The undefeated and 13th ranked Iowa State men’s basketball team is set to spend Christmas in Hawaii as participants in the Diamond Head Classic. Action will begin on Sunday afternoon (Iowa State will place George Mason in the tournament’s first game) and the championship game will go down on Christmas night.
Here is a brief team-by-team preview that should get you ready for games nine, 10 and 11 of the 2013/2014 Iowa State basketball season.
A few facts
— Iowa State has never played George Mason, Akron, South Carolina or Boise State.
— Iowa State is 2-0 vs. Oregon State, 1-0 vs. Saint Mary’s and 0-1 vs. Hawaii.
— The Cyclones are 12-7 all-time while playing in the state of Hawaii.
— Iowa State has won its last two tournament’s in Hawaii, those being the 2005 Rainbow Classic and the 2000 Yahoo Sports Invitational.
Game 1: Sunday, 4:30 (ESPNU) vs. George Mason (5-4)
Surprisingly, Iowa State and its first foe in Hawaii have one common opponent between them. George Mason defeated Northern Iowa 76-70 at home back on Nov. 19. Besides that, George Mason’s best win this season was against Rhode Island on Nov. 30. George Mason’s four losses have come to decent, but not great teams in: Iona, Princeton, South Florida and Oklahoma. The 81-66 loss to the Sooners on Dec. 8 occurred on a neutral floor.
The Patriots were picked in the preseason to finish 10th in the Atlantic 10 (that has 13 teams) and return all five starters from last year’s team that went 22-16 while playing in the Colonial.
George Mason is led by a 6-foot-4 guard named Sherrod Wright, who is averaging 16.3 points per game.
Game 2: Monday vs. Oregon State (5-2) or Akron (3-2)
Oregon State – The Beavers, who were picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12, are currently 5-2 with a good road win on its resume at Maryland. Oregon State’s two losses were at home to Coppin State (who KenPom.com ranks as the 265thbest team in America) and DePaul (away).
Akron –KenPom.com ranks the Zips (an NCAA tournament team last season) as the 81stbest team in America right now and projects Akron to finish 2013-14 with a 21-8 record. This is a good basketball team who many picked to win the MAC. In fact, don’t be surprised if this is Iowa State’s second-round opponent in Hawaii.
Akron enters the tournament with a 5-2 record with losses coming to Saint Mary’s and Middle Tennessee State. Saint Mary’s (who I will get to in a moment) is a legitimate top 25 team and Middle Tennessee State is respectable at the very least. Both were road games for Akron.
Senior Demetrius Treadwell is Akron’s leader, averaging 14.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-7 senior was last season’s MAC conference tournament MVP.
Game 3: Wednesday vs. South Carolina, Saint Mary’s, Boise State or Hawaii
South Carolina – Former Kansas State coach Frank Martin’s team is, uh, not good.
The Gamecocks enter Sunday’s first-round match-up against Saint Mary’s with a 2-5 record that includes bad home losses to USC Upstate and Manhattan. South Carolina’s two wins were over Longwood and Florida International. In the Big 12-SEC Challenge, Oklahoma State pasted the Gamecocks by a 79-52 final.
Saint Mary’s – The Gaels (9-0) aren’t ranked in either of the major top 25 polls but they probably should be. Eight of Saint Mary’s nine wins have come on its home floor, but the one road victory was an impressive one, at Boise State on Dec. 14. Saint Mary’s also defeated Akron (another Diamond Head Classic participant) on Nov. 12 by an 85-63 final.
A 6-foot-9 forward by the name of Brad Waldow leads the way for Saint Mary’s at 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He is part of a nice inside-out combination with guard Stephen Holt, who is averaging 13.3 points and 5.3 assists per game.
The Gaels were picked to finish third in the West Coast Conference this season behind Gonzaga and BYU.
Boise State – The Broncos are without question the most underrated team in this field. Boise State enters the Diamond Head Classic with an 8-2 mark. Its only two losses were to Kentucky and Saint Mary’s. Boise’s best win to date was over Utah (at home) on Dec. 3.
Boise State was picked to finish third in the Mountain West behind New Mexico and San Diego State.
Hawaii – The Rainbows enter the tournament in which they host with a somewhat surprising record of 7-2. None of Hawaii’s wins are that impressive, but its two losses came against quality opponents in New Mexico State and Missouri.