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A KenPom Preview: Iowa State #1

Here we go, the fourth go-around of a KenPom preview. I like 'em, and will try and keep on doing them for every game. We'll see how original we can make the content the second time we play these teams (we'll have to figure out soon, considering we play Colorado a week from Saturday), but for now, I like how they work. If you have any suggestions, drop 'em in the comments or email me. My email is at the top of the page on the left sidebar, or at the very bottom in the bottom left corner when you click on that cute, little email image.

For reference purposes, here is Iowa State's KenPom page...

Opening Thoughts

OK, these are the games I hate. Hate, hate, hate. The ones where you know you should win, you know you're the better team. And yet, going in, you find a way to freak yourself out. Going in, you become petrified that, somehow someway, your team will lose.

And, more than anything, games played in the Hilton Coliseum fit in that category. Well, I suppose they didn't fit when Jamal Tinsley and Marcus Fizer and those eighteen, annoying look-a-like white players and Tim Floyd were all up there. Then, it was a legitimate game, a game to get excited about. But not anymore. Now, it's just that one scary venue that you know you could lose at, but you also know you shouldn't.

I hate these games.

Plenty more if you just click on "Continue reading this post >>"...

The Background

The Iowa State Cyclones aren't a good basketball team. They aren't a terrible one, aren't a godawful one. But, they certainly aren't a good one. Mediocre is probably the word that most accurately describes their ability. They lost to a terrible Hawaii team, although it was on the islands and it was only by a point. They lost at home to a much worse Drake squad, and lost by seven at home to South Dakota State. But then, there have been some positive flashes, as well. They beat a pretty damn good Houston ballclub, won on the road against the Valley's best team this year (Northern Iowa in OT) and travelled down to Austin to only lose by eight. Plus, they beat Nebraska, and while at home, Nebraska is better than just about anyone expected. So, that's nice.

But, honestly, this team is not that good. They are incredibly young, though, and certainly could become a good team in another year or two. Three of their top four minute-earners are only sophomores (senior Bryan Peterson being the exception), and all of their depth (not named Alex Thompson or Sean Haluska, that is) are freshmen and sophomores. A team on the rise? Sure. But right now, not a team who is going to be terribly tough. Of course, at home, with all of that Hilton Magic and shit, they can beat a lot of teams. 

The Offense

The Cyclones, as KJ-IBT points out, like shooting the three. A lot. 39 percent of their field goal attempts are fired from behind the arc, and the trey accounts for nearly 35 percent of their total scoring. However, when it comes to the Four Factors (nine times out of ten, the factors that determine games; eFG%, Turnover%, Off. Reb%, FTa/FGa -- explanation here), they are terribly hot-and-cold. They are decently effective at shooting the ball, and are really good at not turning the ball over. However, they never-ever get fouled, or at least never shoot free throws, and don't have an offensive rebounding game at all. So, I suppose that's good; my sixth-grade little brother's team could keep these guys off the offensive glass, and heaven knows how much we've struggled with that stuff so far this year.

As far as other extremes go, they are good at picking up assists with their field goals, and it's damn-near impossible for someone to block a shot. Well, we'll see how they do against Cole Aldrich.

Overall, though, they aren't a good offensive team. They are effective enough at making shots and not turning the ball over that they aren't terrible, but their lack of second-chance points and getting to the free throw line essentially forces them to be good at the former two. If they ever have an off night shooting-wise or turn the ball over more than they are used to, they're toast. That's what happened against Missouri; they couldn't hit the broad side of the barn, so they fell behind and just got demolished.

The Defense

Unsurprisingly, they are a much better defensive team than offensive team. Again referring to the Four Factors, they are actually excellent at three of 'em. They are very good at eFG%, meaning they force tough shots. They are incredible at limiting offensive rebounds and they don't foul very often at all. All of this combined with an average performance in turning you over would lead to one of the country's better defenses. Problem is, they are one Division 1's worst at forcing turnovers; forcing them on only 17% of their possessions. They are so good at everything else, though, that they can get by. But, again, this pretty much means they have to be spot-on at everything else. If they're going to win, and not turn you over, that means that they then must completely shut you down on the offensive glass, can't send you to the free throw line very often and can't let you consistently make shots. Any of those things happen, and things aren't looking very hot for the Clones.

