Kentucky may have the toughest matchup yet for any No. 1 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament, simply because they’ll be up against one of the country’s most unique players.
Beware the Cyclones of March.
Following a first round where No. 2-seeds fell and No. 1 Syracuse got a run for its money from UNC-Asheville, Kentucky should realize its own mortality, though they’ll still be the favorite against Iowa State.
It begins with Royce White. The 6-8, 270-pound do-it-all point-forward is averaging 13 points, nine rebounds, and five assists per game.
With a player of his size and skill, there is no perfect matchup, but ironically, one of the best ways to beat the Cyclones is to force White to score.
In games when White has scored more than 14 points in conference play, Iowa State was 3-7. On the other hand, when he is able to create for others and that assists number rises, the Cyclone offense becomes more fluid.
Iowa State has one other length-breaker that Kentucky must adjust to: 3-point shooting.
In hand with White creating off the dribble, Scott Christopherson, Tyrus McGee, Chris Allen, and Chris Babb all shoot around or above 40% from distance.
If the Cyclones can work out toward the perimeter, it will draw Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones away from the rim, which will then open up lanes to drive.
They must be cautious with the basketball, though, because Kentucky in transition is something that can bury a team quickly.
The Cyclones must also limit Terrence Jones, who has turned it up since his team’s early-March win over Florida. Jones had 22 points and 10 rebounds in Kentucky’s Round of 64 win over Western Kentucky.
The better Terrence Jones plays, the more dangerous these young Wildcats become.