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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 6:00 PM

Right now, three teams have risen to the top of the Big 12 in a way that suggests they’re going to be a “big three” in the league through conference action. Two of those three teams square off Monday Night when Kansas visits Iowa State in a game that will be nationally televised by ESPN. The other, Oklahoma State, will be patiently lying in wait until they get a shot at Kansas Saturday.

It’s no surprise that Kansas (Preseason #5 nationally) and Oklahoma State (Preseason #8) are in the mix for the league title. But, where did Iowa State (Preseason #nothing!) come from? This may be your first look at the Cyclones this season. Our key college basketball indicator stats (grabbed from popular publicly available data from college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin) suggest that Iowa State has made this surge by being almost exactly like Kansas! Take a look.

 

Computer Rankings

Kansas: #9 in Pomeroy, #10 in Sagarin

Iowa State: #13 in Pomeroy, #6 in Sagarin

How are those for similarities? Both rankings add up to 19 at press time. Pomeroy sees Kansas as the slightly superior team. Sagarin gives the nod for now to Iowa State. Both are projected as Sweet 16 caliber teams at the moment, but not higher. That’s a disappointment for Kansas…who supposedly had the next LeBron James arriving on campus to carry them to a title. They couldn’t have imagined before the season started that they’d enter mid-January seen as dead even with somebody like Iowa State.

 

Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

Kansas: #6

Iowa State: #14

Two great offenses here. It’s easier to attack the basket this season because referees are blowing more whistles. Both of these teams are taking advantage of that with great success. Remember, there are more than 300 teams in the database. Only the cream of the crop can crash the top 20 in a stat category like this.

 

Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

Kansas: #31

Iowa State: #26

The similarities continue here…with Iowa State being slightly better defensively in such a tightly packed way that we have virtual clone teams. Even though officiating is providing a challenge…these teams have done a good job of protecting the basket. People don’t think of Iowa State as a defensive team (to the degree anybody has been thinking of Iowa State at all!). You’ll see momentarily that’s a result of the lightning pace that the play.

 

Pace Ranking

Kansas: #133

Iowa State: #23

Last week we previewed Kansas at Oklahoma State in a similar scenario. The difference in that case was that Oklahoma plays subpar defense by the standards of tournament contenders. Iowa State plays better defense than Kansas on a per-possession basis. They just play more possessions, which tricks lazy analysts into thinking they don’t defend. Kansas has athletes who love to run, as you saw at OU last week. Does Iowa State really want to get into a track meet with Kansas? Would Iowa State pull themselves out of their own comfort zone if they tried anything else?

 

Against the Spread

Kansas: 7-8

Iowa State: 9-4

Those numbers shouldn’t surprise you. Kansas and Iowa State have been virtually identical teams outside of the fact that Iowa State pushes tempo more aggressively. Kansas was supposed to be a national power, and has had trouble playing up to those expectations (though they just covered two in a row to lift 5-8 ATS up to 7-8 ATS). Iowa State had no expectations entering the season. Playing like Kansas pushed them up past 67% against the number. In fact, they were at 75%, 9-3 until losing at Oklahoma Saturday in an obvious lookahead spot to their biggest home game of the year.

JIM HURLEY knows the arena will be rocking. Kansas only visits once per season…and that’s the game everybody wants to see. Will the Cyclones bounce back strong with their best effort of the season? Or, will pushing pace play right into the hands of the athletic superstars on the Jayhawks? This game is likely to show up as part of the Monday Night Magic you’ll be enjoying on Big Mondays all season. You’ll be able to purchase the final word by late morning right here at this website with your credit card.

If you’d like to talk to a live person about full season options, call our handicapping office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Get on board now so you can win SEVEN DAYS A WEEK! The basketball schedule is going full blast, while there are only three football games left. If you wait until after the Super Bowl to start basketball you’ll miss all of January.

Back with you tomorrow to run the numbers in Wisconsin at Indiana…as the Badgers try to stay on the short list of national championship material with an interesting road test. Link up with JIM HURLEY today so you can start GETTING THE MONEY right now. BIG MONDAYS mean BIG MONEY at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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