Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mini-preview: Iowa State

As I prepared to write this, I began to realize that we (or I) know very little about several Big XII teams at this point in the season. I say that because Iowa State scares me – they've got some nice pieces, they're well coached, and they've even got quality depth. For all these reasons, they were able to beat Oregon State and play Texas to 8 points in Austin. And yet, despite all of these reasons, they've lost to Hawaii, Drake, Iowa, South Dakota State, & were run off the floor by Missouri. If you can explain that, by all means...

More so than any other team in the league, Iowa State is dependent on one player every time out if they're going to compete. In all but two games, Craig Brackins has been in double figures. He came up short against SIU Edwardsville (win) and also against Iowa (16 point loss). We saw plenty of glimpses from him a year ago, but Brackins has clearly elevated his game and is currently working on averages of 18 points and 9 boards. I'll still never understand how such a heralded recruit from California ended up in Ames, but since he did the rest of the league will have to make do. At 6'10" 230 he's already got an NBA body and his game isn't far behind. He has good range out to 16-18 feet, but he shouldn't extend much past that – though he will (attempted a three in all but one game). In addition to his range, he also has some decent post moves and will use his athleticism to take guys off the dribble. He'll be a tough match-up every time out and he's capable of completely taking a game over, but if you make him work for his points he can be frustrated into a poor shooting performance.

Beyond Brackins, they're mostly complimentary, but PG Diante Garrett stands out above the others. Like Brackins, he's young and fits the mold physically (6'4 180) and really has no place being in Ames. The important thing when playing Garret is to cut off his driving lanes. He's not a great outside shooter and, surprisingly, he knows it – so he wants to take you off the dribble and either finish in the lane or dish out to one of his shooters. He's a bit of a do-everything in that he's averaging 11 points, 5 assists and 4 boards and he's capable of taking a game over, but like his teammate he can be frustrated into an inefficient night if you play solid defense on him.

The other three starters are Lucca Staiger, Bryan Peterson and Justin Hamilton. Though his stats aren't gaudy, Peterson is McDermott's third guy and is a poor man's Justin Mason. He'll guard you, he can handle the ball, he gets nearly 5 rebounds a game (at 6'1") and has the ability to hit the three (35%) though it's not his strength and if you can keep him behind the arc you've done your job. Staiger, on the other hand is their marksman. For the year, the German is a shade below 43% and that's on over 6 attempts a game. For comparison, for the entire year he's attempted 24 shots inside the arc and a total of 6 free throws, so this is not the guy to leave by himself behind the arc. In the loss at Drake he was 8/11 so if he gets rolling, watch out. As for Hamilton, there really isn't much to say about him. He's huge for a freshman (6'11" 255) and he hits most of the shots he takes (63%) but still only scores 5 points a game and finds his way to just over 3 boards. He'll start the game, but he'll get replaced early and often.

His most common replacement is Alex Thompson who doesn't bring a lot to the table either. A senior, he entered the season with career averages of about 2 & 2. This season he's enjoyed the fruits of his summer labor to bump those marks up to 3 & 3 and actually, he's seen his minutes get cut down since the start of conference play. The other three you'll see are: Haluska, Eikmeier, & Vanderbeken. The first two are basically the same player and, like Staiger, you should just expect them to come in and start firing from deep – though neither is especially accurate (Eikmeier @ 33%, Haluska @ 35%). And despite being 6'11" you might get the same out of Vanderbeken. In his limited play he actually rebounds well (3.2) and while over half of his attempts have been threes, he hits them at a 40% clip so he shouldn't be left alone.

Opponents have a couple of keys here and they aren't tough to decipher. First and foremost, make Brackins work for his points. If you have the ability to double the post, do that, but if not make sure you're finding a way to make him earn his 18 & 9. Secondly, don't let Garrett get into the lane. He can't beat you from outside, but he can finish in traffic and find the open man if he's getting past the first line of defense. Other than that, don't leave Staiger wide open and play good enough offense to shoot a good percentage and the pieces will fall into place.

Up next: Texas Tech

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