Friday, March 28th 2014
Can you believe it was nearly eight months ago when we last saw Iowa State play a game that counted? In some respects, it seems like an eternity ago. Then again, it seems like it was just yesterday.
For many Cyclone fans, that Sweet 16 loss to UConn didn't represent the end of a season, but merely brought on a brief intermission in what has become a building mega-feature that is hopefully moving toward a powerful crescendo in just a few short months.
You see, while the nation may have thought they'd seen the last of Cyclone basketball for a while, we all knew better. Losing to the Huskies without the services of Georges Niang was a cliff hanger and now, just in time for the fall sweeps, Fred Hoiberg and his high-powered offensive juggernaut look to advance the series and further the critical acclaim.
It all starts tonight as Iowa State welcomes in Oakland, who will take their licks (and their paycheck) and become an unceremonious footnote in what could be a celebrated season in Cyclone land. The journey, or perhaps more appropriately, the process, begins here.
If you were expecting to learn more than you ever cared to know about the University of Oakland...or Oakland University, then let me apologize because you won't be finding that here. In fact, I'm pretty much basing this entire preview on a short paragraph in the Sporting News college basketball preview magazine that I bought a few weeks back. Unfortunately, my wife only allowed me to buy one magazine this year, otherwise I might have two short paragraphs to go on. (Important note: I opted for the Sporting News edition because Georges Niang was on the cover).
Anyway, back to Oakland...
The Golden Grizzlies joined the Horizon League last year, proving that the effects of conference realignment trickled down to the little guys. Aside from being the conference with the most optimistic sounding name (depending on how you feel about "The Big 12"...if ya know what I mean), the Horizon League has also been known to produce quality basketball teams. Sadly, "quality" is not a word anyone would have used to describe Oakland a season ago as the Grizzlies finished just 13-20.
Coach Greg Kampe's team faced the likes of North Carolina, UCLA, Cal, Gonzaga, Indiana and Michigan State in the non conference portion of last year's schedule. The average margin of defeat in those six losses was just over 17 points per game, although they did only lose by four to both Cal and Michigan State. The challenging early slate contributed to Oakland's 0-7 start.
The good news for Iowa State is that Oakland lost Travis Bader to graduation from last year's team. Bader was arguably one of the more well-known and established scorers in the low-major ranks. This year's team will likely feature Corey Petros. The 6'10" senior scored 13.3 PPG and pulled down 8 boards per contest a season ago.
Kahlil Felder would appear to be the other featured scorer on this team, at least if we're going off of Oakland's two exhibition contests. Felder scored 26 points against Ferris State (SAVE FERRIS) and had 21 against Saint Xavier, which may or may not be a collection of the best seven or eight guys that a local Catholic parish could field.
Oakland is a team that likes to get up and down and Iowa State will be happy to oblige that type of pace on Friday night and if this turns into a track meet, the Grizzlies could be in serious trouble. Last year, Oakland struggled mightily on the defensive end, yielding a woeful 39.3% 3PT shooting from their opponents (344th nationally) and allowing their competition to hit 55.8% of their looks inside the arc (345th nationally). Oakland also fell in the bottom 50 teams in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency (all stats courtesy of kenpom.com).
This would lead one to believe that their pace of play was both a blessing and a curse, but mainly a hexing, voodoo Gypsy curse.
Offensively, Oakland did take care of the ball, turning it over on only 16.1% of their possessions (43rd nationally) and was among the top 100 teams in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency and three-point shooting. A big part of that can be attributed to Bader, who thankfully ran out of eligibility, but entering his 31st season on the Oakland sideline, Kampe surely knows how to plug-and-play at this point.
So What Happens?
Given Oakland's tempo preference and looking at what they did well a season ago, Iowa State's game plan should be relatively simple; limit second-chance opportunities, take care of the ball and take what they give you. Sounds easy enough, right?
The simple fact is that it probably should be, but Iowa State isn't playing at full strength and Oakland might just be salty enough to stick around for a good chunk of the first half, but this one should be wrapped up early into the second half.
If you're into such things, kenpom.com ($) has the Cyclones winning 90-73 and gives The Mayor's crew a 92% win probability. A fair prediction I'd say, but I think the margin of victory will be much more comfortable.
In the exhibition annihilation of Viterbo, Iowa State showed a very balanced offensive attack in what brief time the starters were on the floor. I'd imagine that type of diversified scoring attack to show up again tonight with 5-6 guys getting into double figures and nobody breaking the 20-point threshold.
Iowa State will break this one open in the second half with one of those 25-5 runs (SPURTABILITY™) and Cyclone fans will actually get to toast to a victory for the first time in a while.
Iowa State 94 - Oakland 66
Tip: 7:00 PM CST
TV/Webcast: Available via Cyclones.TV
Radio: As always, John Walters and Eric Heft will be gracing the airwaves.
Oakland SBN Site: Haha...just kidding. But if you really want to read up on Oakland, here's a link to their athletics web site (Horizon League champs in men's soccer!).
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Click here for your reading pleasure