Williams/Blum Friday Debate: 1-27 Edition
This is a new weekly feature here at CycloneFanatic.com. Every Friday during the college basketball season, our Chris Williams and Brent Blum will go back and forth on a variety of Iowa State and Big 12 related topics. Enjoy.
Williams: How about I start this Friday's "debate" off with a bold prediction?
Iowa State will beat Kansas on Saturday. BAM. What's up?
What? Yeah Blum. That's right. I said it. Iowa State will beat Kansas this weekend.
This feeling that I have has just as much to do with Kansas as it does the Cyclones. The Jayhawks are currently 7-0 in Big 12 play but they still haven't convinced me that this is a dominant Kansas team like we've seen in the past. Monday's lackluster performance against a depleted (no Khris Middleton) Texas A&M team backs my theory.
A few weeks ago, Iowa State went down to Lawrence and in the minds of the Cyclones, gave one away. Iowa State was as jacked as I've ever seen them prior to that game. With the home crowd behind them and the bright lights of national television shining down, I think Iowa State will this game.
So Blum, am I onto something or just plain crazy?
Blum: Whoa! Coming out guns a blazin'! I haven't seen a start that dramatic since the the Joker robbed the bank in the Batman movie.
You are walking the fine line between crazy and logical. But as Vince Vaughn said in Wedding Crashers, "I like where your head's at."
The Cyclones are entirely capable of winning on Saturday. They were the better team for 35 of the 40 minutes in the loss at the Phog. Unfortunately during a 5 minute stretch, KU went on one of their famous 17-2 binges to take control.
As you said, being at home will help tremendously. There hasn't been a game at Hilton this hyped since Facebook debuted. The cheapest price for a ticket on Stubhub is $125. The Cyclone Nation knows how vital a win would be. So does the team. And that's what makes me a bit nervous. What separates KU from the rest of the pack is their mental toughness. You can't out emotion these guys and win. Texas had them dead to rights in a fervent atmosphere last Saturday, but Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson made play after play down the stretch and found a way to win.
It's no mistake why Bill Self hasn't lost in Hilton since 2004. He has had good players for sure, but it is nearly impossible to match their intensity and toughness. That's step one. Are the Cyclones tough enough? They showed some resolve against Oklahoma State and in the comeback to Texas, but can the Cyclones make plays against a top 5 team with everyone watching? That is to be determined. Your thoughts Mr. Williams?
Williams: Just a theory on this year's team...
It's almost as if at times, they play smarter basketball on the road than they do at home. You know what I mean? I feel like sometimes at home, the guys want to make that big play so badly that they'll make a foolish pass or try too hard, where as on the road it's all about simple basketball.
We'll see. The refs didn't dictate the outcome of the loss in Lawrence a few weeks ago but Thomas Robinson got away with quite a bit in that second half. Blum, who will be wearing the stripes come Saturday?
Here's one thing that I'll be looking out for. What will Hoiberg decide to do with Chris Babb defensively? In Lawrence, Iowa State's ace was assigned to Travis Releford. Babb held him to seven points, but Tyshawn Taylor went off for 28.
What do you think? If you were Fred Hoiberg, who would you assign Babb to?
Blum: Interesting theory. There is definitely a crowd-pleasing element on this Cyclone squad, for good and bad. In order to beat KU, you have to make the simple play. The Jayhawks are like that person at the bar you have your eye on; if you force things, it blows up in your face and you end up alone on the curb with a Superdog. They thrive on your bad shots and transition buckets. Tyshawn Taylor is one of the best guards in the country of getting points in transition.
Speaking of him, I will be very curious who gets assigned to Mr. Taylor. I still think Babb has to match up with Releford as he has size at 6'6 that only Babb can suitably combat. And you challenge Chris Allen to shut Taylor down. Allen is a capable defender when he wants to be. But, if Tyshawn continues to get into the lane like he did in the 2nd half last outing against Allen, you have to try something else. He single-handedly took over the game at the Phog and Fred can't let that happen again. It'd be nice to have Bubu as well for this one, but it'd also be nice to win the Lottery.
The officiating will be critical as it always is when Royce White/Thomas Robinson are involved. Both are key cogs that the offense runs through. If either of them get into foul difficulty, the game turns. The interesting quandary here is KU is at their best when they can hand-check and aggressively guard on the wing and in the post, but a tightly called game could get Royce in trouble. Only one time in conference play has Royce had less than three fouls and that was arguably his best game @ Texas A&M.
Chances are with this being a key game in conference, there should be a solid officiating crew. But aren't they all?! (Kidding, kidding.)
