Iowa State is 5-0 for the 4th time in seven seasons and the Cyclones will look to make that 6-0 against yet another plucky mid-major on Tuesday night. North Dakota State comes into tonight's match up at 4-1 and has played in consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
About the Bison
The Bison's lone loss came to Illinois, who wasn't quite at full strength when they squared off back on November 15th. The Illini are the only Power 5 opponent North Dakota State has faced as their schedule has been fairly light to date. Iowa State is 4-0 all-time against the Bison and these two teams last met back in 2010.
Steve Prohm elected to go with a small-ball line up in crunch time of Iowa State's win over Illinois on Saturday, primarily because it was working so well, but it may have coincidentally helped prepped the Cyclones for a Bison rotation that really doesn't feature a significant contributor taller than 6'6". The fact that Dave Richman's team has gone small has made them tougher to guard, but Iowa State is uniquely positioned to match up with that type of rotation.
That being said, the Cyclones will have their hands full slowing down Paul Miller. The 6'5" sophomore can really fill it up and is averaging 19.6 points per game thus far. He's also a major threat from deep, hitting 38.2% of his outside looks.
A.J. Jacobson and Malik Clements (both sophomores) are the other two Bison that average double figures in scoring. Both will chuck it from deep, but neither is shooting better than 32% from 3-point range.
Dexter Werner is the lone true post player that sees significant time and at 6'6" 240-pounds, is a load to keep off the glass. Werner is posting averages of 9.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per night. 6'4" senior, Kory Brown, is actually leading the Bison in rebounding, pulling down 6.5 boards a game and played 33 minutes in North Dakota State's upset of Oklahoma in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
As a team the Bison have been excellent defensively, which is a hallmark of a better mid-major program. North Dakota State ranks 34th nationally in adjusted deficiency efficiency and has been above average when it comes to forcing turnovers.
Offensively, few teams in the country do as good of a job when it comes to valuing possessions. The Bison have the 13th best turnover rate in college basketball. Unfortunately, North Dakota State's lack of size has really hurt them on the glass and they're not a threat at all when it comes to crashing the offensive glass.
So Who Wins?
Though only employing a 7-man rotation, Steve Prohm has been awfully creative when it comes to utilizing versatile line ups. Iowa State has played long stretches without Abdel Nader or Georges Niang, who've been prone to committing a few too many fouls and on Saturday night, Jameel McKay sat the final 12 minutes of the game as Prohm rode a small-ball line up to victory.
The chemistry on the court has been magnificent of late and though it's only been 5 games, Iowa State is winning games in just about every way imaginable. Iowa State was red hot from deep in its two games prior, but went cold on Saturday night, hitting just 6-25 from outside against the Illini. It didn't matter as Iowa State's guards got into the paint with ease and Abdel Nader did a little bit of everything in the second half to secure the victory.
Lazy analysts have suggested that Iowa State lives and dies by the 3-point shot in recent years, but with this year's team (and actually the last two years as well), few teams have been better about generating points in the paint. Look no further than the fact that Iowa State is 14th in the country in 2-point field goal percentage for proof.
Ken Pomeroy's site is suggesting that North Dakota State is actually the second best team Iowa State has faced this season and is predicting a 12-point victory. There could be a let-down factor in play with this game, but this Iowa State machine is too efficient and too overwhelming to be stopped by the likes of the Bison.
Iowa State 85 - North Dakota State 66
Tip: 7 p.m. CST
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here