SCOUTING THE CYCLONES
The stat you will hear ad inifintum before and during this game is ISU's scoring rate -- the Cyclones have recorded at least 70 in every contest this year, and have topped 80 sixtenn times. That's impressive, but the stat that really stands out, and has a bigger effect on games, is the fact that just about everyone on the team can score. ISU has seen five different players score at least 20 points in a game this year, and has seven players tallying at least 6.6 points per outing. Add in seven legitimate 3-point threats, and ISU is almost guaranteed to spin the scoreboard markers at a rapid rate.
Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane made a huge splash early in the season, earning a Top 25 slot in the Wooden Award Midseason rankings. The 6-4 senior powers his way to 16 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game, and will cause huge problems for the Mountaineers defensively, who have no guards to match his strength. Running mate Monte Morris (Fr., G, 6-2) complements Kane's passing with a 4.8-1 assist to turnover ratio, and has shown uncommon poise for a first-year player.
Forward Melvin Ejim has been on a roll recently, and crushed TCU in his last outing with a 48-point, 18-rebound performance. That pushes his Big 12 leading average to 19.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He's not the biggest guy at 6-6, but he's another strongman who is rarely knocked out of position, and his 3-point shooting makes him difficult to guard . Georges Niang (So., F, 6-7) complements Ejim's game with more outside shooting prowess, which helps fuel his team-best 16.2 points per game. Like most other Cyclones, he passes the ball well (3.7 assists per) and also contributes on the boards with more than four per contest. Dustin Hogue, although not a bruiser at 6-6 and 215 pounds, gets on the glass almost nine times per outing (second in the Big 12) and adds 10.9 points to the scoring total.
It's easy to classify the Cyclones as a three-point shooting team, as they make 35% of their tries as a team, and more than 40% of their attempts come from beyond the arc. It's true that every player in the top seven of the rotation has to be defended from distance. But the real key to ISU is its passing. Head coach Fred Hoiberg's squad moves the ball extremely well. It uses the pass as a weapon, and when patient, a great shot typically results. Despite its many long-range shots, ISU makes 47.6% of its tries overall -- a clear demonstration that it gets good looks -- not just long ones -- as a result of its offense.
iowa State's passing and shooting prowess yields tons of points, so West Virginia will either have to figure out a way to play better defense, or find a way to match the Cyclones score for score.
The former option has not been a strength for WVU this year, as it has struggled to defend consistently. Against perimeter shooters, the Mountaineers will cover well on occasion, but often fail to close out or recover when the ball is swung from one side of the court to the other. That's going to be a key in this contest, because ISU lives on getting a defense moving and finding an open area where a shooter is primed to fire.
|Mon Feb 10
7:00 PM E
WVU 14-10, 6-5
ISU 18-4, 6-4
WVU - 68
ISU - 7
The task is made doubly difficult because the Cyclones don't have just a couple of outside snipers. Anyone on the floor is a threat to shoot from outside, so ISU can run the same action for any of its players and send them to the 3-point line for a try. That means WVU, unless it plays a very mobile lineup, won't be able to switch every screen in the man-to-man, as it often likes to do.
West Virginia's choice of defenses will also be an item to watch. Man seems the obvious choice, but at times that's going to leave players such as Devin Williams and Brandon Watkins on foes that can range out to the three line. A zone might seem counterintuitive, but it also could help defend those 3-point attempts. Of course, ISU will counter with its passing attack, and would seem to be primed to cut up zones in that manner.
In all, it's going to be a difficult challenge for WVU defensively, so it may have to try to match the Cyclones score for score. To do so, it can't have the long dry stretch that seems to occur in many games. For example, in the Kansas game, the Mountaineers didn't make a field goal in the last 7:36 of the first half. Another such drought will likely mean defeat for the second game in a row.
It's to be expected that a team will have more wins when it shoots the ball better, but the difference in WVU's field goal shooting in wins and losses is huge. In West Virginia's ten wins, it averages better than 49% from the field. In its ten losses, than number drops 11 percentage points, to 38%.
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Iowa State as assists on 412 of its 653 buckets this year. By comparison, West Virginia has 321 assists on its 639 scores.
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Eron Harris is 35-36 from the free throw line in conference play this year (97.2%). The Big 12 record for free throw percentage in a season in conference games is 96.0%, set by Joey Graham of Kansas in the 2004-05 season. To qualify for the record, Harris must make at leat 10 more free throws this year to meet the minimum requirement of 2.5 successful attempts per game. And, of course, he has to kee his succees rate above Graham's mark.
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West Virginia's Juwan Staten is among the national leaders in assist to turnover ratio, which has helped place the Mountaineers 35th in the country in that measure. For ISU, the rate is even better. The Cyclones are second in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.77 to 1.