Friday, January 23, 2009

Iowa State Keys to Victory

For a quick scouting report on the Cyclones, see here.

So how does that translate into a Kansas victory tomorrow? Three things need to happen.

1. Make Craig Brackins work. At heart, he's a very skilled big man that will fall in love with his 15 footer if he's getting banged around down low. Unfortunately, we're not really a beat you up kind of team and he has greatly improved his inside game from a year ago. Not only will he beat you facing up, but he can take you off the dribble and even get some work done with his back to the basket. He's as NBA ready as anyone on our roster and unfortunately, is going to be matched up against our least intelligent players(i.e. Morris twins). Don't get me wrong, they'll be able to score some on him too, but as far as defending hard without getting into foul trouble and keeping him off the boards, I'm not overly optimistic.

I anticipate we'll double him some as Cole should be able to help off Hamilton and Thompson without risking too much. What I don't want to see is doubling down from the perimeter and allowing easy kick outs to one of their many shooters and letting one (or more) get on a roll.

2. Keep Diante Garrett on the perimeter. He's by no means a bad outside shooter, but he's not going to kill you from there. And more importantly, if he's out there, he's not drawing help and kicking out to much deadlier shooters. Brackins is unquestionably their best player, but Garrett is who makes the offense work. 11 points, 5 assists and 4 boards is pretty productive from the point guard spot and at 6'4" he has a size advantage on almost every guy he faces.

My guess is we'll start with Tyshawn on him, but I'm not sure that can last. He's shown the ability to shut down scorers before, but he doesn't always get low enough or move his feat well enough to stay in front of a guy like Garrett. If he can, great. If not, we'll reluctantly go with Sherron and just risk the foul trouble. Garrett only shoots 4 FTs a game, so he's not one to constantly draw contact, but if he's on he can get into the lane and then knock 'em down from the stripe.

3. Keep an eye on the arc. Like any mid-major does, the Cyclones love the three ball. 385 of their 984 field goal attempts have been from three – equating to just over 39%. For reference, ours is right at 30%. And a team like Missouri that's designed to shoot a lot of them is just under 33%. So Iowa State loves the three ball – and they go through about 36% of the time so they're not just chucking and hoping for the best. If you leave them open, they'll make you pay.

The primary threat is their German, Lucca Staiger. He's shot 110 of them (82% of his shots) and converted nearly 43% of the time. The obvious defense here is to have Brady chase him around, slip past screens and deny him the ball. He's been able to do it against much better athletes in Budinger and Carter, so I like to think he'll be up to the task. What I worry about is how Tyrel does when Brady is getting a breather. The other starter that can hurt you is Bryan Peterson. He doesn't shoot quite as many (78) and he doesn't convert them as often (35%) – but they still account for over 80% of his total shots. Off the bench, they have Eikmeier (33%), Haluska (35%) and Vanderbeken (40%). The first two are identical and will just run around out there. Vanderbeken is 6'11" and will kind of drift out, but certainly shouldn't be ignored because he can knock them down.

If the Hawks can do these three things defensively, they'll control this game and the Cyclones won't ever be able to get much going on this end of the floor. Offensively, we should expect to go through some lulls and obviously they'll be slowing the pace down on both ends of the floor – probably only sending one or two to the offensive glass so the rest can get back in transition. True, they haven't played a plethora of great teams, but they've only been blown out once (@ Missouri) and even then, the high scoring Tigers only reached 77 points after being held to 29 in the first half. So we're not going to have our way entirely and we'll need to stay within our offense to make sure we're as efficient as possible, because we're not going to see much man-to-man tomorrow.

This means constant movement, good solid (non-moving) screens, finding Cole, and most importantly, getting the ball in the middle of their zone. I'm sure the Cyclones will try to deny Cole touches as everyone does, but we need to make smart entry passes and let him dominate as much as possible. Hamilton may have the size to match up, but he doesn't have the wherewithal and I'd be shocked if they ever had Brackins on him in a man setting. A big part of even getting Cole in position where he can do some damage though is finding the soft spot of the zone. From there, we need to knock down a shot, toss it over to Cole or kick it out to shooters - this is an area that I think suits Mario Little perfectly. The final piece of that puzzle would entail knocking down the shots, which sometimes can be tricky with that Hilton Magic shit they've got going on over there. We've won there 4 straight times, but never by more than 10 points ('05-'06), so this would be a great win for the young Hawks.

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