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Will KU limit turnovers against a passive Iowa State D?

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Kansas guard Travis Releford wrestles with Iowa State forward Georges Niang during the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Travis Releford wrestles with Iowa State forward Georges Niang during the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Team: Iowa State
Record: 19-8
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 35
All statistics from KenPom.com unless otherwise noted

3 Strengths

Three-point shooting: Iowa State jacks up a lot of threes (42.4 percent of shots are threes, 16th-highest split nationally), which makes its 37-percent accuracy from long range even more impressive (45th nationally). ISU gets 36.3 percent of its points from three-pointers, which is the 15th-highest split nationally. Thanks mostly to their outside shooting, the Cyclones have the Big 12's most efficient offense during conference play, notching 1.13 points per possession.

Ball security: Iowa State rarely turns it over, giving it away on just 17.5 percent of its possessions during Big 12 play (second in conference). This matches up with a KU defensive weakness, as the Jayhawks are sixth in the Big 12 in defensive turnover percentage. In the first game, KU pulled out a 97-89 victory in overtime despite forcing just 11 ISU turnovers in 45 minutes.

• Foul avoidance: Iowa State has the third-best defensive free throw rate in Big 12 play, with league foes averaging 19.7 free throw attempts against the quick-paced Cyclones. KU, meanwhile, has posted the second-best offensive free throw rate during conference play while averaging 24.2 free throws per game. Don't expect KU to get the favorable whistle it had in the first matchup at Allen Fieldhouse, as the Jayhawks shot a season-high 38 free throws in that game.

3 Weaknesses

Forcing turnovers: Iowa State plays passive defensively, creating turnovers on just 18.1 percent of its Big 12 possessions (ninth in conference). The Cyclones also are last in the league in forcing steals, creating them on just 8.2 percent of their possessions. Pay close attention to this stat Monday night, as KU has struggled with giveaways in conference play (seventh in Big 12 in offensive turnover percentage). One wouldn't expect a high turnover total from KU against ISU because of the way the Cyclones play defense, but sometimes, crazy things happen when teams get sped up in hostile road environments.

• Getting to the free throw line: Iowa State relies almost exclusively on jumpshots to score points. Because of that, the Cyclones don't draw many fouls, as they rank ninth in the Big 12 in offensive free throw rate. ISU has averaged just 18.7 free throws per game during conference play.

Transition defense: According to Hoop-Math.com, opponents are shooting 70 percent on their layups/tipins/dunks against Iowa State, which is the 15th-worst mark nationally. The Cyclones do a nice job of forcing teams into jumpshots in a half-court set (only 23 percent of opponents' shots come at the rim; NCAA average is 34 percent), but Iowa State still appears to be susceptible when its defense is not set.

Hoop-Math's numbers show that in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, opponents have made 74 percent of their close shots after a defensive rebound, 71 percent of their close shots after an ISU make and 82 percent of their close shots after a steal. The opportunity might not come often, but KU should try to take advantage of any chance it has to score in transition.

3 Players to Watch

• Iowa State's best player does not start. Six-foot-2 guard Tyrus McGee (No. 25) has been one of the most efficient players in the nation thanks to superb shooting and a microscopic turnover percentage. The senior is especially dangerous from deep, as he's made 73 of 162 threes (45.1 percent) and 35 of 83 threes (42.2 percent) in Big 12 play. He also has just 23 turnovers this year while posting the nation's 33rd-best turnover rate. McGee leads the team in shot percentage (25.8 percent, 361st nationally), and the only thing keeping him from being the team's top scorer is limited minutes. McGee also is ISU's best perimeter defender, coming away with steals on 3.1 percent of the possessions he's out there (238th nationally).

Six-foot-7 forward Will Clyburn (No. 21) takes on the second-largest offensive load for ISU while producing decent offensive numbers. The senior is one of the only threats to get to the free throw line, as he draws 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes (182nd nationally). He's also a good shooter there, making 79 percent of his free throw tries. Offensively, he's best when he gets it all the way to the rim, as he's a 71-percent shooter on close shots and a 53-percent shooter on twos overall. His jumpshot isn't great, though; Clyburn has made just 28 percent of his two-point jumpshots (NCAA average is 35 percent) and 30 percent of his three-pointers (31 of 104) this year.

Five-foot-11 guard Korie Lucious (No. 13) is the weak link offensively for ISU. The Michigan State transfer can make threes (50 of 140, 35.7 percent) and also is ISU's best passer (84th nationally in assist rate), but that's not enough to overcome his other deficiencies. For one, the senior has an extremely high turnover rate, giving it away 89 times in 838 minutes. He's also struggled on shots inside, as he rarely gets all the way to the rim (only 12 percent of his field goals are close shots) and is a below-average two-point jumpshooter (32 percent). KU's defensive gameplan should be to pressure Lucious on the perimeter to force him into the paint. Once there, the Jayhawks should resist the urge to help, as he's more dangerous as a passer there than he is as a shooter.

Prediction

Iowa State is a bad matchup for KU because of its ability to shoot the ball from all five spots.

ISU coach Fred Hoiberg, who uses Pomeroy as a consultant, knows from the numbers that KU is susceptible to giving up threes to begin with, as 35.7 percent of the field goals against KU this year have been three-point attempts (268th-lowest split nationally).

It's simple math, really. If ISU doesn't turn it over and can make one out of three three-pointers (which is below its season average), it will score 1 point per possession, and that's without taking offensive rebounding into consideration.

Score a point per possession against KU's defense, and you have a great chance of winning, especially at home.

KU should be able to score against undersized ISU, but it will have to avoid unforced turnovers against a team that rarely forces giveaways. The Jayhawks will also have to make some two-point jumpshots against a sagging ISU defense, and that hasn't exactly been a strength for KU over its last few games.

Look for the Cyclones will use lots of ball screens to get open threes, and at home in front of a knowledgeable and animated crowd, I think those shots will go down.

Iowa State 72, Kansas 68

Hawk to Rock

This is a tough matchup for Jeff Withey defensively, but it's also a favorable one for him offensively. The senior should have plenty of opportunity to score in the post, and barring foul trouble, he should be able make it to double-figure rebounds against a below-average rebounding team Iowa State. Withey also will get the chance to show he's improved in ball-screen defense. He has been better as of late, as he saved the game in regulation against Oklahoma State when he gave a strong hedge against the Cowboys' Marcus Smart to stop his drive to the rim. I'll say Withey leads KU in scoring while posting his sixth double-double in conference play.

Predictions tally
23-4 record, 302 points off (11.2 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)
Average: 4.1st in KUsports.com ratings

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