No. 4 Iowa State travels to Niceville, Florida to kick off the Emerald Coast Classic against Virginia Tech. This will be the second neutral site game for the Cyclones, having already knocked off Colorado in their opener.
The Hokies come into the match up at 3-1 with their lone blemish happening in their opener against Alabama State. Buzz Williams' crew has ripped off three straight since that embarrassing loss, but Iowa State will be the first team they've faced from a Power 5 conference.
About the Hokies
Coming off an 11-22 campaign in his first season in Blacksburg, vast improvement was expected out of Buzz Williams' program in year two. Dropping the opener against Alabama State didn't exactly represent progress.
Nonetheless, Williams has injected a major talent upgrade into the Virginia Tech program and through four games, the Hokies are being led by a trio of newcomers. Seth Allen (Maryland) and Zach LeDay (South Florida) transferred into the program and freshman forward Chris Clarke was a nice signee from the prep ranks.
LeDay has been especially impressive, averaging 20 points and 11.5 rebounds in the first four contests. The 6'7" junior was one rebound short of posting a double-double in every contest to date.
Allen was a high-end starter at Maryland and averaged 13.4 points during his sophomore campaign in College Park. He's been a little shaky thus far, but is still posting 11 points per contest, but is doing so while shooting a woeful 32.4% from the field, which includes 27.8% shooting from outside. He's also averaging 3.5 turnovers per game while only dishing out 2.5 assists.
The 6'6" Clarke has scored in double figures each game and is averaging 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds a night.
Justin Bibbs, a 6'5" sophomore, is the 4th Hokie averaging double figures and has been their best outside shooter, hitting 8-12 from deep thus far.
Inside, the Hokies are using the combination of 7'0" Johnny Hamilton and 6'10" Kerry Blackshear Jr. The latter averages about 8 minutes per game and is scoring 6.3 points per game while also pulling down 6 rebounds a night. Hamilton isn't far off that pace, putting up 5.5 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. He's also the better rim protector of the two, blocking 1.8 shots per game.
6'8" senior forward, Shane Henry, has actually started all four games for Virginia Tech, but is only averaging 10.8 minutes per game and is largely a non-factor. Justin Robinson has started the last three contests and the freshman point guard is leading the team with 3.8 assists per game.
It's tough to trust the numbers considering Virginia Tech has played four nobodies to date, but the Hokies might be a solid team defensively. They haven't forced turnovers, but their opponent's eFG% of 41.1% is 27th nationally.
Offensively, the Hokies are turning it over on more than 20% of their possessions and they've been abysmal shooting from outside, knocking down only 28.3% of their 3-point attempts. One thing this team has done exceptionally well at is getting to the line. They have the best free throw attempt rate in the country at this point in the season.
So Who Wins?
Virginia Tech has played all four games at home and this will be the first contest away from the friendly confines of Blacksburg. Iowa State won't enjoy the same type of pro-Cyclone crowd that they had in Sioux Falls against Colorado, but they've at least experienced playing away from home, which could prove to be a huge advantage.
Iowa State has held all three opponents it's faced to under 40% shooting and according to kenpom.com, has the 18th best adjusted defensive efficiency ranking nationally. I mentioned VT's reliance on getting to the line, but Iowa State has been just as impressive when it comes to limiting free throw attempts, with opponents being held to the second lowest free throw rate nationally.
Much has been made about a possible rematch with UAB on Saturday, but Iowa State will need a focused effort to put away the Hokies on Friday night. Given that the Cyclones have already faced a Power 5 opponent away from home and easily dispatched a plucky mid-major, I think Iowa State should be able to put this game out of reach early.
Look for the Hokies to show a spirited effort early on, but they're no match for Iowa State's overwhelming talent advantage. The Cyclones bury Virginia Tech in the second half and move to 4-0.
Iowa State 84 - Virginia Tech 68
Tip: 6 p.m. CST
TV: CBS Sports Net
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here
Virginia Tech SB Nation Site: Gobbler Country