NCAA Basketball Picks: Iowa State vs. Kansas in Big 12 Final

LT Profits Sports Group

Saturday, March 14, 2015 2:10 PM UTC

Saturday, Mar. 14, 2015 2:10 PM UTC

Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Saturday.


The defending conference champions have a good shot at a mild upset Saturday evening in the Big 12 Championship Game when those second seeded Iowa State Cyclones (24-8, 9-7 away/neutral) take on the top seeded Kansas Jayhawks (26-7, 11-7 away/neutral) at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO at 6:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.

The point spread at BetOnLine has Iowa State as a modest underdog for this contest with the current line at +2½ with odds of -110.

Iowa State the Defending Champ but Kansas Ranked Higher
With Kansas ranked in the Top 10 nationally, it may be easy to forget that Iowa State is actually the team here that is the defending Big 12 Champion by beating Baylor in this game last season, and the Cyclones are not far behind the Jayhawks in the rankings as they are 13th on the AP poll themselves as well as 16th in the Pomeroy Ratings. They have squeaked by in this tournament so far to get to this point, edging Texas 69-67 and then Oklahoma 67-65.

Kansas meanwhile is ranked an identical ninth in both the AP and on Pomeroy, and it got here by being the winning NCAA Basketball pick 64-59 in a rather lackluster effort vs. TCU in the quarterfinals and then by a more definitive 62-52 score over Baylor in the semifinals last night. The Jayhawks still shot just 42.9 percent in that 10-point win though and this is simply not as good a team offensively as other Kansas teams of recent years.

Cyclones the Much Better Shooting Team
In fact, Iowa State is the better shooting team by a rather wide margin in this game, at least on paper. That was apparent while these teams split their two regular season meetings with the home teams winning each time, as the Cyclones averaged 81.0 points in the two matchups, shooting 50.8 percent in the 86-81 home win in Ames.

You see, Iowa State is sixth in the country in offensive efficiency and 17th in effective field goal percentage, thanks to ranking 11th in two-point shooting at 54.7 percent while also hitting a good 37.1 percent of its three-point shots. Thus it is not surprising that the Cyclones are 13th in the country with their 78.6 points per game overall, and they have done that vs. a strong schedule ranked 10th in the nation in SOS.

The Achilles Heel for Iowa State for several years has been defense, and while that area is still not a strong suit, at least the Cyclones are now above average ranking 91st in adjusted defensive efficiency grading out at 98.2 points per 100 possessions vs. a national average of 102.1 points per 100 touches.

Jayhawks Interior Struggles a Big Key
Conversely, Kansas is a disappointing 147th in the land in effective field goal percentage at 49.5 percent, and what is especially disturbing is its 213th ranking in two-point shooting at just 46.8 percent, so the weak shooting vs. Baylor last night was not really an aberration. Kansas does shoot well from beyond the arc at 37.4 percent, but now the Jayhawks are facing an opponent that can at least match them in that regard.

Furthermore, the oft maligned Iowa State defense is actually only allowing a 45.7 percent success rate on two-point attempts, so the difficulties of Kansas closer to the basket could continue tonight. Thus the Jayhawks will probably have to rely heavily on their three-point shooting, and that is not always a good thing when not playing on your home court. In fact, Kansas is a miserable 3-for-20 from three-point land in its first two games of this tournament!

Kansas does usually have an outstanding defense that is ranked seventh in efficiency and 17th in effective field goal percentage allowed at 44.4 percent, but Iowa State had little trouble shooting over this stiff defense in the two regular season meetings.

Struggling ATS as of Late
Finally, Kansas may be a bit overrated right now due to its past reputation and that is manifesting itself with a 2-6 ATS run over the last eight games.

And most of those games were not vs. teams as good as Iowa State, so look for the Cyclones to not only cover this small number but also to repeat as Big 12 Champions with an outright win over Kansas in the tournament final on Saturday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Iowa State +2½ (-110)

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