Kentucky Basketball: A Few Quick Thoughts on Iowa State

I live in Big 12 country, so I have seen my share of the Iowa St. Cyclones this season. In between the ensuing Madness, and a stomach-punching loss by the Texas Longhorns (my other favorite team), I have some random thoughts about the Cyclones I thought I would share.

  • First, Royce White is an athletic marvel. You will probably see a lot of publicity about how White was thisclose to being a Wildcat. It would have been a sight to see White alongside similar freaks of nature like Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
  • The first thing you notice about White is his hands, which are unbelievably huge. As a result, he's a really good ball-handler, and actually will bring the ball up the court for the Cyclones a fair bit of the time. He has a similar syndrome to Davis, though. When he gets lazy, White drifts to the perimeter, where he's a lot less effective. Getting White to shoot jumpers or free throws is a win; letting him bully his way inside will lead to problems. I expect Kentucky to start with Jones as the primary defender, though both Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis will get some run if Jones falters.
    • Iowa St. is surprisingly athletic. They play three a three-wing lineup with Chris Allen, Chris Babb, and Melvin Ejim. All three are capable of going off for 20+ points. I particularly like Babb, who is a smart, heady player that often gets overlooked in his DeAndre Liggins/Darius Miller-type role.
    • The Cyclones live by the 3. As a team, they hit 38% of their attempts. 41.8% of their attempts are three-pointers, and 36% of their scoring is a result of drained treys. Scott Christopherson, their ace sharpshooter, is hitting 45% from deep. The Cyclones like to run you around, funneling offense through White (who can handle anywhere on the court) and then passing the ball to open shooters. This will be a big game for Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague as defenders. Both have to stay home on their man and not let 'em hoist uncontested 3's.
    • Surprisingly, in Iowa St.'s biggest win of the season over Kansas, the Cyclones shot just 7-17 from 3. Likewise, they hit 6-16 in a dominant performance against listless UConn to advance to the Round of 32. If Iowa St. can score efficiently without relying on the three-ball, it could be a long night for Kentucky.
    • Fred Hoiberg has done a really good job of molding his team and getting buy-in to the program. The Cyclones were chastised for taking cast-offs (White from Minnesota, Allen from Michigan St., and Chris Babb from Penn St.), but they've all been model citizens in Ames. Iowa St. was, in fact, the biggest surprise in the Big 12 this year, finishing third in a top-heavy conference. The Cyclones were one of six Big 12 teams ranked in Ken Pomeroy's top 30, and they had a win against each of Kansas, Baylor, Kansas St., and Texas.
    • Some fans may be disappointed that Kentucky didn't get its "revenge game" against UConn, but Iowa St. is not an opponent that should be overlooked.
    • That said, Iowa State is good, but ultimately beatable. Containing Royce White is priority number one. He simply shouldn't be allowed to go bonkers inside, and with Davis and Jones patrolling the paint, I don't think he will. Next, Kentucky has to guard Iowa St.'s shooters off-the-ball. They can't be allowed to get open and have clear vision threes. Finally, Kentucky needs to be the aggressor on offense. The Cyclones don't scare anyone on defense, and the Wildcats need to score efficiently and hit their jumpers.
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