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Basketball Preview: We’re Talking Vanderbilt

Iowa State steps out of conference play for a day as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State travels to Nashville today to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Cyclones are 2-1 in the Challenge with wins at home over Auburn and Arkansas, with the lone loss coming last season at Texas A&M. Vanderbilt is led by Bryce Drew, the brother of Baylor head coach, Scott Drew. Steve Prohm has never defeated Bryce Drew (0-3), but the two will meet for the first time as leaders of power five programs. For what it’s worth, Prohm is also 0-3 against Scott Drew. Iowa State holds a 4-3 record in seven matchups against the Commodores, but the two sides haven’t played since 1985.

Last Time Out

Both teams blew second half leads in their last games, the difference is the Cyclones eventually took down Kansas State, while Vanderbilt blew a 15-point, second half lead at home to Arkansas.

About Vanderbilt

So what are the Cyclones facing? Statistically, this Vanderbilt team ranks near Oklahoma. They feature the 41st ranked offense and 123rd ranked defense per Kenpom. They shoot extremely well both from behind the three-point line and at the free throw line.

The Commodores are 8th in the country in percentage of scoring coming from long range at 40.7%. While Vanderbilt does have some length in the front court, including 7’1” center, Luke Kornet, they only score 38.9% of their points inside the arc and shoot just 47.8% (227th).

Defensively, they don’t force a lot of turnovers, but they do play more of a compact, amoeba style, similar to what the Cyclones have seen from Baylor. Iowa State will have it’s chances to make shots, but they must be steadfast in getting the shots they want, not the shots that the defense gives them.

Players to Watch

Neither coach is married to their starting lineup, meaning we’ll see quite a few faces in this game. The only two Commodores that present serious height issues for the Cyclones are the aforementioned Luke Kornet at 7’1” and reserve Djery Baptise at 6’10”. The problem for Iowa State will be the length of some of Vanderbilt’s guards.

Outside of Riley LaChance, every player Vanderbilt throws out there will be 6’4” or taller. When Iowa State goes into the paint they’ll have to navigate longer players and must create space with the body to get shots off on the interior. While they’ve been suspect defensively, we’ve seen Iowa State settle for poor shots against longer opponents. The best recipe for success would be very similar to what we saw against Kansas State where Iowa State was able to get out and run early before the defense got set.

The Commodores are fairly balanced offensively, with Matthew Fisher-Davis leading the way. I would expect Naz Mitrou-Long to start with the responsibility on Fisher-Davis and if he gets going as he can, Nick Weiler-Babb may have to step in and play some big minutes. The guy I’m going to keep my eye on though is starting point guard Riley LaChance. Riley is 2nd nationally, shooting 53.7% (43/80) from long range on the season. Monte cannot lose him at the three-point line. For reference, Matt Thomas leads Iowa State at 39.8% (45/113).

What to Expect

I’m expecting to see a game of runs. With Vanderbilt relying heavily on scoring from long range and Iowa State prone to spells of offensive ineptitude, I’m fully expecting a game full of 10-12 point runs and countless lead changes. The Commodores are fully capable of filling it up quickly at times, so it’ll be important for Iowa State to consistently get good looks and force some turnovers to negate some of the streakiness.

Pick 3

  1. Both teams hold double digit leads at some point
  2. Teams combine for 17 made 3’s
  3. Iowa State forces 20 turnovers

Iowa State - 77; Vanderbilt - 75

Game Notes

Game Time: Saturday, January 28th, 3:00 p.m. CST

Line Open: Iowa State (-2); O/U (141.5)

The Foe: Anchor of Gold

TV/Webcast: ESPN2/WatchESPN (Dave Neal, John Sundvold)

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network/TuneIn Radio App (John Walters, Eric Heft) Game Notes: Available here