Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game will feature the no. 17 Kansas Jayhawks facing the Iowa State Cyclones. Kansas is listed as a 2.5-point favorite.
The Cyclones enter the title game fresh off a thrilling win over top seed Kansas State on Friday night. Iowa State actually lost six of their last eight games to close out the regular season. However, they have turned things around as the no. 5 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and have a chance to further improve their NCAA Tournament seed with a win over Kansas.
Meanwhile, the Jayhawks saw their 14-year Big 12 regular-season title streak come to an end this season. However, they still have a chance to capture the tournament championship. Kansas won six of their final eight regular season games and have taken care of business against Texas and West Virginia in Kansas City. However, the Cyclones represent the toughest test the Jayhawks have faced in the Big 12 Tournament.
I Am the Law
With Udoka Azubuike out for the season and Lagerald Vick gone for personal reasons, a lot has fallen on the shoulders of Dedric Lawson, and he has answered the call for Kansas. He’s averaging 19 points per game on the season and is fresh off a 24-point performance against West Virginia on Friday. He seems to understand that the pressure is on him to carry an otherwise young Kansas team through March.
Of course, Lawson will be a marked man by the Iowa State defense, requiring other players to step up. Freshman Quentin Grimes has started to be that player, scoring double figures in four of his last six games, including 18 points on Friday. Fellow freshman Devon Dotson has also stepped up lately, averaging 15 points per game over his last three outings despite going cold from the perimeter. Freshman big man David McCormack has also improved late in the year. As long as a couple of those young players give Lawson some support, the Jayhawks should be in good shape.
Fill It Up
When they get going, Iowa State is one of the best offensive teams in the Big 12. Leading-scorer Marial Shayok saved them on Friday with a couple of big shots against a Kansas State team that’s tough defensively. However, the Cyclones are typically a dynamic offensive force with four players averaging double figures. They can score both inside and outside, and even complementary scorers like Tyrese Haliburton have shown the potential to have big games.
Alas, Iowa State’s problems are often on the other end of the court. The team’s late-season slump can be attributed to poor defensive performances. They gave up at least 75 points in four of their last five games prior to the Big 12 Tournament, and not even their high-powered offense could keep pace. The Cyclones also gave up 80 points the last time they faced Kansas, so defense is certainly a concern heading into Saturday’s title game.
Gonna Win Something
Kansas didn’t win the regular season title, but they will win the Big 12 Tournament title. With Iowa State’s question marks on the defensive end, several of the Kansas role players will be well-well-positioned for a big game. Bet on the Jayhawks covering the 2.5-point spread against Iowa State.