Quick scout: Is this the breakout night for one struggling KU player?

Kansas Jayhawks guard Lagerald Vick | John Sleezer | jsleezer@kcstar.com
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By Jesse Newell jnewell@kcstar.com

Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.

Tuesday’s game: No. 13 Kansas at Iowa State, 6 p.m., Hilton Coliseum, Ames, Iowa

TV: ESPN2

Opponent’s record: 13-11

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 92

Point spread: KU by 6 12.

All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.

3 Strengths

▪ Ball security: This has become an Iowa State staple under Fred Hoiberg and now Steve Prohm. The Cyclones rank 62nd nationally in offensive turnover rate and have the third-best mark in Big 12 play.

▪ Transition offense: The Cyclones are 52nd nationally in shots attempted on fast breaks, and they’re above-average when it comes to shooting in those situations.

▪ Hilton Magic: Iowa State has the No. 1 home-court advantage in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy’s measure — an impressive feat considering this spot usually goes a team that has more of an elevation advantage. Over the last 60 home and road conference games, Iowa State is also No. 1 in the nation in foul differential at home (negative-5.4 per game).

3 Weaknesses

▪ Interior scoring: Iowa State ranks last in Big 12 play in two-point percentage (47 percent), and part of this appears to be a product of shot selection. For the season, the Cyclones have shot the fourth-highest percentage of mid-range jumpers in the nation.

▪ Defense … in general: Iowa State ranks 140th in adjusted defensive efficiency (the worst mark in the Big 12), and it has issues creating turnovers, grabbing defensive rebounds, limiting teams inside and preventing transition opportunities.

▪ Drawing contact: Iowa State is not a physical team offensively, ranking 279th in offensive free-throw rate. Keep in mind, though, this tends to be less of an issue at home because of the home-court advantage mentioned above.

3 Players to Watch

6-foot-2 guard Lindell Wigginton (No. 5)

Wigginton_Lindell17

Plus: Scored 27 in first game vs. KU at Allen Fieldhouse

Plus: Team’s go-to guy offensively

Plus: Excellent three-point shooter

Plus: Team’s best at creating contact and getting to the line

Minus: Poor mid-range shooter … and he takes a lot of those attempts

Minus: Only a 66 percent free-throw shooter

6-foot-2 guard Donovan Jackson (No. 4)

Jackson_Donovan17 (2)

Plus: Efficient offensive player

Plus: High-volume, accurate three-point shooter

Plus: Rarely turns it over

Plus: 93 percent free throw shooter in limited attempts

Minus: Poor shooter in mid-range

Minus: Doesn’t create often for teammates

6-foot-9 forward Cameron Lard (No. 2)

Lard_Cameron17

Plus: Ranks eighth nationally in offensive rebound rate

Plus: Elite shot-blocker

Plus: Great finisher at the rim

Plus: Synergy lists him as “very good” defender

Minus: Doesn’t draw much contact

Minus: Poor free-throw shooter

Prediction

One can understand why it’d be easy to think Iowa State has a good chance to win or cover in this one.

Just look back at the Cyclones’ last four Big 12 home games: They have defeated Baylor, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma, and done so while winning by an average of 13 points in those four contests.

Add to that the fact that guard Nick Weiler-Babb could return from a knee injury for Tuesday night’s game, and there’s are legitimate reasons to like Iowa State’s chances.

There’s a flip side to this, though.

Iowa State’s home wins haven’t done much to improve the team’s overall performance since the new year started because of poor efforts on the road. The Cyclones also lost by 23 at home to Tennessee in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, meaning that Hilton isn’t a miracle cure, even if it has served the team well.

If the Jayhawks can get back in transition to make this a half-court game, the Cyclones’ offense likely will struggle, especially if KU can run them off the three-point line. Iowa State too often settles for in-between jumpers, doesn’t get many half-court shots at the rim and also doesn’t draw many fouls, so there’s success to be had for KU if it sticks to “force one bad shot” defense.

Offensively, Iowa State is below-average when it comes to allowing threes and defending transition. Those are both positives for this Jayhawks’ team, which has hit a bit of a scoring lull the last two games.

Though it doesn’t happen often, I like KU to pull away for a comfortable victory Tuesday night at Hilton — with help from the return of its high-powered offense.

Kansas 86, Iowa State 75

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas

Hawk to Rock

Bold prediction: Lagerald Vick will be KU’s best player against Iowa State. In the first matchup, Prohm was creative by putting his big man Lard defensively on Malik Newman while daring him to shoot. If the Iowa State coach wants to get clever again, he’ll likely target Vick, who has been in an extended offensive slump. Look for the guard to take advantage this time with a big scoring night.

Last game prediction: Kansas 69, Baylor 66 (Actual: Baylor 80-64)

2017-18 record vs. spread: 13-11

Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 71-54-3

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell


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