Iowa State's turnovers will go a long way towards deciding outcome


Kansas forward Kevin Young defends against a shot from Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Kevin Young defends against a shot from Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Team: Iowa State
Record: 10-3
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 47

3 Strengths

Rebounding: Iowa State is the best rebounding team KU has faced this season. The Cyclones are an elite rebounding squad on both ends, pulling down 39.8 percent of their missed shots (14th nationally) and 74.7 percent of their opponents' misses (10th nationally). So far this year, KU has been a great defensive rebounding team but a poor offensive rebounding team, meaning a big turning point will be which team can win the battle on the glass when ISU misses a shot.

Three-point shooting: It feels like I've said this about every KU opponent that has entered the Fieldhouse, but the Cyclones really do rely a lot on outside shots. ISU has made 35.8 percent of its threes this year (81st nationally) while attempting a ton of them (39.1 percent of team's field goals are threes, 50th-highest split nationally). Because of that, ISU gets 33.2 percent of its points from threes, which is the 48th-highest split in the nation. It's hard to key on one shooter, too, as ISU's top six rotation players all have attempted at least 21 threes. KU's defense did a great job of limiting three-pointers against Temple on Sunday, but the Jayhawks still rank 293rd nationally when it comes to allowing opposition three-pointers. In other words ... expect a lot of threes from ISU on Wednesday night.

Finishing at the rim: Iowa State enters with the 40th-best two-point percentage nationally (52.2 percent), but it gets that percentage in an interesting way. The Cyclones don't shoot many "close" shots with only 24 percent of their field-goal attempts coming at the rim (NCAA average is 34 percent). When the Cyclones get those close shots, though, they almost never miss. ISU is shooting 81 percent on shots at the rim this year, which leads the nation, according to To compare, the NCAA average for close shots is 61 percent, while KU is shooting 65 percent. ISU would appear to be a team that doesn't like to take contested layups at the rim, which means that KU center Jeff Withey's defensive impact could be limited, especially with ISU coach Fred Hoiberg scheming ways to get the big man away from the basket.

3 Weaknesses

Turnovers: From watching his press conference on Monday, I could tell this is Hoiberg's biggest fear with his team as it enters Allen Fieldhouse. Playing a weak schedule so far (298th nationally, according to KenPom), Iowa State has been careless with the basketball while not forcing many turnovers itself. The Cyclones turn it over on 20.2 percent of their possessions (149th nationally) while taking it away on 20.7 percent of opponents' possessions (exactly the NCAA average). The problem for ISU is that at the Fieldhouse, turnovers often turn into transition points on the other end for KU, which feeds the crowd and makes the game even tougher. Hoiberg knows that avoiding turnovers isn't just important for his offense ... it's also important to help limit KU's offense as well.

Drawing fouls: Iowa State rarely gets to the free throw line, posting the nation's 289th-best free throw rate. Though the Cyclones play at the nation's 31st-fastest tempo, they have averaged just 19.5 free throws per game. ISU is only an average free throw shooting team as well, making 68.8 percent of its tries this year (172nd nationally).

Getting back defensively: As mentioned above, Iowa State is successful offensively at the rim, making 81 percent of its shots there. Turns out the opposite is true as well: opponents are making 80 percent of their shots at the rim against the Cyclones. shows an ISU team that has had lots of problems getting back defensively in transition.

ISU early in shot clock defensively.

ISU early in shot clock defensively. by Jesse Newell

This isn't a huge sample size, but this much is clear: If you can get the ball to the rim quickly against the Cyclones, they will not put up much resistance — especially after a make or following a steal.

Look for KU to push the pace to try to take advantage.

