The Wildcats didn’t have the best of starts to conference play, but at 7-2 in the Big 12 and tied for the lead following KU’s inexplicable loss to TCU, the team is playing with new life and the best defense on the Plains. With a chance to extract revenge against a Cyclones team that defeated K-State its last defeat, even more intrigue is injected into the game. Consider that Iowa State (6-3) is only one game behind K-State (7-2) and KU (7-2) for the conference lead and that the two teams are scheduled for a 5 pm (CT) tipoff on ESPN2, and you have the makings of a potential classic.
In a three game streak that included a win against Oklahoma and losses to KU and Iowa State, the Wildcats allowed 64 points per game while dropping to 4-2 in the Big 12. However, they have rebounded by winning three straight (including a blow out of Texas) while only allowing 55 points and under 25 percent shooting from three point range. Their 60.3 points allowed per game in conference play is the best in the Big 12, while the Wildcats’ average scoring differential of +6.2 is short of only Baylor’s +6.4.
While K-State is limiting open shot opportunities, their constant pressure is forcing 12.6 turnovers per game in conference play. They also lead the league with a turnover differential of +2.7. So while the Wildcats are only sixth in scoring, the ability to lock down on all opponents means the team doesn’t have to score every time it takes the ball downcourt. And while the Wildcats simply lost at their game against KU (they held the Jayhawks to only 59 points), the Cyclones were the one team able to impose their will in the Big 12. The Wildcats were forced to play an up-tempo game that resulted in 67-73 loss in January.
Iowa State doesn’t play K-State’s style of defense, but it does lead the Big 12 in scoring offense with 73.9 points/game. And when the league’s best offense and defense find themselves matched up against each other, one key variable should decide the outcome: K-State lost to Iowa State in Ames, where the Cyclones are 13-0. Iowa State is 2-5 on the road, and the Octagon of Doom is not the place to reverse that trend.