Friday, March 25, 2016
game preview: Iowa State
Date/Time: Friday, March 25; 7:10
Record against the Cyclones: 1-2
Last meeting: ISU 60, UVA 47; 12/30/10, Charlottesville
Last game: UVA 77, Butler 69 (3/19); ISU 78, UALR 61 (3/19)
UVA: 61.3 (#351)
ISU: 71.7 (#55)
UVA: 119.2 (#6)
ISU: 120.7 (#2)
UVA: 91.8 (#4)
ISU: 100.2 (#94)
UVA: .9529 (#1)
ISU: .8944 (#16)
PG: London Perrantes (10.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.3 apg)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (18.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.9 apg)
SG: Devon Hall (4.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.8 apg)
SF: Isaiah Wilkins (4.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.4 apg)
PF: Anthony Gill (13.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 0.7 apg)
PG: Monte Morris (13.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.9 apg)
SG: Matt Thomas (10.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.7 apg)
SF: Abdel Nader (13.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.6 apg)
SF: Georges Niang (20.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.3 apg)
PF: Jameel McKay (11.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 0.9 apg)
This year's Sweet 16 has a lot of compelling matchups. You have UNC-IU, two of the most old-money programs in the nation. Regional games in ND-Wiscy and A&M-OU, the latter of course being a former conference rivalry of sorts. Virginia and Iowa State wouldn't seem to have much in common. A few architectural similarities, maybe.
These two programs are both in a very similar place, though. Fairly or not, these are two teams with a bit of a reputation for underperforming seed expectations. ISU still can't escape the shadow of their loss to 15-seeded Hampton, and last year was a victim of 14-seeded UAB, both in the first round. UVA lost to a lower-seeded MSU twice in a row. Nothing less than the Final Four will match seed expectations for UVA, so there's more pressure on the guys in blue and orange from that perspective.
Both teams can do wonders for their reputations by winning. ISU has been to the Final Four once - in 1944, with an eight-team field, so, effectively never. UVA hasn't been in over 30 years. Neither has been since the expansion to 64 teams. Both schools are fighting to carve themselves a place in a very difficult conference populated by teams with much more pedigree. As usual, more is at stake than simply the right to play again later.
-- UVA on offense
The biggest weakness the Cyclones have is lack of depth. Their five starters are going to be on the court easily over 30 minutes, with only the possible exception of Jameel McKay - and then usually only if he gets into foul trouble. Losing Naz Mitrou-Long early in the season was a huge blow to their backcout depth, and in the frontcourt they never had any to begin with.
This means they put an emphasis on staying out of foul trouble. There is no backup point guard, for example. There just isn't. Monte Morris gets like two or three minutes' rest at the most. Probably none at all against UVA. He's one of the least fouley players in the country out of sheer necessity. The Cyclones can't be highly aggressive in defending drives to the lane because they can't afford to have starters out for long stretches.
The result is predictable: not a lot of turnovers, and not great two-point defense. ISU hardly ever sends opponents to the free throw line - only Hofstra's opponents get less of their scoring from free throws. But the catch to that is if you aggressively drive the rim, they might well let you have it. At 6'9, 225, McKay is the biggest guy they have, but he's also the first one off the court and there's no way they'll let Georges Niang (the second-biggest guy) pile up fouls by aggressively contesting every drive attempt.
Obviously, that means points in the paint can win us the game. Put Malcolm Brogdon into Eff-It Mode and let him go to work. Gill and Tobey, too. I don't think Tobey will play much because ISU uses a small lineup quite a bit, but he might easily have a game like he did against Butler where it only takes him nine minutes to put ten points on the board.
-- UVA on defense
Of course we have the metaphorical 800-pound gorilla: Georges Niang. Niang is 6'8" but in practice he's a very big shooting guard. It's exceedingly rare in college hoops to find a guy that big and as comfortable as he is on the dribble. Almost everyone chooses to guard him with someone smaller because big guys don't have a prayer of keeping up with him, which means he needs no space at all to get off a shot. One-handed floaters are a specialty of his. Tony almost has no choice but to use Malcolm Brogdon on him, just about all day long. If Brogdon can hound Niang into a bad shooting day, his star will shoot to the top of the sky.
Just as ISU doesn't foul much, they get fouled even less. Nobody gets a lower percentage of points from the stripe than the Cyclones. They love the mid-range two - getting all the way to the rim isn't a top priority - and it's not just Niang who's good at hitting them. ISU's two-point shooting percentage is 4th in the country, and even though the rotation is short, only Jameel McKay is not a threat from deep. Everyone else on the floor must be paid some attention behind the arc.
Rotation-wise, beefy guard Deonte Burton is first off the bench, but he almost always replaces McKay to create what might as well be a five-guard lineup. For this reason, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Mike Tobey get the start, while McKay is in, and then pull him when ISU goes small. Monte Morris, as mentioned, probably never comes out, and is one of the best point guards in the tourney. Matt Thomas is showing why Tony recruited him so hard (and almost succeeded) - he's a top-notch shooter. Abdel Nader could take better care of the ball than he does, but he does a good job burning teams who pay too much attention to the stars.
Iowa State games are high-scoring affairs. They combine efficiency with a high tempo and they're unaccustomed to scoring below 80. UVA will have a tough time matching their usual defensive brilliance, but anything under 75 points would put them in terrific position.
Last time the Hoos played Iowa State, it wasn't that long ago. The First Book of Tony was just beginning and the team wasn't very good yet. It was a Cyclone blowout. UVA's leading scorer: K.T. Harrell, with nine. That wasn't even a good ISU team. They were 12-2 after that win, and finished 16-16, sinking like a rock in Big 12 play.
Everyone's calling it a clash of styles, and it is. Iowa State is one of the quickest teams to shoot in the country. But UVA is stubbornly impossible to speed up. Even with the new shot clock, UVA hasn't played a 70-possession game since 2012, a 40-point blowout of Seattle. This is the kind of team the pack-line was designed to keep from running away with the game.
And there's one basic deal here. One team plays great on one end of the court; the other team plays great on both of them. UVA can easily lose, if the shooting goes cold or if ISU proves too hard to stop on offense, either of which is very possible. But the prediction has to stick with the more complete and deeper team.
Final score: UVA 83, ISU 73