Looking at the non-Four Factor stats, nothing jumps out at you. Naturally, given their low turnover-causing percentage, they don't steal the ball, like, ever. And, again expected given their very impressive effective FG%, they are incredible against the two-pointer. They are more forgiving on the three, but they really lock you down inside the arc. This leads their opposition to favor the long ball, as their opponents are shooting, on average, 31 threes a game (NCAA average is 27.6).

Overall, if they win any more games in the League, the D will be why. But unless they can start forcing some turnovers, they won't be able to beat anybody truly good. That offensive rebounding %, though, is scary. We are going to have to hit our shots, because, more often than usual, Cole won't be there to pick us up and give us extra chances.

The Players

When you are discussing Iowa State basketball, the first two words out of your mouth should be "Hilton Coliseum". And then, when asked to name something about this year's squad, you should quickly say "Craig Brackins". Everything, just about, goes through Brackins. He isn't the whole team, though, and they have a couple other, solid pieces. But, if we lose, it'll be because of Brackins. Book it.

  • Craig Brackins PF -- Damn. The Cyclones run their offense through Brackins on about a third of their possessions. No, seriously. That is good enough for 17th in the entire country. He is, literally, the key to their offense. Which, given his position and height (6'10"), is nerveracking. We ain't sticking Cole on him and letting him pick up fouls, so it'll be on the Morris twins and, perhaps, Mario Little some to contain him. It's possible, and if they can accomplish it, we're essentially assured victory, but it scares me. A lot. Oh, and Brackins takes a helluva lot of shots, too. Nearly 36% of the team's shots, or 13th in the country. Damn. He's the only good player on their team at drawing the contact and getting to the free throw line, too, so there's that. Combining that with the Morris' incredible ability to foul, and that's dangerous.
  • Lucca Staiger SF -- Dude's a three-point specialist; that's all. No, seriously. He's shot 24 two-pointers, and 110 three-pointers. He's really good at the long ball, though, (43%), so he's worth watching. He's taken all of six free throws all year long, showing how much he drives to the basket. One would imagine Brady would be assigned to simply follow him around everywhere, but who knows.
  • Diante Garrett PG -- Garrett is a tall-ass point guard, standing at 6'4". He isn't a terribly efficient shooter, though, and isn't a three-point threat. He's a pretty solid distributor, though, and never, ever fouls on the defensive end. I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up guarding Sherron, and his length could pose Sherron some problems. However, on the offensive end, we should be fine. Stick TyTay on him, and he shouldn't get much done. If he can consistently get in the lane, though, we could be in big trouble. He is really good at driving and either scooping it in to Brackins or kicking it out to a three-point shooter, most likely Staiger. Keep him out of the lane, and you shouldn't have a problem stopping their entire offense.
  • Bryan Petersen SG -- Petersen is the senior, the veteran leader. He's capable of handling the ball if he must, but isn't particularly good at anything. He is their second best three-point shooter, though, so we can't sleep on him out on the perimeter.
  • Alex Thompson C -- Well, he's really tall. That's about all I've got. He is a pretty good shot-blocker inside, and is an above average defensive rebounder. Besides that, there isn't much else to say. He isn't a very good player, is virtually non-existent on the offensive end. Should provide Cole some leeway to go over and help out on Brackins, because I don't think anyone is too worried Thompson is going to blow up in everyone's face and change the course of the game.
  • The Rest of the Bunch -- Besides that starting five, the Cyclones use four other players, primarily. You've got senior Sean Haluska, who is another fine shooter from the outside (35% from three), as well as freshman Wes Eikmeier. Eikmeier is even better from the outside (33%, but in twice the shots), although he turns the ball over twice as often as the veteran, Haluska, does. Then, you have another pair of highly similar players. One is junior Jamie Vanderbeken. The other is freshman Justin Hamilton. Well, they really aren't similar in anything, except for the fact that they both stand 6'11". Vanderbeken, being a foreigner, likes to think of himself as a three-point specialist, and he might be right. In limited attempts, he is shooting 40%. However, he is also a pretty good defensive rebounder, and is significantly better than Thompson on the offensive glass. Hamilton is better than both on the offensive end (in fact, according to OR %, he's the best offensive rebounder on the team) and is another soild defensive rebounder. Hamilton's offensive exploits, however, are more limited.