3 Players to Watch

• Though 6-foot-2 guard Tyrus McGee (No. 25) hasn't started in Iowa State's last 11 games, he's still the Cyclones' best offensive player. He ranks 12th nationally in offensive rating while shooting a team-high 24.6 percent of his team's shots when he's in. The senior has been spectacular from three-point range, making 38 of 79 this year (48.1 percent). Though he doesn't score much inside and doesn't get to the free throw line often, part of his skill-set is that he never turns it over, ranking 50th nationally in turnover rate. He also posts a team-high 3.3 percent steal rate, is solid on the defensive glass and can block an occasional shot. It's a bit surprising McGee's talent and production hasn't landed him a starting spot for ISU.

Six-foot-6 forward Melvin Ejim (No. 3) will be the guy to watch on the glass for Iowa State. The former teammate of KU guard Naadir Tharpe (Brewster Academy) has become one of the nation's top rebounders, pulling down 27.1 percent of the available defensive rebounds (12th nationally) and 14.1 percent of the available offensive rebounds (59th nationally). He's also second on the team in steal percentage and can hit an occasional three (eight of 21, 38 percent). Ejim is great at finishing at the rim (82 percent close shot percentage), but he's extremely turnover prone, which brings down his production enough that he's only a slightly above-average offensive player.

Six-foot-7 guard Will Clyburn (No. 21) is the rare player on ISU's roster that can create for himself. He's posted the 283rd-best free throw rate so far while drawing 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes (226th nationally). The senior has been successful once he gets to the line, making 81.5 percent of his free throws. Like most of ISU's players, Clyburn is strong at the rim (72 percent), with only 44 percent of those shots coming from an assist. Clyburn's weaknesses so far have been turnovers and also three-point shooting, as he's made just 12 of 44 treys (27.3 percent).


After forcing just four turnovers and recording one steal against Temple in a 69-62 victory Sunday, the Jayhawks enter a game where defensive pressure will be vital against a solid Iowa State team.

The Cyclones have had just one game in their last three weeks, meaning Hoiberg has had plenty of time to scout and scheme the Jayhawks. That most likely will result in Withey being pulled to the perimeter and ISU putting up a lot of threes to try to avoid blocks inside.

The key, though, is turnovers. Almost every opponent steal this season against ISU has resulted in two points on the other end, and KU has thrived with its fast breaks at home.

There's no transition without the original defensive pressure, though. If the Jayhawks guard like they did against the Owls — and ISU is able to get up shots on most possessions to keep KU out of its transition game — then the Cyclones have the shooters to put a scare into KU.

I don't think that'll happen, though, especially because ISU has fewer players that are dangerous off the dribble. Defensive pressure had to be the message from KU coach Bill Self the last three days, and I think the Jayhawks' guards will create much more havoc against a turnover-prone team Wednesday night.

Kansas 78, Iowa State 63

Hawk to Rock

I need a guy who can score in transition and is good at forcing turnovers. Luckily for me, KU has just that guy ... senior guard Travis Releford. After a poor defensive game against Temple, look for Releford to provide more pressure against Iowa State while continuing his amazing shooting run with a lot of easy shots in transition against the Cyclones.

Predictions tally
12-1 record, 173 points off (13.3 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Average: 3.8th in ratings


Michael Luby 5 years, 4 months ago

Looks good Jesse. Thanks for that!

Seems like the perfect time for Ben Mac to have a monster game too.

Yay for conference time!! GO KU!

Rob Keeney 5 years, 4 months ago

" but the Jayhawks still rank 293rd nationally when it comes to allowing opposition three-pointers. In other words ... expect a lot of threes from ISU on Wednesday night."

Meaningless stat since most teams are scared to death of trying to work inside on us.

Jesse Newell 5 years, 4 months ago

Have to disagree with the stat being meaningless. Teams have control over how many threes are taken against them. For example, Duke has been in top 11 nationally in the statistic each of the last 10 seasons under coach K.

