa State is a very good team that can beat anybody. If they start lighting it up from behind the arc, the Jayhawks will be in trouble. If Kansas can challenge the long balls, and contain DeAndre Kane and Big 12 Player of the Year, Melvin Ejim, to some extent, the Jayhawks should be all right.
This should be a great game, and with the up-and-down-the-court style both teams prefer, it should be a highly entertaining one as well.
The Kansas Jayhawks introduced their new Adidas uniforms yesterday, which were a more tradition looking uni that the awful camouflage version in last year’s Big 12 Tournament. The only thing that seems too different is the wider shoulder strap, that looks as if it is a wide mesh. These weren’t too hideous. Maybe they will be lucky for the Kansas Jayhawks!