Basketball Blog: Virginia prep in full force

By Chris Williams, Publisher

The Virginia Cavaliers are a tough team to get a read on. Tony Bennett’s squad has two impressive road wins over Minnesota and Virginia Tech on its 2010-11 resume. They also killed Oklahoma by 18. The last couple of contests haven’t been so kind to Virginia though, who defeated Norfolk State on a fluke buzzer beater and lost to the mighty Seattle Redhawks. It is important to note that Seattle is a 5-10 basketball team that is currently in its second season within the division one ranks.

“It was one of those games where every bounce went Seattle’s way,” Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said on Monday. “It was a very tough loss for them and one that they will learn from. They are going to be much more prepared for us because of that last game against Seattle.”

Frontcourt mismatch

What makes Virginia’s loss to Seattle even more difficult to understand is the fact that its best player, senior forward Mike Scott played 31 minutes after sitting out a few games with an ankle injury.

“He’s a horse down low,” Hoiberg said.

Scott is averaging 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game for Virginia.

While preparing for their first road game of the season outside the state of Iowa, the Cyclones now have to answer one question that will be key in determining the outcome of Thursday night’s game and likely many games during Big 12 Conference play.

Can Iowa State’s thin frontcourt handle Smith, Virginia’s forceful big man?

This makes Jamie Vanderbeken such a crucial factor, as he will be from here on out.

“He is 6-foot-11. He has got to use that length,” Hoiberg said. “He can’t bail players out by slapping them down and putting them on the free throw line."

In Iowa State’s 60-54 loss to Northern Iowa, Vanderbeken had four personals while Melvin Ejim fouled out. In the 76-73 loss to California, Vanderbeken also had four fouls, while playing only 16 minutes.

"Now that we’re going into the tough part of our schedule, we can’t afford to have Jamie on the bench in foul trouble," said Hoiberg.

Because of his recent history and the obvious lack of depth, the Cyclones will switch things up from time-to-time on the defensive end, now that the Chicago State’s of the world are off the schedule.

“You will probably see us play a little zone now. We’ll get creative with some double teams coming off of different guys,” Hoiberg said. “We won’t play a lot of it but there will be times where if we are in foul trouble, we’ll have to throw it out there for a few possessions.”