Jayhawks face tough test on Big Monday against Cyclones

Kansas will travel Monday to Hilton Coliseum to face off against Iowa State in a game crucial in deciding the Big 12 regular season champion. The Jayhawks are tied with in-state rival Kansas State for the lead in the conference, and a loss this late in the season would be detrimental to their chances of winning the Big 12 conference for a ninth straight year.

Coming off a 74-48 drubbing of TCU, Kansas is peaking at just the right time yet again in 2013. Winners of four straight and once again oozing confidence, the Jayhawks look ready for a successful postseason run. Jeff Withey has been on an offensive tear in those four games, scoring 17 points against Kansas State, 15 points against Texas, 17 points against Oklahoma State and 18 points against TCU.

Iowa State will hope to repeat their performance against KU at home last season, a 72-64 Cyclone victory. Unbeatable at home in 2013, Iowa State will look to add to their 16-0 record Monday. Leading scorers Will Clyburn and Tyrus McGee are key contributors to the already potent Iowa State offense. Currently fifth in the country with 79.5 points per game, the Cyclones are a tough defensive match up for any team they face.

Players to watch for:

Kansas:

#24 Travis Releford: Facing a team that shoots 37% from three, Releford’s defense will be essential for  a Jayhawk victory. As valuable for his defense as his offense, Releford’s lockdown perimeter defense may help Kansas escape “Hilton Magic” with a victory in hand.

#5 Jeff Withey: As mentioned above, Withey has been on fire on both offense and defense since Kansas’ highly publicized three game losing streak. Coming off an 18 point, six rebound and three block performance against TCU, Withey, a Wooden Award nominee, shows no signs of slowing down for the remainder of his college career.

Iowa State:

#2 Chris Babb: Babb shoots a lot of threes, and makes a lot of threes, a problem for the Kansas defense which can be susceptible to giving opponents open looks from beyond the arc. Babb had 17 points of 5-9 shooting (all threes) in Iowa States 20 point win over Texas Tech Saturday and will need to be contained by the Jayhawk defense.# 21 Will Clyburn: The senior transfer from Utah played his first two college seasons at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa before playing his Junior season at Utah, and transferring to the Cyclones for only his senior campaign.  Averaging a team-high 14.9 points per game, Clyburn has been an offensive force for Iowa State all season and will be yet another tough matchup for Kansas.

How I See It

Hilton Coliseum hasn’t been kind to opponents this season, or in general. However, that shouldn’t matter to the Jayhawks, who play in environments like what Iowa State will have Monday game in and game out.

Defense will be the key for Kansas.  If Iowa State gets hot from three, then the Jayhawks may be in trouble. Focusing in on the perimeter, as well as keeping Withey stationed down low will be important for Bill Self to ring home to his team.

Last Time They Met:

Prediction:

Vegas sees this game as a toss up, with KU favored by only one. However what Vegas doesn’t see is a team’s will to win, and right now, Kansas has more to play for and a larger will to win than Iowa State. It won’t be easy, but barring a red-hot shooting night from the Cyclones, Bill Self will get his 500th victory on the road 78-73.