Cyclone Nation is reeling after a frustrating end to the regular season. After losing 5 of 6 games to drop to 9-9 in the Big 12, a trip to the friendly confines of the Sprint Center in Kansas City could be just what the doctor ordered. Zoran Talley has already has made a guarantee:
Zoran Talley: "We’re winning every game. I’m just going to speak it into existence right here and now."— Travis Hines (@TravisHines21) March 13, 2019
How does this team make that a reality? Here’s a few keys to look out for.
1. Marial Shayok’s Health
If it seems obvious to have the team’s leading scorer healthy for the postseason, it’s because it is. The senior is averaging 18.7 points per game, but is coming off a foot injury sustained in practice last week. He played against Texas Tech on Saturday and scored 17 points while looking relatively healthy. He’ll need to be as close to 100% as possible for this team to go on a run. Shayok is the best bet to create offense when things break down. It is apparent to anyone who has watched over the last few weeks that this team is prone to offensive droughts. Iowa State won’t last long in the postseason if they can’t score for 5+ minutes at a time.
2. Defensive Rebounding
I’m not saying that Iowa State needs to out-rebound every team they play from here on out. Their style of play isn’t conducive to dominating the boards. Michael Jacobson, George Conditt, and Cameron Lard(?) will absolutely have to limit 2nd chance points and secure defensive rebounds. Baylor in the first round of the tournament will be a great litmus test, as they rank 2nd in the conference in offensive rebounding. At Hilton Coliseum 3 weeks ago, the Bears grabbed 18 offensive rebounds and were +16 overall in that department.
3. 3 Point Defense
A large part of the Cyclone’s struggles to end the regular season came on the defensive end, and guarding the 3 point line. Opponents have shot better than 40% from 3 over the last 6 games. This isn’t always in the team’s control, and some positive regression is expected at some point, but Iowa State is unique. Opponents have been consistently getting open shots due to defensive breakdowns, and especially after offensive rebounds. In a win-or-go-home situation, closing out on shooters should be a top defensive priority.
Cyclone fans have come to expect great play in Kansas City this decade, and the Sprint Center will be full of cardinal and gold this weekend. Here’s hoping the team gives them something to cheer for, and something to look forward to next weekend and beyond.