By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
What: Iowa State (10-3) vs. Texas (10-3)
When: Tonight, 8 p.m. at Hilton Coliseum
TV/Radio: ESPNU – Cyclone Radio Network
Tis’ the season for conference basketball.
Gone are the Prairie View A&M’s and Western Carolina’s of the world. It’s time to bring on the big boys.
Iowa State (10-3) enters tonight’s Big 12 opener against the Texas Longhorns (10-3) coming off of one of its worst performances of the non-conference schedule, a measly two-point win over lowly Mississippi Valley State.
While there’s little doubt that Texas enters tonight’s game at Hilton Coliseum with the stronger non-conference resume of the two teams, the Longhorns have faced many of the same challenges that Iowa State has in this young college basketball season.
During his teleconference on Monday, Texas head coach Rick Barnes was asked what area of the game that his team needs to improve the most at for conference play.
"Consistency in all areas of the game," the 14th year Longhorn head coach said.
Sound familiar? Let’s break this thing down.
BREAKING DOWN THE CYCLONES
Iowa State’s probable starting lineup:
G: Chris Allen, 6-3 Sr. – 12.5 PPG, 2.9 APG
G: Chris Babb, 6-5 Jr. – 9.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG
G: Scott Christopherson, 6-3 Sr. – 10.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG
F: Royce White, 6-8 So. – 13.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG
C: Percy Gibson, 6-9 Fr. – 5.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG
According to Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg, his team responded well to an embarrassing effort against 1-11 Mississippi Valley State on Saturday.
“We had a great talk and a great meeting yesterday and followed it up with a great practice," said Hoiberg in Monday’s Big 12 teleconference. "Hopefully that will carry over these next couple of days.”
Before you ask, yes, Royce White is expected to play this evening after missing the majority of Saturday’s win after experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Key to victory: Iowa State needs to put 40 full minutes of quality basketball together.
“You can’t play 25 minutes, 30 minutes, of solid, good basketball and expect to win," said Hoiberg. "In the Big 12, the talent is just too good. Players will kick you when you’re down.”
Hoiberg said that his team had made significant progress over the last month when it comes to playing through adversity. The Cyclones obviously took a step back on Saturday.
How will Iowa State respond to a talented Texas team that will make its fair share of runs later this evening? That’s the big question.
BREAKING DOWN THE LONGHORNS
Texas’ probable starting lineup:
G: Myck Kobongo, 6-1 Fr. – 9.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG
G: J’Covan Brown, 6-1 Jr. – 19.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG
G: Sheldon McClellan, 6-4 Fr. – 12.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG
F: Jaylen Bond, 6-7 Fr. – 5.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG
F/C: Clint Chapman, 6-10 Sr. 5.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG
Talent most certainly isn’t an issue for this group of Longhorns. Rick Barnes has acquired plenty of it.
Lack of experience has to be a major concern for Texas though heading into the league opener. While Barnes is 12-1 in Big 12 openers during his tenure in Austin, he’s also never gone on the road with three freshmen starters and three key rookie reserves as well.
“They seem to be playing with a lot of confidence right now," said Hoiberg. "We’re going to have to do a good job of getting back in transition. They do a great job of flying up the floor with (Myck) Kabongo. Their bigs are great on the boards.”
Longhorn to watch: That’s J’Covan Brown, 6-foot-1, 197-pound guard.
"J’Covan Brown is one of the top players not only in our league but in the entire country," said Hoiberg of the junior who is averaging 19.3 points per game.
Brown scored 23-points against Rice in Texas’ 73-59 win over the Owls on New Years Eve. That marked the seventh time this season that Brown has scored 20 or more in a game.
Also keep an eye Barnes’ two freshman guards Sheldon McClellan and Myck Kabongo. McClellan has averaged 17.5 points per game over Texas’ last two games. Kabongo was one of the nation’s top recruits in the class of 2011, ranked 26h by Rivals.com.
Injuries: Freshman guard Julien Lewis has been out recently with a hand injury and his status is currently questionable for tonight’s game with the Cyclones.
Texas’ best win: Temple (77-65 on Dec. 17)
Texas’ worst loss: Oregon State (95-100 OT on Nov. 19)
— Heading into conference play, Iowa State leads the Big 12 in 3-point shooting, averaging 8.8 per game. That ranks the Cyclones 16th nationally.
— Chris Allen only needs 20 points to reach 1,000 points in his career.
— The last time Iowa State defeated Texas in men’s basketball was on Feb. 5, 2005 by a 92-80 overtime final.
— Another key for the Cyclones tonight? Lead at halftime. Iowa State is 10-0 while doing so this season.
— Texas head coach Rick Barnes is 12-1 in Big 12 openers.
— Dating back to 1966-67, Texas owns a 13-8 advantage over Iowa State. However, the Cyclones are 5-4 in games played in Ames.
— At the end of the non-conference season, Big 12 teams combined for a 100-26 record, which was the second-best performance in league history.
The up and down Cyclones will show up tonight.
This team is developing an identity of one that plays up and down to its competition a bit. I think that Texas’ youth will really struggle in its first Big 12 game, a road one at that.
Like I wrote in my Monday Musings, the only thing that makes sense about this basketball team is that they don’t make any sense at all. After one of (maybe the) worst performance of the season, I think that the Cyclones (who are very due) will hit some shots and Iowa State will start the 2011-12 Big 12 season off 1-0.
Iowa State 71, Texas 69