The #21 Cyclones are leaving the still-echoing halls of Hilton Coliseum for the first time this season, traveling to the caffeine free lands of Provo, Utah, to take on a high-scoring BYU team. The Cougars are lighting up the scoreboard in spectacular fashion and will provide quite the test to an Iowa State team that struggled on the road a season ago.
In what seems like a developing theme, BYU's best player, Tyler Haws, is expected to return from an abdominal strain that kept him out of the last two games. Haws is one of the most gifted scorers in the country. Seriously, I haven't seen a cougar score like this since Mrs. Robinson. For the last two years, this is a guy that you would just throw Chris Babb on and not worry about it. Unfortunately, this team doesn't have that luxury. Coming into the year, it was said that Naz Long (AKA 3sus of Nazareth) was to be the team's top perimeter defender, but Dustin Hogue proved on Sunday that he's no slouch on that end either. With the Top Defender Belt still up for grabs, look for both Long and Hogue to split time checking Haws with occasional cameos by DeAndre Kane.
How About Haws' Running Mates?
This Cougar team is far from a one-trick pony as five players are averaging at least 12 points per game through four contests. They'll go anywhere from 8-10 deep and feature a couple gunners who aren't afraid to let it fly from deep. Junior guards Matt Carlino and Anson Winder are each averaging at least 4 3-point attempts per game and while neither is shooting at a great clip (20% for Carlino & 31.3% for Winder), they have to be accounted for on the perimeter.
Aside from Haws, the guy that has really stood out to me though, is 6'6" Kyle Collinsworth. The sophomore wing is a triple-double threat every night out and is one of those guys who does everything well.
BYU is led inside by the steady duo of Nate Austin and Eric Mika. Austin will do more of the dirty work while Mika has shown a nice scoring touch. At 6'11" and 6'9" respectively, we know that length will again be a challenge to Iowa State's small-ball line up, but neither Austin nor Mika is going to bang inside like last year's post star, Brandon Davies.
You Like Numbers?
Tough to really know if BYU's offensive prowess is for real or not. They're #1 in the country according to kempom.com in adjusted tempo, meaning they're going to push the ball, yet despite that pace, they're only turning it over on 12% of their possessions, good for 11th in the country. BYU has also been incredibly efficient, also coming in at 11th in the nation in adjusted efficiency.
If you like points, this is a game you'll enjoy. I don't know if tonight's game is going to replicate BYU's net-blazing 112-103 win over Stanford, but we all know that Iowa State under Fred Hoiberg can score with the best of them. ISU shouldn't have too much trouble keeping pace as Iowa State also ranks among the best teams in college basketball in adjusted tempo (#46), adjusted efficiency (#24) and effecitve FG% (#13). I was just as surprised to find this as you might be to read it, but it would appear that BYU hasn't faced a team of Iowa State's caliber defensively. The Cyclones are 10th in the country in opponent 2-point FG% (36.4%) and 12 in opponent's effective FG% (38.5%).
Perhaps the most important number Iowa State has to worry about though, is 22,700. That is the listed capacity of the Marriott Center where BYU calls home. Cougar students have yet to go on Thanksgiving break and with a ranked team coming into Provo, BYU coach Dave Rose is expecting a full house.
So Who Wins?
Is this a winnable game for Iowa State? Absolutely. Will they win? I have no freaking clue. What I'm curious to see is whether or not Melvin Ejim was playing on adrenaline alone on Sunday afternoon. I want to see how his knee responded to 30+ minutes and only two days off. And how do freshmen Monte Morris and Matt Thomas bounce back after lack luster efforts against Michigan? Was it just an off night for the young duo or is the better competition going to be an issue for this pair?
If Iowa State is going to win, Georges Niang has to remain on the floor. Niang has spent the better portion of the first three games seated next to The Mayor due to foul trouble. On the road, your best players have to step up and this is a chance for Niang to build off that clutch finish against Michigan and be Iowa Stat's rock on the road. If he can play like the star he is, I think this is a game Iowa State wins comfortably. If he gets into early foul trouble and forces the action, it's going to be a struggle.
This is Iowa State's first big road test and we just saw the #7 team in the country go into a similarly hostile environment and wilt down the stretch. I want to believe Iowa State can win this game, but winning on the road in college basketball is incredibly difficult and without seeing how this team responds to that type of adversity yet, I have to go with BYU.
BYU 85 - Iowa State 81
Tip: 8:30 PM CST
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
BYU's SBN Site: Vanquish the Foe
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here