Given the schedule that looms for Kansas State, Friday’s Big 12 opener at Iowa State is a critical early-season contest. The Wildcats play a ranked opponent in eight of their next 10 games and need to pick up wins where they can get them, although the Cyclones are no pushovers with a nine-game winning streak of their own.
Kansas State has won six of its last seven games and squeaked by Washington State in its last contest, riding Barry Brown Jr. (23 points) to a 68-65 victory. “It was a good win for our guys,” coach Bruce Weber told reporters after his team overcame 4-of-24 3-point shooting in its final non-conference tilt. Iowa State, meanwhile, has not lost since back-to-back defeats to open the season and is coming off an ugly 55-49 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore. The Cyclones limited the Hawks to 17 first-half points - doubling them up with 34 in the opening 20 minutes - before scoring only 21 points after intermission, barely good enough to escape with a win.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (10-2, 0-0 Big 12): Brown’s effort against Washington State was badly needed after the junior guard had shot 7-of-23 for a combined 17 points over the previous two games. Makol Mawien chipped in 15 points - a season high - and is shooting a blistering 74 percent from the field, which would rank in the top five nationally if he had enough attempts to qualify. Kamau Stokes is second on the team in scoring (14.2) but has fallen below that average in three straight games, shooting 4-of-18 from 3-point range over that span.
ABOUT IOWA STATE (9-2, 0-0): The Cyclones are a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of points allowed, although they have been strong defensively over the last three games - yielding an average of 57.3 points. Their top three scorers are all dangerous from 3-point range, as Donovan Jackson leads the team in makes (35) and Lindell Wigginton is tops on the squad in percentage from beyond the arc (45.1). Nick Weiler-Babb is a 38.9 percent shooter from long distance, although he is just 3-of-12 over the last four contests after starting the season 11-of-24.
1. Iowa State won both meetings between the teams last season.
2. Jackson (31-of-35; 93.5 percent) is in the top 15 nationally in free-throw percentage.
3. Brown is 2-of-17 from 3-point range in the last three games.
PREDICTION: Iowa State 69, Kansas State 63