Iowa State has some unfinished business against Kansas after just falling short against the reigning champs in Lawrence three weeks ago. The Cyclones have lost three of their last four, but their stout defense gives them a chance against the leaders of basketball’s best conference. Can Kansas stay on track for a No. 1 seed with a huge road win?
Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Saturday’s showdown in Ames.
Kansas vs. Iowa State Odds
Kansas enters as a slight 1.5-point road favorite, sitting at -125 on the moneyline. The over/under is 136 points.
This line feels appropriate despite Iowa State coming so close in a tough road environment last time around. Kansas has recovered from a three-game losing streak, while the Cyclones have had their share of offensive problems. Still, Iowa State’s defense and close-game potential can’t be ignored.
Kansas vs. Iowa State Prediction & Pick
On paper, this looks like Kansas should be the pick, but a deeper look into Kansas shows real offensive concerns. Depth is lacking, and just about every starter not named Jalen Wilson is inconsistent.
In games like these, however, someone has always risen to the challenge. Last time these two played, it was Gradey Dick. This week, against Kansas State, it was DaJuan Harris. These low-scoring games are the ones Kansas is well equipped to win.
As tough as Iowa State’s defense is, especially on the road, the late-game disasters by an already shaky offense doesn’t leave me willing to put confidence in the Cyclones against a championship coach and a likely All-American who should play better than he did the first time. Kansas -1.5 is my pick for this key Big 12 game.
Kansas vs. Iowa State Key Matchups
Kansas’ offense has taken some heat for being a bit too one-dimensional and overly reliant on Jalen Wilson. While not perfect, it’s still a unit that averages 76.3 points, and relying on one of the nation’s best players isn’t the worst scenario. Wilson had a bit of a tough day against this Iowa State defense last time these two faced off, but he’s a shoo-in for a productive day.
The bigger question is what the Jayhawks can get out of DaJuan Harris and Gradey Dick. Harris didn’t do anything on the offensive end last time these two played, but Kansas is clearly better when he’s able to contribute on the offensive end. He poured in 18 points in this week’s win over Kansas State and had some success on that end of the floor early in Big 12 play. A rough stretch that saw Harris shoot 2/18 across four games also coincided with Kansas’ losing streak.
When he’s not scoring, the Jayhawks rely on Dick and defense-first Kevin McCullar Jr. to support Wilson. Dick was the reason Kansas won against Iowa State in January, scoring 21 points and drilling five threes. The freshman wasn’t intimidated by a great three-point defense, though whether he can replicate that on the road is a fair question.
It feels like, even if Dick can’t do that again, Kansas has seen enough progress from its other starters that it will score some points. Iowa State allows just 58.6 points per game, so expect this one to be a low-scoring affair even after Kansas’ 90-point explosion against Kansas State.
Kansas’ defense doesn’t have fantastic raw numbers, partially due to the strength of the Big 12. The unit does do a nice job closer to the rim thanks to Wilson’s presence, and McCullar is a strong defender himself with plenty of Big 12 experience.
Just like Kansas relied heavily on Wilson and Dick last time these two faced off, Iowa State’s offense was entirely Gabe Kalscheur and Osun Osunniyi. It’s possible this matchup again comes down to which shooter has the better day: Kalscheur or Dick.
This is a hit-or-miss Cyclones offense. Iowa State looked awful down the stretch against Texas Tech this week en route to a 23-point blown lead. It wasn’t just shots that weren’t falling – the shot selection was frantic and just not very smart late in the game. The Cyclones similarly had a rough finish against Kansas last time out. Both of those games came on the road, so it’s possible the offense is more relaxed here, but that kind of performance under pressure doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Once again, Iowa State’s chances should come down to how many shots are falling for Kalscheur and Caleb Grill – Grill shot 8/12 in the loss to Texas Tech. Kansas is a mediocre defender of the three, so the opportunity is there.