Survive and advance. Everyone is saying it and on Monday night, it couldn't possibly be more true for #14 Iowa State. The Cyclones welcome in a dangerous Georgia State team that is more than capable of going a full 40 minutes with Fred Hoiberg's crew, especially with Matt Thomas and Abdel Nader serving the last of a three-game suspension.
The Panthers figure to be among the best mid-majors in the country this year and are a heavy favorite to easily waltz through the Sun Belt for a second straight year. Georgia State won their opener on Friday night, 115-55 over Tennessee Temple.
About Georgia State
It's rare that you find such a concentrated collection of high-major talent at a school like Georgia State, but the Panthers boast what could be one of the better back courts in the country with the trio of R.J. Hunter, Ryan Harrow and Kevin Ware.
The 6'6" Hunter is on the radar of many NBA scouts and is an explosive scorer with excellent outside range. He scored 24 points and dished out 8 assists in the opener while also knocking down 5-9 from deep. As a sophomore, he averaged 18.3 points per game and connected at a rate of 39.5% from 3-point range. He can fill it up with the best of them and just might be good enough to leave for the NBA draft after his junior campaign.
Harrow's name may sound familiar as he was a 5-star prospect out of high school that signed with North Carolina State. He spent one unceremonious year in Raleigh before transferring to Kentucky. His lone season in Lexington was problematic at best, as he became the face and even the scapegoat of a Wildcat team that grossly underachieved and ended up losing to Robert Morris in the first round of that year's NIT. In his first season with Georgia State, though, Harrow finally found a place that fit. The point man for the Panther's high-scoring attack, Harrow scored 17.8 points per game and dished out 4.2 assists per contest last year. Much more of a slasher than Hunter, Harrow does most of his damage in the paint. He'll take his looks from outside, but was only a 28.8% shooter from 3-point range a season ago. Harrow scored 25 points in the opener. Both Harrow and Hunter do an excellent job of taking care of the ball as both ranked among the top 55 in the country in turnover rate last season.
The third part of the triad is Ware. Don't worry, I'm not going to link to his freak injury from two years ago when he was with Louisville, but suffice to say, after that horrifying fall, it's good to see the young man back on the floor. He tried to make a comeback with the Cardinals last year, but it wasn't meant to be. Now, he looks to get his career back on track at Georgia State and resurrect what had the makings of a promising college player. Ware didn't put up impressive stats by any means, but was a key guy off the bench for that Louisville team that ended up winning the national championship. He played 28 minutes on Friday night, scoring 12 points, grabbing 6 rebounds and handing out 5 assists.
The Panthers aren't quite as dangerous inside, but given how much success Oakland's Corey Petros had against Iowa State on Friday night, interior defense has to be a concern. In their win on Friday, Georgia State played five post players more than 10 minutes with Curtis Washington and T.J. Shipes each reaching double figures in scoring. Washington was the top post player on the roster a year ago, averaging 7.5 PPG and 5.9 rebounds in just about 23 minutes of play. Aside from Washington, the entire post rotation is mostly a collection of role players and space eaters.
As a team, Georgia State put up gaudy numbers a year ago, but I'm not going to bother breaking them down as those stats have to be taken with a huge grain of salt. The Panthers played one of the easiest schedules in the country, squaring off against only three schools from Power 5 conferences (Vanderbilt, Alabama and Clemson), losing all three contests. Still, this is an excellent shooting team that will not turn it over and has the gunners and the ammunition to keep pace with Iowa State.
So What Happens?
Usually in these match ups, it's the depth of the high-major school that is cited as a major advantage, but that's what makes this match up so problematic. If this game were to be played in January or even next week, once Iowa State's (almost) full roster is available, I'd call for a comfortable, yet high-scoring double-digit victory. Given that Iowa State will likely only be playing a 7-man rotation, however, any number of variables can swing the balance closer to even.
Foul trouble is going to be top concern for The Mayor's crew on Monday night. If Daniel Edozie or Sherron Dorsey-Walker have to play 20 minutes or more, Iowa State could be in trouble. I'm willing and open to being surprised by that duo, but neither have proven at this point in their respective careers that they belong on the floor for more than 15 minutes or so each night. Again, this could be a huge opportunity for either to earn some minutes down the road.
If the Cyclones can keep their five starters on the floor and out of foul trouble though, I have little to no doubts that the talent and home-court advantage will win out over the course of the game.
When Iowa State has the ball, they have to attack inside and both Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue have to be isolated in post-ups and clear-outs. Between Niang's endless array of post moves and Hogue's aggressiveness, Georgia State is going to have to commit to double-teaming the post and once that happens, we know just how deadly this team can be when given open looks, cuts and driving lanes on the perimeter.
Bryce Dejean-Jones will need to continue to show the same type of attack that he displayed on Friday and if he can get to the line like he did against Oakland, it can only mean good things as Hunter will likely draw the assignment of checking BDJ.
Even short-handed, this Iowa State roster in this system and especially at home is far too talented not to get their points, which makes ball control that much more critical. You can't give a team of Georgia State's offensive proficiency extra looks. The Cyclones only had 8 turnovers against Oakland and if they can keep it to a similar number on Monday night, they should be okay.
When Georgia State has the ball, the pick-and-roll defense is going to have to be greatly improved from what we saw in the opener. Oakland wasn't good enough to beat Iowa State from deep, but Georgia State is. Defensive rotations are going to be another key as this Georgia State team can really share and move the ball. From a purely man-to-man aspect, I like how Iowa State matches up defensively, as BDJ, Hogue, Naz Long and Dorsey-Walker can all spend time on Hunter and Monte Morris, Long and Dorsey-Walker can rotate on Harrow and Ware.
Hoiberg has talked repeatedly about how BDJ is capable of being a difference maker on the defensive end and he'll get a chance to show that in this contest.
I love the way Morris plays off the ball, but so much of Georgia State's offense runs through Harrow (30% of all possessions a year ago, which was 65th nationally), meaning that for Morris, his top task has to be keeping Harrow in front of him and out of the lane. This truly will be one of the top point guard battles around the nation early in this season.
In case you couldn't tell, I'm awfully nervous about this tilt because Georgia State has the fire power to give them a puncher's chance to hang around. Maybe that's getting too caught up with the Panther's impressive stats (albeit against bad competition) from last year, or maybe it's getting a little overly concerned about the Cyclones' defensive performance on Friday night, but this one has the makings of a 40-minute affair.
In the post-game interviews, the players and staff said all the right things about their defensive effort against Oakland, but now have to go out and show they can put together stops on the floor. I think the effort on that end will be better, but there's just too much talent on the opposition to feel like this one will be a breeze.
Still, this is Hilton Coliseum and unless it says "Kansas" on your jersey, you're not winning in this building. Iowa State hasn't lost a non-conference home game since November 30th, 2011 against Northern Iowa. Since that ill-fated game, ISU has rattled off 21-straight non-conference victories at home. Make that 22-straight as Iowa State survives and advances, outlasting and out-talenting Georgia State on Monday night.
Iowa State 86 - Georgia State 77
Tip: 8 PM CST - Hilton Coliseum - Ames, IA
Radio: Cyclones Radio Network
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here
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