Here's why Iowa State's offense is tough on Jeff Withey
Team: Iowa State
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 35
All statistics from KenPom.com
• For a refresher of Iowa State's strengths/weaknesses, check out the Five-minute Scout from Feb. 25.
3 Numbers to Know
• 1.157 — The number of points Iowa State scored per possession against Kansas in its 108-96 loss to the Jayhawks on Feb. 25. That's the third-highest number KU has allowed this season and the most KU's defense has given up in a win. ISU also scored 1.102 PPP against KU at Allen Fieldhouse in a 97-89 overtime loss, which was the fourth-highest total against KU's D this year.
• 47.5 — The percentage of Iowa State's field goals attempts in Big 12 play that have been three-pointers. The Cyclones don't care how many threes they shoot, and for good reason: Even with the high volume of threes taken, ISU leads the conference with 39.1-percent accuracy from long range.
• 17.3 — Iowa State's defensive turnover percentage in conference play, which is the worst mark in the Big 12. The Cyclones play passive defensively, an in trying to keep up with the league's best offense, KU can't afford unforced turnovers against a defense that usually doesn't create them.
3 Players to Watch (and one sentence explaining why)
• The Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year (start him already, Fred!) 6-foot-2 guard Tyrus McGee (No. 25) has three elite skills: He can shoot threes (87 of 185, 47 percent), never turns it over (nation's 48th-best turnover rate) and is ISU's best perimeter defender (289th-best steal rate nationally).
• Six-foot-7 freshman Georges Niang (No. 31) is a nightmare matchup for KU at the 5, as he forces KU center Jeff Withey to guard perimeter because of his 39 percent three-point shooting (33 of 85).
• The Big 12 Newcomer of the Year 6-foot-7 forward Will Clyburn (No. 21) is dangerous because he can penetrate and get to the free throw line (116th nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes) while also shooting well enough that teams still have to pay attention to him on the perimeter (31 percent three-point shooting).
A team that can shoot from all five spots is the worst possible matchup for KU's defense, which is centered on Withey camping in the lane and blocking shots.
Here are a couple plays that show why ISU's spacing and offense are so difficult to defend.
In this first play, notice how the high ball screen puts Withey (and KU) in a bad spot. Ben McLemore is late to recover, and because of that, both Withey and Kevin Young step up to help on the ball-handler Chris Babb.
Notice what this does to KU's defense.
With Withey sagging to help on a possible drive, Babb stops to pass to Georges Niang on the perimeter. The pick-and-pop results in a wide-open three, as Withey has no chance of recovering in time.
In this play, Korie Lucious' lob attempt luckily goes in, but pay attention instead to how many options ISU has.
After Perry Ellis helps up top, he hustles back to guard Melvin Ejim, who cuts to the basket.
Travis Releford takes one step forward to help Ellis recover, and that leaves Clyburn open on the baseline for a lob if Lucious would have gotten it next to the rim.
Notice also how Withey instinctively takes a step back to guard the basket. If Lucious had made a short pass to the wing, Niang would have had another open three-point attempt.
Fred Hoiberg's NBA experience is serving him well at ISU, as his team's spacing and pick-and-roll offense is tough to guard, especially for a team with a true center like Withey.
The Jayhawks, who aren't as good offensively this year as some years past, simply outscored the Cyclones in the first two meetings.
I don't see KU being able to do it a third time.
Iowa State 79, Kansas 75
Hawk to Rock
After scoring just eight points in his last two games combined, I think we'll see a bounceback effort offensively from Travis Releford. ISU has poor transition defense, so look for Releford to try to leak out whenever possible to get KU easy buckets. Releford also took advantage of some openings on the perimeter against ISU, making five of nine three-pointers in the last matchup. Give me 15-plus points for Releford — a total he hasn't hit since the last ISU game.
26-6 record, 370 points off (11.5 points off/game)
Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com 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)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (4th)
Texas: Elijah Johnson (8th)
Kansas State: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (3rd)
West Virginia: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Oklahoma State: Ben McLemore (1st)
TCU: Kevin Young (3rd)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (5th)
Kansas State: Naadir Tharpe (3rd)
Texas: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma State: Ben McLemore (7th)
TCU: Travis Releford (4th)
Iowa State: Jeff Withey (4th)
West Virginia: Perry Ellis (10th)
Texas Tech: Jeff Withey (1st)
Baylor: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Texas Tech: Kevin Young (2nd)
Average: 4.1st in KUsports.com ratings