You can check out more on the topic here:

VancouverHawk 5 years, 4 months ago

I appreciate KenPom's point, but I guess I'm just puzzled. How is it that KU is ranked so highly defensively overall if we're so bad at letting people shoot threes? Is it really that Whitey's defense matters that much? Or is that we've just been lucky in holding teams to low 3 point shot percentages? Or it is that KU is a kind of counterexample to KP's generalization here?

Jesse Newell 5 years, 4 months ago

KU is ranked highly defensively mostly because its interior defense is phenomenal. The Jayhawks rank first nationally in two-point defense, which definitely gives the Jayhawks a boost.

As for the perimeter ... you can be successful allowing a lot of threes if the opponent doesn't make them. Sure defenses have some control, but not nearly as much as two-point defense. Defensive three-point shooting percentages vary wildly from year to year. I've posted this before, but here's a look at KU's two- and three-point defensive ranks under Self:

KU's two-point FG defense
2004 — 12th
2005 — 10th
2006 — 1st
2007 — 3rd
2008 — 4th
2009 — 4th
2010 — 1st
2011 — 42nd
2012 — 2nd
2013 — 1st

KU's three-point FG defense
2004 — 32nd
2005 — 37th
2006 — 156th
2007 — 33rd
2008 — 55th
2009 — 118th
2010 — 116th
2011 — 9th
2012 — 152nd
2013 — 65th

Three-point defense is a crapshoot at best. That's why the best way to stop threes (this especially applies to the NCAA Tournament) is to not let them happen.

Eric Sorrentino 5 years, 4 months ago

Great analysis, Jesse. I will be there tonight! Hoping to get there a little early, so I'll give you and GB a shout. Gonna be nice to come back to AFH!

Tony Bandle 5 years, 4 months ago

Kansas Poster Question of the Day: Missouri will soon be playing Kentucky ..who do you cheer for. Pick One.

1] Missouri

2] Kentucky

3] NCAA Investigation Team.

4] Highly contagious flu bug.

5] Other [explain]

Tony Bandle 5 years, 4 months ago

PS Great article, by the way, Jesse. I think your prediction is right on!!

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 4 months ago

hoping for a Kentucky blowout victory followed by NCAA sanctions and a forfeited season.

Vernon Riggs 5 years, 4 months ago

My vote is for:

After the 20th overtime with the score knotted, SEC officials call it a TIE.

Steve Kubler 5 years, 4 months ago

Rank Value Player Yr Ht Wt Gms Team

19 135.47 Travis Releford Sr 6-6 210 13 Kansas

I thought instead of asking.... Was curious as his shot percentage is so high how that compared to his offensive ranking. KY is the only other KU player in the top 192, not sure why they chose to list 192.

130 122.94 Kevin Young Sr 6-8 195 12 Kansas

All from here:

Bruce Brock 5 years, 4 months ago

Thanks, Jesse. Your analysis is clearly written and useful, as always. One point I'd add is that although ISU's break from playing games gives Hoiberg more time to scheme, it also gives his players more time to get out of sync when the heat is on. Allen Fieldhouse is of course the worst place in the country to try to get back into game rhythm. If the Jayhawks start hot, the Cyclones could get uptight and clang the rims from three-point land the entire game.

As for Misery/UK, I'd prefer to see the Wildcats lose, although that doesn't exactly mean I'm rooting for the border-state traitors to win. However, Misery can be useful in helping the Jayhawks to advance another game on Kentucky on the all-time wins list.

Clydecito 5 years, 4 months ago

I always look forward to your scouting reports Jesse. I meant to tell you previously that your last three reports were spot on. Keep 'em coming, it's becoming tradition! Look forward to following the game thread, if I can keep my Internet on for the duration. RCJGKU

Jonathan Even 5 years, 4 months ago

You don't root for either Missouri or Kentucky. You don't watch the game, search for who won, or dissect the winner/loser. If a team is beneath you, you could care less if they are successful or not, because they do not exist.

Michael Luby 5 years, 4 months ago

Did I call it or did I call it! Ben Mac with a HUGE game!

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