If you had one stat, Mr. Williams, that you look at after the game that would be an indicator of how the game goes, what would it be?
Williams: Tough question right there. Based off of the first time these two teams met, I think you have to go with assist/turnover ratio. In game one, Iowa State's was 10 to 16. Kansas' was 20 to 7. Kansas played smarter ball and got easier looks than the Cyclones.
Two others to keep an eye one...
Rebounding obviously. The Cyclones out-rebounded the Jayhawks in Lawrence and that was one of the big reasons that game stayed close the whole time. I think that Iowa State has to win the battle of the glass to win on Saturday.
My final stat to watch is pretty simple. That's 3-point shooting. If Iowa State is feeling it from beyond the arc, they are a damn tough team to beat. If the Cyclones shoot like they did in Austin on Tuesday, Iowa State has no chance.
Here's your final chance to rebut before we move onto the weekend in the Big 12...GO!
Blum: You're taking all the good stats, I feel like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picking between Greg Schiano and Mike Sherman.
One other to keep an eye one is free throw attempts. Iowa State has attempted more free throws than their opponent in every game but two--@ Michigan and @ Texas (they lost both.) The winner of the free throw battle is almost always the aggressor. In the last couple games, and in particular at Texas, the Cyclones have been settling for jump shots instead of taking it to the rim. If they want to beat KU, they have to have an attack the rack mindset. The made threes are always HUGE for this team, but the easy points are vital as well.
I can't wait for Saturday, going to be a heck of a game.
Onto the Big 12, how in the name of LeBryan Nash did Okie State pull off the stunner against Mizzou? The middle of this conference is a complete cluster! Bananas.
Williams: Is it bad that when you used the word bananas, the only thing I could think about was that old school No Doubt song?
Anywhoo, I was glad to see OSU pick up that win last night for a few reasons. The first is that it exposed Missouri for the pretenders that they are. I'm wrong about a lot of things most of the time. But I know for a fact that Missouri is NOT a top five basketball team. It's about time that members of the Big 12 start eating each other alive. I expect this to happen more and more throughout the rest of the season, hence my ISU over Kansas upset pick for Saturday.
Kansas State steamrolled Texas Tech on Wednesday night as well. Shocker...
Looking ahead to the weekend, Iowa State vs. Kansas is by far the Big 12's most intriguing game in my opinion. After that, I'd rank the game by appeal in the following order:
Texas @ Baylor - Texas is playing well right now. Baylor is Baylor. You never know what you're gonna get.
Oklahoma @ Kansas State - Oklahoma got Frank's Cats in round one. Was that simply a "it's tough to win on the road" game or do the Sooners have KSU's number? Just a simple reminder to anybody who might be attending next Tuesday's ISU vs. KSU game in Hilton. Never, EVER, look Frank Martin in the eye. You got me? EVVVER...
Oklahoma State @ Texas A&M - This one could go either way in my opinion.
Texas Tech @ Missouri - GAWD awful.
My picks: Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State and Texas A&M.
What do you have for me Blum?
Blum: Hollaback! Damn, that song is now trapped in my brain for the rest of the day. If you actually look at the lyrics of that piece of art it's comical. Gwen Stefani is no Hollaback girl that is evident.
You are correct, Iowa State and KU is clearly the marquee match-up of the weekend.
Here are my picks:
Iowa State 73 Kansas 72. Hilton will be a hornet's nest. It's going to take a big effort, but I think this is a perfect spot for Iowa State to get a signature win.
Baylor 74 Texas 63. Texas has been improving by the game. Their defensive pressure has been excellent. Baylor is as aloof as ever, but I'm guessing the Bears show up to play.
K-State 75 Oklahoma 68. OU's loss at A&M last Saturday was a back-breaker for the Sooners. They have won just one conference road game since Blake Griffin left town (last year at Iowa State.) They had A&M on the ropes, before blowing it late. They remind me a lot of Iowa State last year, they play really hard and show signs of competing, but have struggled to close things out. Now they go to K-State, then at KU before hosting Iowa State. Tough stretch for a fragile club.
Oklahoma State 65 Texas A&M 63. I will go with the mild upset here. Oklahoma State's young guys are starting to figure it out. A&M battled Kansas, but I'm not sold on them yet. I think this one goes down to the horn.
Missouri 145 Texas Tech 11. Exaggeration of course. But Tech is quite possibly the worst Big 12 team in the history of the league. It's either them or the Melvin Watkins A&M squad in the late '90's. I feel for the Red Raiders. Billy Gillispie is playing almost all young guys, sacrificing the current for the future, but that doesn't make it any easier to watch. An angry Mizzou squad could make things even worse for the Techsters.