Iowa State is going to be tested on Monday night. Boasting road wins over both Georgia and Illinois, Chattanooga will not be intimidated coming into Hilton Coliseum to face the #7 Cyclones (ranking current as of publish time).
Tonight's game will be Iowa State's final tune up before hitting the road for the Emerald Coast Classic, where the Cyclones will face Virginia Tech on Friday.
About the Mocs
On the surface, the wins over Illinois and Georgia look awfully impressive. Sure, the Illini were down a few guys due to injuries, but these are still wins over solid competition on the road (the game with Illinois was technically at a neutral site).
The Mocs returned four starters from a team that went 22-10 overall and 15-3 in conference play a year ago. They're led by wing Casey Jones (no, not that Casey Jones), who's averaging 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest this year. The 6'5" Jones was a first team all-conference selection last year.
Inside, the Mocs rely on 6'10" Justin Tuoyo to protect the rim. Tuoyo was the defensive player of the year in the SoCon last year and is blocking 2.7 shots per game so far this season.
Greg Pryor and Eric Robertson are the other two returning starters with the former handling lead guard duties. Through three games, Pryor is dishing out 4 assists a night. The pair is a combined 15-31 from outside on the year.
Chattanooga isn't afraid to push the pace offensively and is a very adept team when it comes to outside shooting. The team as a whole is knocking down 40% of their 3-point attempts and is in the top 50 nationally with and eFG% of 55.9%. The Mocs, however, have turned it over on 22% of all possessions, which could be a recipe for disaster against an Iowa State unit that thrives off of live-ball turnovers.
The good news is that the Mocs have basically cancelled out their give-aways by forcing opponents into turnovers 23.3% of the time. Chattanooga plays an aggressive man-to-man defensive scheme and is now under the tutelage of Matt McCall, who was an assistant at Florida under Billy Donovan.
To date, the Mocs have simply been able to outscore opponents, but they've yet to face an offensive juggernaut like Iowa State. Opponents have posted an eFG% of 59.4% against the Mocs, which is one of the worst marks in the country.
So Who Wins?
We still don't have a large enough sample size to say definitively, but through two games, all that talk about improvement on the defensive end doesn't appear to be pre-season filler. Iowa State has been excellent on that end of the floor, holding its first two opponents to sub-40% shooting. If that continues on Monday evening, the Cyclones should win easily.
This is a break game, meaning that the students will not be in attendance, which is somewhat of a concern, but Hilton will still be packed, just with a different atmosphere.
Steve Prohm has held steady to a 7-man rotation in both games and I don't imagine him deviating from that tonight, even though the Mocs will play 9-10 guys. That being said, with some heavy hitters coming up on the schedule, it wouldn't shock me to see either Simeon Carter or Brady Ernst get a few minutes with the starters at some point tonight.
Expect Iowa State to be tested, especially early, but in the end, the Mocs have no answer for Iowa State's overwhelming talent advantage.
Iowa State 88 - Chattanooga 71
Tip: 7 p.m. CST
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here
***Additional Non-Conference Schedule Note***
Coming into the year, we talked about how Iowa State had a sneaky-tough non-conference schedule and through about a week of action, that is becoming more and more apparent by the day. Over the weekend, Northern Iowa topped #1 North Carolina at home. The Tar Heels were without senior star, Marcus Paige, but that was still an excellent win for the Panthers.
Wes Washpun is one of the more underrated guards in the country and with an excellent surrounding cast in the back court, the Panthers are going to be yet another tough out. Iowa State squares off against UNI on December 19th at the Hy-Vee Big 4 Classic in Des Moines. Deonte Burton will be eligible for that game.
Cincinnati and Texas A&M, who were both fringe top-25 teams coming into the year are destroying their competition. Neither team has really played anyone with a pulse yet, but they certainly look the part thus far. The Cyclones will face both the Bearcats and Aggies on the road.
Finally, I had a chance to watch some of Iowa's game at Marquette last Thursday and came away impressed with the Hawkeyes. Granted, this Marquette team is exceptionally bad, but Iowa thoroughly dominated the young Golden Eagles in their own gym.