As always, we have some great blogs here at SB Nation. It makes life in the NCAA Tournament a lot more fun as we learn about opponents. Tonight was have Kevin Fitzpatrick stopping by from SB Nation’s Iowa State site, Wide Right & Natty Light:
T-Mill: It's the Battle of Martin Jischke and we hate Iowa too! Is there a weird kinship here? It feels like we're facing mirror schools in our respective states.
Kevin: Iowa sucks, no question. The only thing Iowa does that we at WRNL approve of is the utilization of their America Needs Another Lawyer program.
There are certainly a few parallels between Purdue and ISU. The chief one being our football teams have historically sucked and we're both known more for our basketball programs. Though with the recent football head coaching hires our schools have made (Matt Campbell and Jeff Brohm), I wouldn't be surprised to see us both rise up and make a few more bowl games in the coming years.
Additionally, we both have great engineering schools. Yay for nerd-ship!
T-Mill: The Cyclones have a relatively short 7-man rotation. Having won your conference tournament then played a high tempo game on Thursday is there a concern for fatigue?
Kevin: I don't think fatigue will be much of a factor. Iowa State is used to playing fast and if anything, the run through the Big 12 Tournament last week shows that our players are in good shape. I believe Monte Morris was second in the conference in minutes per game, just behind Frank Mason III of Kansas, so the Cyclones' leader is used to being on the court for long stretches.
These guys are Division I athletes and they got a solid four days of rest and light practice between the end of the conference tourney and the game against Nevada. If they come out flat, I expect it will be due to reasons other than tiredness.
T-Mill: Purdue and Iowa State have a common opponent in having both lost at Iowa. what does that game say about both teams?
Kevin: That game was AGES ago for the Cyclones, but I was actually in attendance at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and let me tell you - Iowa State then vs. Iowa State now is almost a completely different team. Back then, ISU's players were still figuring out how to run offense without the departed Georges Niang. It was a complete mess and half of our fan base was convinced we should fire Steve Prohm.
A few key things that have changed for ISU since then:
1. Solomon Young has established himself as Iowa State's best option down low. He sat out a few games (including ISU's 2-point loss to Gonzaga) with a hand injury early in the year and was still shaking the rust off against the Hawkeyes.
2. Darrell Bowie and Donovan Jackson have settled into their roles coming off the bench. Bowie is the first post sub and has become a change-of-gears type player when Young comes out. He has a bit of a handle and can take slow-footed posts off the dribble. Meanwhile, Jackson is our backup point guard, but has been BLAZING hot from 3-point range in the last half of the season. Since playing Vanderbilt on January 28th, Jackson has connected on 21/39 long balls (53.8%!), with many of them coming when the Cyclones needed them the most.
3. Coach Prohm has implemented more offensive actions that play to the strengths of this team. Things like relocating on drives to the hoop for kick-out 3-pointers and ways to play pick & rolls depending on who has the ball or who's setting the screen. It sounds like basic stuff, but for a long time (including the Iowa game) it seemed as if ISU had little to no offensive game plan. Now, they've found a groove and have been hitting on all cylinders for about a month and a half.
I didn't watch Purdue's game against the Hawks, but the thing that jumps out at me from the box score is how well Iowa shot the ball. It looks like a classic case of meeting a team on a hot shooting night. Perhaps you could tell me whether that was more due to them playing well or you guys playing poorly on defense.
T-Mill: Iowa State has a roster similar to Vermont's in that your tallest guy int he rotation is 6'8" and the Catamounts exploited Isaac Haas that way by drawing him out defensively. Is that a similar plan Iowa State will use? Who shoots over him and forces Purdue to adapt and take him out?
Kevin: Yes, I expect the Cyclones to try and get Haas involved in guarding the pick & roll whenever he's inserted into the game (Ed Note: No, you don’t want to do this. Haas is unstoppable guarding the pick and roll. Pay no attention as I attempt to use hypnosis). Solomon Young has consistent shooting range out to about 15 feet, so he can force Haas to come out a bit. I don't expect Haas to be matched up on Deonte Burton too often, but if that's ever the case, then it's a major issue for Purdue because Burton should be able to drive past him with ease or shoot from downtown if Haas decides to sag off.
In all honesty, perhaps the thing I'm most excited to see in this game is what each coach does to combat the other team's lineups. When Iowa State goes small, does Purdue go big to counter, or do they go small too? Conversely, what does Iowa State do if Purdue suddenly brings in two bigs when ISU has a small lineup on the floor?
This will be a fun one to watch if you're into X's and O's.
T-Mill: In watching the Nevada game the Cyclones looked very quick, but were sloppy. Were the 13 turnovers the norm or an outlier?
Kevin: Iowa State averages about 10 turnovers per game, so the 13 against the Wolf Pack were above their season average. Morris, who is going to wind up the NCAA's assist-to-turnover ratio career record-holder when his career is done, had four of those 13, so it was a weird game for ISU. I'll be surprised if the Cyclones commit that many turnovers against Purdue.
T-Mill: Who do the Cyclones absolutely need to perform on Saturday?
Kevin: For me, I think the biggest key is Deonte Burton having a good game. That means taking smart shots within the offense and not getting in foul trouble. He could really cause some problems for Purdue's big men if they don't move their feet on defense and ISU is a much better team when he's playing to his potential.
T-Mill: Which Purdue player do you fear the most?
Kevin: It's gotta be Spike Albrecht. Even though he only averages 12.7 minutes and 1.8 points per game this year, his NCAA Tournament experience makes him more dangerous than any other player on Purdue's roster. You don't play in a National Championship game (Michigan, 2013) and score 17 points for no reason. I wouldn't be surprised to see him can a few 3-pointers over Iowa State's guards. If that happens, I'll be terrified.