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Iowa State Men’s Basketball Preview: We’re Talkin’ Pittsburgh

Our preview for Iowa State’s first-round matchup in the NCAA Tournament with Pittsburgh.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament Semifinals - Iowa State vs Kansas Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time. March Madness has tipped off, and Iowa State is set to play the Pittsburgh Panthers in the first round after Pitt narrowly beat Mississippi State on Tuesday night, 60-59. The Cyclones’ ruthless defense is built for March, but do they have enough scoring to withstand bad shooting nights?

How to Watch

Date: Friday, March 17th, 2023

Time: 2:10 PM CT

TV: truTV

Last Time Out

Iowa State met Kansas in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament and 71-58. ISU largely played fairly well, but the Jayhawks threw their best punches all night and consistently answered any runs the Cyclones tried to make down the stretch. Jaren Holmes led ISU scoring with sixteen points, and Bob Jones chipped in eleven of his own. Unfortunately, after an outstanding performance in the first-round matchup, #NeutralSiteGabe was largely absent, as Kalschuer added just eight points on 3-of-12 shooting.

Pitt Player to Watch - Blake Hinson

Blake Hinson, the former Cyclone-turned-Panther is having a stellar season, shooting 39% from three this season as by far the team’s highest-volume distance shooter. I have no idea if there are any hard feelings between Hinson and the program, but I do know that he’ll be extra motivated to play well against his former team. He’s a significant threat from deep, and if defensive rotations for Iowa State are slow and he’s left open, Hinson is capable of punishing the Cyclones.

I assume Gabe Kalscheur will draw the primary assignment on Hinson, and will really focus on running him off the three-point line in the paint, where Hinson is fairly pedestrian as a scorer.

The Analytics

Yesterday, Dylan Coon debuted his DPI Index, which is his way of determining the best teams in college basketball, and who is vulnerable and how. So what does the DPI say about this matchup?

Iowa State vs. Pitt DPI

DPI Rank Seed Team Conf. Score Margin Reb Margin TO Margin Adj. O Adj. D SOR SOS 3 pt% O 2 pt% O 3 pt% D 2 pt% D Off eff FG% Def eff FG% KP BPI NET DPI
DPI Rank Seed Team Conf. Score Margin Reb Margin TO Margin Adj. O Adj. D SOR SOS 3 pt% O 2 pt% O 3 pt% D 2 pt% D Off eff FG% Def eff FG% KP BPI NET DPI
22 6 Iowa State Big 12 83 109 18 96 8 24 4 179 165 160 157 178 152 23 25 20 1948.2
48 11 Pittsburgh ACC 76 107 173 24 142 52 99 79 72 142 98 49 108 77 66 67 1202.0

KenPom and the DPI both agree that this is a strength-on-strength matchup, Iowa State’s stout defense and Pitt’s efficient offense leading the way. As Dylan describes in his intro article, the DPI exists to find weak points in a team’s resume. A few notable here I want to point out:

• Iowa State is dramatically better in turnover margin. Even though the Cyclone offense can be turnover prone at times, the defense is so good at getting the ball back that it barely matters. In contrast, Pitt doesn’t turn the ball over a lot, but they also don’t turn people over. If the Cyclones can take care of the ball, they have a significant advantage here.

• This doesn’t necessarily matter a ton, but Iowa State’s strength of schedule came in as 4th-most difficult in college basketball, meanwhile Pitt’s barely cracks the top-100 due to a very poor ACC. What does this mean? Pitt’s current KenPom ranking of 77, would be the worst in the Big 12, a full 15 spots below Texas Tech. Pitt will be the worst team Iowa State has played since December and is the lowest high-major team ISU will have faced this season, save for the Big East’s St. John’s.

Pick Three

  1. #NeutralSiteGabe reemerges as Pitt’s lackluster defense leaves him a number of open shots from behind the arc. Gabe buries at least four three-pointers.
  2. Pitt commits a season-high in turnovers.
  3. Tre King leads the team in scoring.