The Gameplan

Here is the newest addition to the KenPom Preview slate; the Gameplan. Basically, these are some of the tactical things I would do if I were so lucky to be NCHCBS. That's National Champion Head Coach Bill Self, if you couldn't follow along. With all of that said, let's get Gameplannin':


  • Stick Brady on Lucca -- If the Clones beat us, it'll be either because (A) we can't do shit on offense (we'll get how to do some shit in a second), or (B) they go ballistic from three. The simplest and easiest way to prevent (B) from happening would be to stick your best defensive player, Brady Morningstar, on their primary threat from three. Dur. Now, if the rest of the players step up and have career days, well, then, whatever. But Lucca can certainly drain the threes, so just stick Brady on him and have him run around with him. Follow him through screens, stick his hand in Lucca's face. All of that fun stuff. And, when Brady sits out, pray Tyrel can do a good enough job while Brady rests. I know it's fun to hate on Brady and his deficiencies, but dude is one of the most important players to this team. We need him out on the floor as many minutes as he can go.
  • Double the Hell out of Brackins -- OK, as much as I love the Morris twins and Mario LIttle, they don't provide a fair match with Brackins. We all know this. So, while I agree with leaving Cole over there on Thompson or Hamilton or Vanderbeken or whoever, Cole should come over and double all of the time. And when he doubles, he needs to reject the hell out of one of Brackins' shots. For fun, you know. Seriously, though, we stop Brackins, they don't know where to go.
  • TyTay on Diante Garrett = No Lane Access -- I love Tyshawn Taylor. And I realize that he is number 15, and so was Mario Chalmers. But he isn't the same player, folks. Honestly, he might be a better on-ball defender than Mario. Probably night, at least right now, but I would bet in a second he will be better by the start of next year. People forget, with all of the ridiculous steal totals Super Mario posted, that he was almost always assigned to the third-best perimeter player on the other team. His main strength was jumping the passing lanes, and there were few, if any, better at him than that. But, TyTay has all the skills to be a RussRob-type defender, and if he can keep Garrett from driving the lane, the game's basically over right there. Much of their offense is based off the drive-and-kick or the drive-and-dump-to-that-one-good-player-we-have, and if there is no drive, the rest of the hyphenated word can't happen.
  • Hit Your Open Threes -- When teams that aren't as talented you matchup, they have to give up some element. And, like in every other game we've played all year, they aren't going to give up some dunks by Cole. No, they'll pack in the lane, and make our perimeter shots beat them. It's not a bad strategy. We aren't bad from behind the line, but we certainly aren't good enough to give up one-on-ones with Cole for fear of us hitting the open three. Brady, who hasn't had a big offensive game in awhile, and Tyrel need to step up on Saturday. Mario Little and Marcus Morris have both shown flashes, and if either one can build off of Monday's performance and show up behind the arc, then great. And we all know Sherron's good for three or four. But one of the white boys has to hit a couple, or the game will be closer than it should.
  • No Turnovers -- Like we mentioned earlier, the Clones just can't turn you over. Can't do it. Haven't been able to do it all year, except against like SIU-Edwardsville, or random-ass teams like that. Against anyone halfway-competent, they won't take it from you. And with how good the rest of their defense is, it will be damn-near impossible to win against them, particularly in Hilton Coliseum and all of that Hilton Magic junk they've got going on, if you consistently turn the ball over. With our young team, it could be an issue, but I expect the two main ball-handlers, Sherron and TyTay, to be fine. Sure, we'll turn the ball over some, but we might need to keep it under ten. Unless we play really good defense, at least.
OK, that's all. After doing that Gameplan section, there isn't too much room left for keys. I'll try to think of some way to combine the two, or something. Oh, well.

All final thoughts, and a prediction, coming tomorrow in the Open Game Thread. I'll be there, and so should you. Show up.