Scouting report: Kansas State’s aggressive defense, patient offense

Iowa State freshman Lindell Wigginton cuts to the hoop during the Cyclones’ 78-66 loss to Kansas State on the road. 

Aaron Marner

The 20th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones take on Kansas State this Saturday. Before the Iowa State game against Baylor on Tuesday, I broke down my thoughts on the matchup. Baylor is known for its zone, which has given past Iowa State teams fits.

I did all of that analysis over on Twitter the first time around. For the sake of not clogging up timelines, I made the tweets more scarce this time and figured I’d throw together my thoughts on Kansas State in one place: here.

I spent some time watching the Kansas State game with West Virginia on Wednesday evening to prepare. Kansas State fell behind 36-21 at halftime before roaring back for a 71-69 win.


One of the biggest contrasts between Iowa State and Kansas State will be the pace with which both teams play.

Iowa State has been flexible this season, generally matching the other team’s tempo. Coach Bruce Weber’s Kansas State squad is ranked 306th out of 353 teams in the nation in adjusted tempo, according to Baylor plays at a similar tempo (295th), which could help Iowa State adjust to the slower pace.

Against West Virginia, Kansas State frequently walked the ball up the floor and started actions with 15 seconds or fewer remaining on the clock.

Kansas State’s high-ranked defense

The Wildcats boast the ninth-best defense in the nation, according to KenPom.

Perhaps their best quality on that end is defensive rebounding. Kansas State ranks second nationally in defensive rebounding percentage at 79 percent. They’re also 30th in the country in turnover percentage. Kansas State’s numbers against field goals and 3-pointers aren’t among the nation’s best, but the Wildcats typically limit teams to one chance per possession.

Against the Mountaineers, Kansas State forced 17 turnovers and held West Virginia to 23-of-51 shooting (45 percent). They don’t switch very often on ball screens or dribble hand-offs, which could be tough for an Iowa State offense that likes to take advantage of mismatches.

In each of Kansas State’s four losses — against Marquette, Tulsa, Texas and Texas Tech — the Wildcats have allowed a big game from someone on the opposing team, or someone will take advantage of a mismatch. Marquette junior guard Markus Howard had 45 points, for example, and Texas’ Jase Febres came off the bench to score a season-high 23 points. David Moretti from Texas Tech also set his season-high with 19 points against Kansas State.

One reason might be Kansas State’s insistence on sticking to its matchups. The key for Iowa State’s offense will be finding that mismatch and attacking it.

Stopping K-State’s backcourt

Kansas State isn’t the most efficient team on Iowa State’s schedule. Led by Barry Brown Jr. and Kamau Stokes, a pair of senior guards, the Wildcats are ranked 199th in offensive efficiency, per KenPom. They are 285th in 3-point percentage nationally, which is the second-worst ranking in the Big 12 ahead of only Baylor.

When Kansas State has success on offense, like it did after halftime against West Virginia, it’s usually because of big performances from Brown Jr. or Stokes, like Brown Jr.’s 29 points against West Virginia. That will likely change when senior forward Dean Wade makes his eventual return.

Brown Jr. had 20 of those 29 after halftime as the offense ran through him at the top of the key.

Iowa State’s best bet to knock off Kansas State is to play tough defense in the paint. The Wildcats play slow and feed the ball to their primary playmakers, then basically get out of the way to let them create. It works when Brown Jr. is hitting tough shots, but Iowa State’s length could cause issues for him and Stokes. The Cyclones can play off basically every ballhandler for Kansas State aside from Stokes (36 percent from 3-point range) and junior forward Xavier Sneed (35 percent). Those are also the only two Wildcats hitting more than one 3-pointer per game.

If Iowa State can force Kansas State’s fourth, fifth and sixth options to score the majority of points, the Cyclones should walk away Saturday with a win. Without Wade, the Wildcats’ offense is even more limited than before.