A lot of people had this game slated for an Elite Eight matchup on March 27, 2016, but neither team held their own and here we are eight months later, to the day. There are no Elite Eight stakes on the line, but this game certainly does have NCAA Tournament seeding implications. Gonzaga and Iowa State could very well be battling for 3-5 seeds come March, and a head to head matchup on a neutral court in Florida would be a great wildcard to have in your hand.
Iowa State won its first two games with very different scripts, and it will likely have to write a third script to defeat the Zags and bring home another non-conference tournament trophy. Let’s take a quick look at some Kenpom statistical profile numbers.
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: Iowa State - 28; Gonzaga - 15
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: Iowa State - 29; Gonzaga - 28
Looks like we’re in for a good one, no?
Last Time Out
When we last saw the Cyclones, they were displaying defense at levels that were fairly unprecedented in recent memory. Gonzaga has knocked off Quinnipiac and a tough, tough Florida team to reach the championship game.
Gonzaga, is an extremely balanced, talented, and deep team. Through five games, the Zags have had a different leading scorer in each and have five players averaging double digits. Iowa State fans should be familiar with that concept and know just how much pressure that puts on a defense to defend all five positions.
The Bulldogs shoot 54% from two, and 36% from 3. Both respectable figures. They shoot well from the charity stripe, crash the offensive glass and rarely turn the ball over.
Defensively, Gonzaga possesses more size and length than Miami did, which really makes it hard to score inside the arc, where Iowa State would like to get buckets. Iowa State will have to be able to stretch the floor and knock down some perimeter shots, like they did against the Hurricanes, to make room for cutters/drivers.
Players to Watch
Josh Perkins and Jordan Mathews have combined to go 21-45 from long range this season. The frontcourt trio of Johnathan Williams, Przemek Karnowski, and Zach Collins are all bigger than the Darrell Bowie/Merrill Holden duo and all shoot above 57% from the floor. Lastly, Nigel Williams-Goss is a former top-50 high school recruit who has transferred from Washington and while he hasn’t been efficient from 3-point range, yet, he is great at getting to the bucket and getting to the line, where he’s a great shooter.
What to Expect
So how does ISU win? Gonzaga was a little susceptible to transition buckets against Florida. Iowa State doesn’t have the caliber of athletes that Florida has, but the Cyclones can be extremely efficient in transition. Iowa State plays a much quicker tempo than the Zags and if they can push the tempo, that alone can help neutralize some of Gonzaga’s advantage in the post.
Iowa State gives up the most points by via the long ball in the country (44% of points against) and is great defending inside the perimeter. Gonzaga is not as efficient from deep as they are from inside the arc. It’ll be interesting to see which of those trends breaks. If Iowa State can check down on the post aggressively with their guards and force Gonzaga to try and beat them from deep, this game will go down to the wire. If Iowa State tries to defend the posts one on one, they will end up in foul trouble and this game could potentially get ugly. If the game gets to be a track meet, ISU could run away with it. It’s all going to be about tempo and knocking down open shots.
I wouldn’t be shocked if Prohm goes to his small ball lineup a couple times with Deonte Burton at the 5 and Nick Weiler-Babb at the 4. Going to that lineup puts tempo and efficiency against rebounding. If Mark Few doesn’t counter and leaves his bigs in, Iowa State will have to push the tempo more and isolate Burton or Babb with an athleticism advantage on offense, while prioritizing rebounding defensively. If Mark Few takes his bigs out, I like that matchup for Iowa State.
- Jordan Mathews hits >4 triples
- Naz Mitrou-Long hits >4 triples
- Gonzaga gets >12 offensive boards
#21 Iowa State - 73; #11 Gonzaga - 80
Game Time: Sunday, Nov. 27th, 12:30 p.m. CST
Line: Gonzaga (-4); O/U 155
The Foe: The Slipper Still Fits
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network/TuneIn Radio App (Chris Williams, Brent Blum)
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Unavailable