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Basketball

The Breakdown: Iowa State vs. St. Louis

Business is about to pick up for the Iowa State men’s basketball team.

The Cyclones will be in action on Friday afternoon in the Chicago Invitational against Rick Majerus and the St. Louis Billikens. After that contest, Iowa State is assured a date with Notre Dame or Northwestern on Saturday.

Will Iowa State move on to the championship game of the 2009 Chicago Invitational? Let’s break it down.

Breaking Down St. Louis

Like Iowa State (5-0), St. Louis is undefeated (4-0) heading into this weekend’s tournament. St. Louis’ four wins have come against Southeast Missouri State, Kennesaw State, Mississippi Valley State and Nebraska of the Big 12 Conference. The Billikens beat The Huskers by 14 points on Nov. 18.

It’s hard to talk St. Louis basketball and not discuss their youth. The Billikens start four sophomores and a freshman. Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell is averaging 12.3 points per game to lead the way for St. Louis. He’s currently shooting 55.6 percent from the field and scored 20 points in that win over Nebraska. Down low, sophomore Willie Reed leads the way. This 6-foot-9 sophomore averages 12 points per game and 9.3 rebounds. He’ll likely go toe-to-toe with Craig Brackins early on in the contest.

Overall, St. Louis posts a small, inexperienced basketball team that will get better as the season rolls along. The Billikens are certainly talented and the future looks bright for Rick Majerus. Having said that, it’s hard to believe that this team has the horses to hang with the athletic Cyclones at this point in time. Nonetheless, they’ll be the best team Iowa State has seen thus far, in my opinion.

Probable St. Louis Starters (according to Cyclones.com)

Willie Reed – 6-9, 220-pound So. forward – 12 PPG, 9.3 RPG Brian Conklin – 6-6, 230-pound So. forward – 9.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG Christian Salecich – 6-3, 190-pound Fr. guard – 11 PPG Kyle Cassity – 6-3, 200-pound So. guard – 10.3 PPG, 3.8 APG Kwamain Mitchell – 5-10, 175-pound So. guard – 12.3 PPG, 4.0 APG

Breaking Down the Cyclones

The Cyclones and the Billikens have met eight times in history, with Iowa State leading the series 5-3. Greg McDermott has gone up against Rick Majerus only once in history. That was in 2002, when Majerus’ Utah squad beat McDermott’s Northern Iowa Panthers 75-53.

Just about every Iowa State game this season has seemed to go the same way. The Cyclones start out slow, and end the first half on a roll. Iowa State has outscored opponents 117-56 in the final 10 minutes of the first half already this season. The Cyclones are averaging 86 points per game so far through five games and the points are coming from all over the court. Want to stop the big boys down low? Lucca Staiger will go off for 10 3-pointers. Want to hang out around the perimeter? Then it’s the Brackins-Gilstrap show.

Prediction

I just don’t see any way that St. Louis can hang with Iowa State athletically, specifically in the frontcourt. St. Louis might have a brief answer for one of Iowa State’s athletic forwards, but not the double-headed monster that is Brackins and Gilstrap.

Like I wrote earlier, I think that St. Louis is better than Drake was. But the Billikens won’t be on their home court like the Bulldogs were. St. Louis hasn’t gone on the road all season. How will this young team react to that? More specifically, how will this inexperienced team respond if a confident Iowa State roster gets a double-digit lead at the half?

Too many question marks are floating around with this St. Louis team. I’ll take the Clones and won’t sweat it a bit.

The Pick

Iowa State 84, St. Louis 61

C

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