By Patrick Vint on December 11, 2020 at 12:00 pm
Hello darkness my old friend...
© William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports


TIME 8:00 pm CT
WHERE Carver Hawkeye Arena
RADIO Learfield Affiliates
STREAM Fox Sports Live
LINE Iowa -13
KENPOM Iowa -11
4-0 RECORD 1-1
0-0 CONF. 0-0
116.6 (2nd) OFF. EFF. 107.0 (55th)
94.0 (71st) DEF. EFF. 95.7 (95th)
14.6 POSS. 15.3
57.3 (23rd) eFG% 54.8 (55th)

There was no Cy-Hawk football game last year.  If yesterday's announcements are any indication, there will be no Cy-Hawk wrestling this season, either.  All we have is hoops, and with the women's game finished (in thrilling fashion), that leaves Friday's game against Iowa State as the last high-profile matchup between the in-state rivals this year.

And Iowa's favored by 13.

I'm not sure just what to say about the state of Iowa State basketball.  It's Steve Prohm's sixth season in charge, and the team is currently only favored by Kenpom in six games on a 24-game schedule.  If the advanced analytics are right, the 'Clones could go from January 13 to February 27 winless.  At least they have football for once, I guess?

Much of the teeth-gnashing is due to ISU's last game, a three-point loss to South Dakota State in Hilton Coliseum.  It really wasn't as close as the final score indicated; SDSU was up by 12 at the half, and the Cyclones staged a 27-15 rally in the final ten minutes to make it look less horrible.  It's still pretty horrible for a program that isn't that far removed from national contention.

Most of the problem is personnel.  The Clones are woefully undersized; there's just one guy in the rotation over 6'8", and he's playing less than 15 minutes a game. They're essentially running a five-man rotation at the four perimeter spots.  That's worked for Iowa State in the past, but it required superhuman point guard play and a bevy of shooters, and so far, ISU doesn't really have either.  Point guard Rasir Bolton (6'3", 185, 13 pts/7 rebs/6 asts) certainly is capable and durable; he's playing more than 36 minutes a game so far.  But he's also an unreliable outside shooter (2/8 so far this year), and all those minutes do tend to inflate the counting statistics.  Memphis transfer Tyler Harris has been the team's best outside shooter so far (5/13, 38.5%), but he's just 5'9" and barely attempts shots inside the arc, which means he can only play shooting guard in Prohm's system. 

Backup point guard duties -- and backup small forward duties -- typically fall to forward Javan Johnson (6'6", 205, 10.5/5/6.5), a do-it-all wing who has the team's highest assist rate, lowest turnover rate...and a cool 3/13 mark from behind the three-point line.  The other wing, junior Jalen Coleman-Lands (6'4", 187), leads the team in scoring so far (14.5 ppg) but is also struggling from deep (5/17, 29.4%).  Freshman Darlinstone Dubar (6'6", 207, 5 pts/5 rebs) has contributed 18 minutes a game off the bench and is a beast on the offensive glass, but hasn't been much of a scoring threat.

The center spot has been largely manned by longtime Ames mainstays Solomon Young (6'8", 255, 13/2.5) and George Conditt (6'10", 245, 1.5/2.0).  Young has found room to score, but that rebounding number is certainly suspect.  Conditt is a warm body with five fouls to give (he's averaging 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes so far this year, and that's against SDSU and Arkansas-Pine Bluff).  Prized in-state seven-footer Xavier Foster has barely been seen so far (5 minutes per game, 2.0/0.5).  If there's a God above, Foster draws the Garza assignment for at least 30 minutes Friday night.

That lack of size and outside shooting has translated to the metrics as you'd expect: Iowa State is wholly incapable of getting to the free throw line (they're taking 9 shots for every free throw attempt; only Niagara is getting to the free throw line less often among Division I teams that have played a game).  Through two games, Iowa State has shot just 14 free throws.  They're also among the nation's worst rebounding teams, though some of that is by design.  Going back to Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State's been built on the offensive efficiency created by killer three-point shooting.  They've largely been willing to give up offensive rebounds in order to prevent their opponents getting easy points on the fast break, avoid physical defense in order to prevent cheap points at the free throw line.  When the shooting goes south, though, the whole equation breaks.  And a team 29.1% from three certainly qualifies.

Look: It's Cy-Hawk.  Weird stuff happens in this game, Lafester Rhodes, yada yada yada.  We know.  We don't like a double-digit spread, either.  There are also small-sample-size issues with drawing any conclusions about Iowa State from two games.  But at this moment, these two programs aren't that close, and Iowa State looks particularly ill-suited to handle Iowa's strength in the post and ability to knock down uncontested shots.  Iowa will probably try to make it a bruising, physical game, because a slobberknocker probably goes to Iowa.  Iowa State wants a track meet, but a track meet probably goes to Iowa, too.  You'd have to go back to the 2006-07 game to find a year where Iowa had this decided an advantage on paper.  If only this game could be played on paper instead.

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