Here's why Iowa State's offense is tough on Jeff Withey

Kansas forward Perry Ellis dives for a loose ball with Iowa State defenders Korie Lucious, front, and Tyrus McGee during overtime on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis dives for a loose ball with Iowa State defenders Korie Lucious, front, and Tyrus McGee during overtime on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. by Nick Krug

Team: Iowa State
Record: 22-10
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 35
All statistics from

• 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.

Predictions tally
26-6 record, 370 points off (11.5 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)
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 ratings



Michael Luby 1 year, 1 month ago

I hope your wrong Jesse. I am scared like Michael too but so far KU is up by 9 with 15 left


KGphoto 1 year, 1 month ago

This site is chock full of good basketball knowledge. Love reading it, and I’ll be looking for many of the things that have been discussed here.

I have no prediction due to superstitions, but one thing in Jesse’s analysis stood out to me.

"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.”

We had way too many in the first two games. 14 to their 11 in the first game. 15 to their 7 in the second game. Limit those turnovers!

Then the question is... Who will go for 30 tonight?

Rock Chalk, this is gonna be a good game.


Janet Scott 1 year, 1 month ago

Predictions. Officiating will be solid. Will be overcast in KC. ISU hick and hillbilly fans will turn out, with most hitch hiking to KC from Iowa, with a minority in number driving tractors pulling fully loaded, bright yellow painted, manure spreaders with Cyclone decals on the sides. Jayhawks will kick a$$. KU by 6. ISU fan base will blame officiating.


jgkojak 1 year, 1 month ago

Or... we need to play lights out aggressive Defense the first 5 minutes.


Dickless Head 1 year, 1 month ago

What we should all be discussing is Doc Sadler's contribution to this basketball program, and how it is affecting it.

Gluttony is one of the more serious sins depicted in the bible, the Word of our God Lord. It is not mentioned much in today's society, mainly because it is so common, and many of our preachers, priests and prophets sent by God are guilty of this sin themselves.

However, being a Christian fundamentalist myself, I subscribe to the Old Testament ways of looking at the world. And gluttony is not a sin to be overlooked.

Having such a sinful man as Doc Sadler (who just joined our staff this season) exhibit the kind of horrid gluttony that he does not bode well for our chances in the tournament.

I want to start a petition, which I will submit to ex-Chancellor Hemingway (he still has more pull than our current chancellor, a female, which is inexcusable in the Old Testament), that will either require Coach Sadler to refrain from his gluttonous lifestyle, or be dismissed from the basketball team.

Please PM me to sign my petition. I would like to have it submitted to Chancellor Hemingway by next Friday. Thank you all, and God bless.


Nicholas Cederlind 1 year, 1 month ago

It's called a triangle and two defense. It woulda helped against Baylor. Let's hope it surfaces, today.


Allen Shepard 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm running for mayor of little Freddy Smugberg's crying children.

Unfortunately, today's game turned out to be a heart attack special for him. In the end, as the blood came barreling down the vein, it was blocked, to compound matters, a valve reached in, and blood banked in to critical areas at the last second.

In lieu of money, please send all your videos of Ben Mclemore's seventh made three pointer of the day. We will be using them to help model and construct a 3-D die-o-rama for his memorial in Ames.


William Blake 1 year, 1 month ago

"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."

Well stated, Jesse.

It is more than teaching Jeff how to play all the high screens properly... many times it is our help defense that isn't stepping up to handle a shift.

And Jeff needs to step out and defend the perimeter. And when he does, the rest of the team needs to step up and play good defense. Everyone has been spoiled by having Jeff standing behind them to save a score.


Steve Kubler 1 year, 1 month ago

Return the favor, after all JW is shooting 100% from 3! In actuality I would feed Withey underneath with the instructions to attack Niang with intent to get him in foul trouble. Getting him pine time would damage ISU's ability to drag the 5 out of the paint. Easier said than done I know but Travis isn't the only Jayhawk that has had a couple of slow games. Give me an angry Withey for 12 - 10 and 8.

I do not expect this to be a close game, either way it goes.


Adam James 1 year, 1 month ago

WIGGINS update if you did not see this.... This is all just talk from an article, but I think there is some truth to Wiggins feeling comfortable with Self and the rest of the KU basketball family. This makes me feel like we have a 40% chance. I would say 60%-70% if KU was not so far from his familiy. Maybe that could work in our favor as well and he could get out of the East coast exposure and be protected a bit at KU.

Anyone else have any update on Wiggins or Randle??


Adam James 1 year, 1 month ago

Win or lose this is a great game for us to have heading into the tournament. They are much like a Mid-Major team that has a 4 and sometimes a 5 that can take Withey away from the basket. I think Self will stick with man/man and not give the entire nation an opportunity to scout and have film on another defensive look. There is no doubt that Self wants to win, but he has realized over the years that no one cares about winning the Big 12 tournament. It's all about wins in the next tournament. I have a good idea that Self has a few tricks up his sleeve defensively if needed in the tourney. RCJHKU!!


Jason Keller 1 year, 1 month ago

Good joke, Jesse. Let me get this straight. You are picking the team who relies almost completely on perimeter shooting when the game is to be played in a wide open arena? Shooting is notoriously down in these types of venues which is why I would think anyone would favor the team that can get offensive production in the paint and in transition.

KU by 8, at least....


Konkis Dongington III 1 year, 1 month ago

I wonder if Self won't switch defensive assignments for bigs in this meeting. Clyburn doesn't have the shooting touch nor the brute strength on the drive that Niang does and it's that combination of strong perimeter shooting, the ability to drive, and a stout, low center of gravity that make the match up so hard for W.

Clyburn is someone that a) W can afford to sag off a little more because he's not as good a shooter (and he's just coming off a hot shooting streak, so he's more likely to snap back to his median or go cold than be hot all over again) and b) KY can help with on the drive because he's adept at drawing the charge. ISU is also small enough, and KU conversely long enough, that the potential solution to the defensive match ups is to switch all screens. Korie Lucious isn't that strong on the drive and Niang and Clyburn aren't so big nor quick that EJ can't defend them in high screen situations or would have to worry too much about being posted up.

However it shapes up, this is going to probably be the hardest game for us to win this month. It's kind of a wonder that we managed against such a bad match up twice already. As Jesse noted, we essentially outscored them in both meetings. We'll have to do the same thing today. The good thing is that Hoiberg is all in on NBA style play, meaning very little defense is in the cards. Overall, we have better shooters, but they're better 2pt shooters, for the most part. We need to stick close, create turnovers, and be efficient. Everything else is just hunkering down and hoping they don't hit too many lucky/well-defended shots.


melrank 1 year, 1 month ago

If there was ever a game to consider zone . . . well that probably isn't going to happen but I can't help but wonder.

And before anyone brings it up . . . a triangle and 2 would be a horrible idea against an army of 3 ball shooters

Let's hope they are only average from deep and our O is clicking.


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