So Iowa State has laid waste to a couple chumps, so what? Now comes the big show. On Sunday, the Cyclones will host #7 Michigan in what is one of the most anticipated non-conference home games in years. Last year's national runner-ups will roll into Ames with one thing on their minds: destruction. ISU will certainly have their hands full and for a young and inexperienced team and this game will be their welcome to college basketball moment.
We'll talk more about that game on Friday, though. In the mean time, I'd like to talk about what we've seen through two games. UNC-Wilmington and Texas A&M Corpus Christi are...well, shitty. Despite that fact we've seen and learned a great deal about this team through two games and here's some early impressions.
These Guys Can Shoot
You had to wonder how well this team was going to be able to stroke it after losing a stable of quality shooters from last year's team that led the nation in made threes per game. After two contests, I'm far less concerned. The overall numbers are bolstered by Naz Long's 8-11 performance from deep against UNCW, but Matt Thomas, Monte Morris and Dustin Hogue have all shown an ability to step out and knock down shots. ISU is 25-57 through two games and is among the top teams nationally in made threes, three-point shots attempted and percentage of points from outside.
We know this team is going to hoist the long bombs. What I'm curious to see is how well guys like Long and Morris can shoot over the course of the season. I have no doubt about how well Thomas can shoot it, but if Long, Morris and Georges Niang can be consistent threats as well, this team might approach last year's prolific numbers.
How About Those Young Guards
It would appear that Thomas and Morris are ready-made ballplayers that won't struggle to adjust to the college game. Thomas has been exceptional on the offensive end of the floor. He's made the right play nearly every time the ball has been in his hands and is proving to be more than just a spot-up shooter. His passing has been superb and his shot-fake and mid range game add yet another headache for opponents to prepare for. He spent four years in high school as the offensive focal point and that allowed him to develop into a complete offensive player and boy is it showing.
As for Morris, this kid is a playmaker. I watched him this summer and worried that his thin frame wouldn't allow him to be a factor right away, but he's too good to keep off the floor. He probably won't work his way into the starting line up this season, but he's going to play starter minutes. When he's in the game, DeAndre Kane can move off the ball and Fred Hoiberg has two guys capable of running the show. This has led to plenty of run-outs and fast breaks that weren't there a year ago.
While not a freshman, Long deserves a mention as well. He's developed into a cagey perimeter defender and if he keeps shooting it like he has, he might end up being one of the biggest surprises in the conference at year's end. I'll be eager to see if he can maintain this hot start.
Kane and Hogue Ain't No Bustas
I don't know how else to say it, other than coming right out and saying that DeAndre Kane and Dustin Hogue play like grown-ass men. Each guy just gets after it. With the way he plays, Kane isn't always going to make it pretty, but he's going to attack the basket whenever the ball is in his hands and he's perfectly suited to get the opposition in foul trouble with his relentless will to score in the paint. He's already shown what made him a stat-sheet stuffer at Marshall and he's a triple-double threat each night out. You're looking at the Big 12's Newcomer of the Year.
Hogue has been one of the best surprises through two games. He's a tweener and while he doesn't necessarily have a defined position, he fills a role, which might be his best attribute. With Melvin Ejim out, he's stepping into that role (quite well I might add) and producing. When Ejim returns, he'll either come off the bench or maybe even move away from the basket, giving ISU a true slasher.
Daniel Edozie is another guy that has made fans and possibly even the coaching staff take notice. I wasn't shy about my doubts of Edozie's skill when watching him in CCL action this summer, but as all of us often forget, there's a reason we're fans and not coaches. To be honest though, I'm not even sure that Hoiberg expected Edozie to play significant minutes this year. Leading up to the season, it almost seemed that The Mayor was pushing for Percy Gibson to be ISU's first post off the bench, but with Percy Gibson unfortunately still doing Percy Gibson things, Edozie might have played himself into the regular rotation. This will be an interesting storyline to watch develop, but I've got nothing but good things to say about Edozie's effort thus far.
The Heart and Soul
This team will only go as far as Georges Niang takes them. Kane and Ejim are very talented athletes that should have stellar senior years, but this is Niang's team. I think that's showing in Niang's game after two games as well. According to kenpom.com, Niang is leading Iowa State in percentage of possessions used and is among the top 50 nationally in that category (well, he's #51, but that's close enough). With his skill set, that's where he should be. At times, he's pressing and maybe even forcing it, but with Niang's basketball smarts and Hoiberg's individual approach to setting up his stars to succeed, I'm not worried one bit about a sophomore slump.
The Missing Ingredient
Watching ISU on Sunday and Tuesday, I had to keep reminding myself that this team is playing without Ejim. I was downright terrified about the thought of replacing everything Ejim does while he's out, but this team has responded. The guards and Hogue have picked up the rebounding slack, Long has shown that he's worthy of being a starter and Edozie has earned some minutes that he maybe wouldn't have otherwise seen and has made the most of them. Once Ejim comes back, somebody will have to go to the bench, but that will only bolster what looks like a deeper team that some originally thought.
We'll talk more about the Michigan game on Friday, but in the mean time, we'd love to hear your thoughts on what you've seen through two games. Who's stood out? What's impressed you? What are some concerns?