Conference: Big 12
Record: 21-11 (10-8)
NCAA Tournament Seed: 4 (Midwest)
How they got to the Big Dance
Iowa State started the season 9-0 in non-conference play. This streak included an 83-82 win against No. 20 Iowa. Northern Iowa ended the Cyclones’ winning streak with an 81-79 victory in Ames, Iowa. ISU followed that up with an 81-79 win against tournament team Cincinnati, who was ranked No. 22 at the time. The Cyclones did not play very well in the Big 12, however. The only notable wins they picked up in conference play were against Texas Tech, No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 1 Kansas and No. 23 Texas. Iowa State dropped two games each to No. 9 West Virginia and to No. 22 Baylor. The Cyclones also lost by five to No. 17 Texas A&M. ISU went into the Big 12 tournament as a No. 6 seed and drew a tough matchup against No.3 Oklahoma in the quarterfinals where they lost 79-76. Thanks in large part to their strength of schedule, Iowa State earned an at-large bid to head to their fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. It is their first under head coach Steve Prohm, who took over this season after former coach Fred Hoiberg left ISU to become head coach of the Chicago Bulls.
Why they are a legitimate contender
The Cyclones are a very high scoring team, ranking 15th in the NCAA in scoring offense with 81.8 points per game. Another facet of ISU’s high-powered offense is its efficiency, as they are ranked third on kenpom.com in adjusted offensive efficiency. They are second in the NCAA in field-goal percentage with a 50.2 percent mark from the field. The Cyclones shoot a high 38 percent from beyond the arc, as well. Iowa State’s strong offense is what has kept them competitive against some very good teams, especially those in the Big 12, so expect them to come out firing in the NCAA Tournament.
Why they are not a legitimate contender
Their defense is nowhere near as good as their offense. The Cyclones are ranked 101st on kenpom.com in adjusted defensive efficiency and they rank 253rd in the NCAA in scoring defense with 75 points allowed per game. ISU limits its opponents to 43.5 percent shooting from the field, which is ranked 180th in the country. Their defense doesn’t rebound very well, either. They allow 9.09 offensive rebounds per game, 292nd in the NCAA, giving opposing teams a lot of opportunities to make up for their missed shots. ISU’s defense also doesn’t create a lot of opportunities for the offense. They are ranked 199th in the NCAA with 12.41 forced turnovers per game. If the Cyclones are going to be a legitimate contender this March, their defense will need to match their level of play on offense, which has not happened all season.
Player to watch – F Georges Niang
The 6-foot-8 senior does it all for the Cyclones. He scores 19.8 points, grabs 6.2 rebounds, and dishes out 3.3 assists per game. Niang does all this while maintaining a good shooting percentage. He shoots 54.7 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from 3-point land, with an 80 percent mark from the charity stripe. He has been big for the Cyclones in the games that matter most. Niang averages 22.2 points per game against ranked opponents. ISU has relied on him all four years of his college career and they won’t stop now. They will need him to have some big games if they want to go far this season.
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