I’m sorry this isn’t exactly a month out. I’m sure both of you that read this are so pissed right now.
I find myself angry when Iowa State is brought up. Not because of my sort of fan to the Iowa Hawkeyes, but because I never get them right in the NCAA Tournament. Every year, I have them in the Elite 8 or Final 4, they lose in the first or second round. Every year, I have them losing early, they make it further than I expect. Every time I watch a football game of theirs and I root for them, they lose, but that’s just a normal Iowa State thing. Still, Iowa State is my dark mistress that I cannot quite figure out.
How did you feel Iowa State would do when Fred Hoiberg left for the Chicago Bulls? I personally thought they might slip back down to mediocrity and win typically less than 20 games a season, just as they did under Greg McDermott. I admit that I thought that based off of literally nothing.
The Cyclones did pretty well in their first year under Steve Prohm. Down by 14 at half, they stormed back to beat their nemesis Iowa after a half of basketball that made me think Jared Uthoff was using some alien advantage that gave him the skill sets of Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Mugsey Bogues, Patrick Ewing, and Larry Johnson. At home, they picked up wins against # 1 (at the time) Oklahoma, # 4 Kansas, and # 24 Baylor. They made it to the Sweet 16, and ended the season ranked 15th in the Coaches Poll.
This was with some NBA talent on the roster. Georges Niang is now playing with the Indiana Pacers. All college teams are losing players every single year, but losing a piece of 20.5 points per game and 55 perfect from the field to the NBA can be a large impact to a team. Aside from Niang, the Cyclones also had 6’6″ forward Abdel Nader get drafted 58th by the Celtics, and is playing for their NBDL affiliate. The Cyclones also graduated 6’9″ Jameel McKay who averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds as a senior at Iowa State and is playing professional basketball overseas.
That is a lot to lose, especially in your front court. Not only that, the Cyclones lost their top assistant coach, TJ Otzelberger, who is taking over at South Dakota State.
The Cyclones went out and landed a couple of post players that are graduate transfers to help fill the void of their departed front court. 6’8″ Merrill Holden transferred from Louisiana Tech and is most likely to start at the center position. Holden averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds a game for a team that went 23-10 and lost in the first round of the Vegas 16. I mean, the Vegas 8. I mean, a post season tournament. I feel like I remember seeing Holden once had interest from the Mavericks out of high school or junior college, but I am not 100 percent sure on that. Holden is a defensive center that could give Tre’Shawn Thurman fits in the post.
The Cyclones also brought in Darrell Bowie, a 6’8″ forward from Northern Illinois that averaged 10 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior. The Cyclones replaced their professional basketball talents with blue collar type guys, which is not a bad thing.
The Cyclones still bring back talent. Their point guard, Monte Morris, is currently projected as a 2nd round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Matt Thomas will be in the back court with him a 6’4″ shooting guard that shot 43 percent on threes last year, and was known as the Cyclones top perimeter defender. Thomas replaced Nazareth Mitrou-Long in the back court after he was forced to sit the remainder of the season with an injury after playing in six games. Mitrou-Long is apparently fully healthy again. He averaged 10 points a game as a junior and shot 39 percent on threes that year.
Omaha fans may be getting robbed on a Tra-Deon Hollins versus Maurice Watson match up, but this Hollins versus Morris could be equally as good. Maybe even better. Actually, how about we just say it’s better since it’s actually happening.
With their legitimately good three point shooting, the Cyclones like to get out and run the ball and spread the floor. This will be a high scoring game, and the Mavericks are going to need to defend the three, which was something they were not too bad at last season.
They will need to get cause problems to Iowa State and force some turnovers. The Mavericks were one of the best in the NCAA at forcing turnovers last season, but the Cyclones and their returning back court were able to take care of the basketball. The Cyclones were tied at 70th in the NCAA in turnovers per game with 11.6 turnovers a game and were 27th in assist to turnover ratio.
Given how hard the Mavericks play against teams like Iowa State, I think Omaha can keep this game close. Considering that the Mavericks have a harder schedule leading up to this game, and could be worn down from all of their early season road games, I think Iowa State could be favored by 10 to 15 points in this game.
You also have to throw in how hard it is for a mid-major to go into Hilton Coliseum and pick up a win. The Mavericks would need a few lucky breaks to pick up a win, or like 10 to 15 lucky breaks.