As always, these previews heavily use Ken Pomeroy's statistics page. Iowa State's can be found here. For further reference, check the first KP preview of the Cyclones here. It was done prior to the first matchup with the Clones, an 82-67 victory for the Jayhawks. For more information on Iowa State, make sure and check out SB Nation blog Clone Chronicles, the place to go if you ever want to learn more about the team from Ames.
This is a game we can't afford to lose. Simple as that. It shouldn't be terribly difficult to win (KP gives us a 95% chance of winning, afterall), but a win still must occur. A loss loses moentum, loses ground in the Race for the Big 12 Title, makes people across the nation wonder. It wouldn't be fun.
But of course, all of you know that. So, all that's left to do is to actually go out and win. No national TV (for the first time, including ABC regional broadcasts, since the conference-opener against K-State on January 13th), just an opportunity for us to, relatively, sneak under the radar and pick up a decent win.
That's all. Just dont' blow it.
Frankly, the Clones are playing for little, currently. I suppose the CBI could come calling at the end of the season, but that doesn't seem to be something that would provide an incredible amount of motivation. Of course, this is college basketball, so they won't roll out and lay over. But, it won't be anything like our two most recent contests, where we had two rivals out for the kill. They've lost 7 of their last 8 games, with their lone win being a conference home game against Colorado; a game where the Buffs were held to all of 9 points in the first half. 5 of the last 6 since we last played 'em, with the aforementioned CU victory.
There isn't the same Hilton Magic to deal with as the trip up to Ames, and we really shouldn't lose this game.
Nevertheless, some semblance of a preview after the jump...
The Offense -- 183rd (Adj. O Rating)
Overall, the Clones' offense is terrible. Besides a 91-point explosion against SIU-Edwardsville, a 3-12 Independent team, they've yet to hit 80. In conference play, their high has been 70 points; in their 28-point victory over the Buffs. Of course, some of this can be explained away by their tempo; they are the 244th slowest team in CBB. So, naturally, their point totals tend to be lower. But, the tempo-free stats don't tell any prettier of a story.
- Effective FG% (123rd) -- Better than their overall ranking, and is probably their second-biggest offensive strength. Basically, they aren't incredibly dangerous, but you can't just freely give up open looks and expect to get away with it. Their eFG% was 40% in our first game, and that included Brackins' explosion and the home crowd being on their side. This time, assuming Brackins doesn't have another Durant-esque performance in him, that number should plummet. So, crash goes their chances.
- Turnover % (38th) -- Get excited. No, really. It's all they're good at, at least offensively. Being a slow-it-down team, it isn't terribly surprising that Greg McDermott stresses holding on to the ball. It's pretty much their skill. They did better-than-average last time against us, and that's why they were able to stay so close for so long. Let's turn 'em over more, this time.
Offensive Rebounding % (340th) -- Non-existent. Don't worry 'bout it. Godawful. All of these phrases/words apply to the Clones' offensive rebounding efforts. Part of this is attempting to limit fast breaks, in line with their whole slow-it-down thinking, and part of it is they don't have an offensive rebounder. Brackins is so often the one fifteen feet away shooting, and the next-best is Justin Hamilton. Youch.
- FTA/FGA (337th) -- This partly makes sense, from what I've seen, and partly doesn't. On one hand, they shoot an inordinate amount of longballs, and that's not the way to get more attempts at the free throw line. On the other hand, though, they have Craig Brackins. And, as good as he is, you'd figure he'd get to the line himself more than the 13 times-or-so they average as a team. Whatever. Of course, they shot 27 freebies last time they played us (including 21 by Brackins himself), so who knows if this stat means anything.
- Three. Point. Shooting. It's what they do, up in Ames, with that mid-major-with-a-star offense McDermott runs. 40% of their shots are threes, but they actually aren't that awesome at it; only 34.4% as a team. That could be why they suck.
The Defense -- 60th (Adj. D Rating)
In typical mid-major fashion, they play better D than O. It isn't incredible or nothing, but 60th in the country ain't bad. They'll get up on you and play you tough, almost always in man-to-man, but they aren't a team of Brady Morningstars, or anything. They have some weak spots, too, (i.e. Jamie Vanderbeeken and Lucca Staiger), so some of the lesser known players could explode.
Effective FG% (54th) -- Like I said, they'll play you tough, but they aren't unbeatable. Our ball movement should get us open looks on the perimeter, not even considering Sherron's out-of-this-world driving ability. The key, naturally, is actually hitting your open shots. Just in case you were wondering, we were 6-13 from three last game (Reed and Brady shot 4-6). I'd take that again, I suppose, but I think we can do better, too.
- Turnover % (337th) -- While their D is pretty good, they rarely turn you over. We turned it over 11 times in our trip up to Ames, which is actually about their average, to a tee. I hate these type of teams, though. Because, with as turnover-prone as we are, if we turn it over a bunch then their D becomes stellar. And if their D becomes stellar, they stand a chance. So, Sherron and Company, just don't turn it over.
Offensive Rebounding % (11th) -- While they completely abandon the offensive glass, in an effort to limit the fast breaks, they all crash the defensive glass, as they aren't interested in pushing the ball up the floor anyways. So, Morris twins, if we're interested in getting second-chance points, we're going to have to work for it. Big time. But again, like the Turnover %, it's a double-edged sword to be really good/bad at something. Because, if we can be a factor on the offensive glass, then their D becomes below-average, and combining that with a close-to-awful O is the makings for a blowout.
- FTA/FGA (36th) -- They don't foul you a bunch, but you will get your chances at the free throw line. We shot 18 last game, but a lot of those came at the end with the intentional fouls. Nothing else to mention, really; keep on playing like always, and if they foul you they foul you. Simple as that.
- While they never turn you over, they steal it even less (which, obviously, is a part of turning you over). They are, literally, the worst thieving team in the country; they steal it less than anyone else. No, really. It's quite incredible. Another interesting tidbit; they don't give up a whole heckuva lot three-point attempts. So, while I still think we'll get them, it isn't like they will be just giving away open looks.
Not to toot my own horn, but I thought I did a really good job last time previewing the Clone players. So, while the statistics are surely different (if only slightly, hopefully), I figure you'll still get the general picture. So, here is last time's preview of 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.
- Turnovers -- Either way the turnover battle tilts, that team will get a big advantage. If we turn them over, consistently, they don't really stand a chance of winning. If we turn the ball over a bunch, then the game will be incredibly low-scoring, likely, and a poor shooting performance from us (or a really good shooting performance from them) could lead to a gigantic upset. So, just don't screw up the turnover battle. Please.
- The Law Firm -- These three, Morris Morris & Little, all could play huge roles. They are the trio that will be assigned Craig Brackins, and hopefully they do a better job of it than they did last time. All three could also play a big role on the offensive glass. Remember, the Clones are hellbent on not giving up second chance points, so if any of the Law FIrm can step up and get second chance points, our offense will just be that much better. Lastly, the Cyclones really don't have that good of a defensive stopper to stick on any of them. Actually, it'll almost assuredly be Brackins. So, if they can either blow up on Brackins, or at the very least draw some foul trouble, that'll be a positive. So many opportunities to do something positive, and all it takes is one, really, and we're going to win. Not a terribly difficult task, but a very important one.
Really, that's all. Those two things happen, in some form, and we win. If not, as long as they don't go too far south, we probably still end up leaving with a W. Just a closer, scarier one.
OGT coming tomorrow.