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Basketball

CBE Hall of Fame Classic preview: A return to “Hilton South”

Kansas City loves the Cyclones.

From Fred Hoiberg to Diamond Dave, the Cyclones love Kansas City.

The last time that Hoiberg’s program was in KC was last March where of course, the Cyclones won three in a row, cut down the nets and won the 2014 Big 12 Tournament. It was an epic week and in return, the Cyclone Nation packed the Sprint Center to recreate what over the years has affectionately been referred to as “Hilton South.”

While Iowa State likely won’t see that extreme level of support at this week’s CBE Hall of Fame Classic, if you’re sitting at home watching the nationally televised games against Alabama and Arizona State or Maryland, you will no doubt see a plethora of cardinal and gold littering in the Sprint Center on Monday and Tuesday nights. 

“It will be great to get back to Kansas City,” Hoiberg said. “It’s obviously a place that has always been great to the Cyclones going all the way back since the Big 8 Tournament was played in Kuemper Arena. We should have a great fan base down there.”

HERE THEY COME 

The top storyline heading into games three and four of the 2014-15 season is Matt Thomas’ return to the lineup along with Abdel Nader’s debut. The duo missed the first two games of the season due to suspension and will lace up their sneakers for the first time during Monday’s 8:30 p.m. (on ESPN2) tip vs. Alabama.

The depth will be welcomed to Hoiberg’s lineup as in the first two games of the season, the Cyclones have received only nine points from the bench. 

“We don’t have quite of as thin of a margin as we did in those first couple of games if we had gotten into any sort of foul trouble or if anything would have happened," Hoiberg said. "Both kept themselves in shape and both of them kept ready when they missed those first three contests.” 

Thomas and Nader worked with the scout team as Iowa State prepared for wins over Oakland and Georgia State. Thomas played in all 36 games for the Cyclones as a freshman while averaging 5.5 points along the way. 

Nader, a junior who sat out last season after transferring from Northern Illinois, is a bit of a wildcard. He averaged 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in 2012-13 for the Huskies. 

“With him (Nader) and Georges (Niang) out there at the same time, that will stretch the floor because both of them can shoot threes," sophomore point guard Monte Morris said. "With him out there, it adds that threat along with a rebounder and rim protector.”

The most fascinating part about the addition of Thomas and Nader to Iowa State’s roster is the question of how Hoiberg will rotate players. As of Friday afternoon, even he didn’t know how this would all go down on Monday night. 

“It’s hard to say,” Hoiberg said. “It all depends on the flow of the game and how things are going out there. I’ve said this before but it has always been by feel and we’ll see how the flow of the game is going.”

Iowa State might not be playing Duke or Kentucky this week in Kansas City but Hoiberg’s personnel mystery is all the reason in the world to watch every minute of these games and to do so intently.

SCOUTING ALABAMA

Iowa State should have some pretty solid intel on Monday night’s opponent, the Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0). Bama hosted and defeated Southern Miss 81-67 on Thursday night. Of course, former Cyclone assistant coach Doc Sadler now coaches Southern Miss.

“Doc and I talk almost every day,” Hoiberg said on Friday. “I have not talked to him yet about how he thought the game went down there but I’m sure I will talk to him in the next few days.” 

Alabama’s standout senior guard, Levi Randolph, led the way in that win with 23 points while going 8-of-12 from the floor. At 6-foot-5, Randolph’s size alone makes him a matchup problem on the perimeter. Randolph has a little DeAndre Kane in him as he also leads the Crimson Tide in rebounding at 7.7 per game. Look for Bama’s best player to get a healthy dose of Bryce Dejean-Jones.

As a whole, the Crimson Tide went 9-for-19 (47.4 percent) from 3-point range in the Southern Miss win.

“They shot the heck out of the ball in the first half against Southern Miss,” Hoiberg said. “They made their first nine shots. They can shoot one through five. All of their guys can. They have some transfers who are making big impacts right now. They are extremely athletic.”

Alabama’s two other wins came over Towson (82-54) and Western Carolina (80-74).

Iowa State is 0-1 all-time vs. Alabama. The one time these two schools met was in 2007 in Las Vegas. Bama won that game 83-68.

THE REST OF THE FIELD 

Maryland and Arizona State are both 3-0 entering Monday night’s CBE Hall of Fame Classic opener that will tip at 6 on ESPN2. 

Arizona State’s victories were over Chicago State (86-50), Bethune-Cookman (49-39) and Loyola Marymount (68-44). 

Offensively, the Sun Devils are everything that Iowa State is not. Herb Sendek’s team only features one player that is averaging double figures in scoring (Iowa State has five) three games into the season (senior guard Shaquille McKissic at 10.3). Arizona State is ranked 203rd in the country at points per game at 67.7. For the sake of comparison, Iowa State is ranked 23rd in the same category at 87.0.

Maryland, who is now oddly a member of the Big Ten, has defeated Wagner (82-48), Central Connecticut St. (93-57) and Fordham (66-50).

Senior Dez Wells has been a scoring machine. The 6-foot-5 combo leads the way for Mark Turgeon’s team at 17.7 points per game but his early season efficiency is what’s been impressive. Wells has made 20-of-32 shots from the field and gone 5-for-7 from 3-point range.

A 6-foot-8 junior named Jake Laymon has been impressive as well by averaging 14.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest. 

Even though the schools have not played since 1987, Iowa State has a 2-1 all-time edge Arizona State. Iowa State won that contest 99-85 in Ames when Elmer Robinson led the way with 26 points.

Iowa State and Maryland have never played, although former Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon is very familiar with the Cyclones as he went 5-0 vs. Iowa State during his time in College Station. Turgeon is 1-0 all-time vs. Fred Hoiberg, as the Aggies topped Iowa State 71-66 during Hoiberg’s first season in Ames.

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