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DENVER — According to KenPom.com, Little Rock is the 344th (out of 360) slowest paced team in all of college basketball.
Knowing that, when I woke up on Friday morning, I was positive that on Saturday (6:10 p.m. on TNT), the Trojans would be the slowest team that Iowa State had faced all season.
Turns out I was wrong (shocking).
Northern Iowa, who beat the Cyclones 81-79 on Dec. 19, is actually ranked 346th in tempo.
It’s true that these types of teams have been a bit of an Achilles heel for the Cyclones in the past. Why exactly?
It’s a lot of things. This team is offensive minded. It’s how Father Hoiberg raised them. When you’re of that mindset and are asked to play defense for 30 seconds, it can be maddening.
“You do get mentally exhausted but it all helps if you get stops,” Jameel McKay said. “There’s nothing like guarding somebody for 30 seconds and then they miss it, get an offensive rebounding and you have to guard for another 30 seconds.”
That’s a major Steve Prohm key to Iowa State advancing to the Sweet 16 next weekend in Chicago. Rebound and be disciplined on offense.
“We have to make sure that we run offense, that we don’t just go with one pass and a shot,” Prohm said. “We have to run offense so we just aren’t right back on defense. We aren’t the team with the personnel that is just going to pick you up and speed you up and trap you and turn you over. We want to be disciplined defensively, give them one shot and get out.”
Some good news: Iowa State is a much different team than it was in December. If you remember, that was this group’s first game without Naz Mitrou-Long. They were still getting used to a new coach and I’d say that it took the Cyclones a good month to fully learn how to play without their emotional leader.
Also, with all due respect to the Panthers, UNI played out of its mind that day in Wells Fargo Arena. Paul Jesperson looked like Larry Bird in route to a career-high 21 points while going 7-of-9 from three. Wes Washpun, who is fantastic by the way, made Allen Iverson blush with 28 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
Iowa State’s defense wasn’t exactly the 1985 Chicago Bears but much like Little Rock’s victory over Purdue yesterday, it took a special day for the Panthers to pull that upset in December.
Possessions will be at a premium come Saturday evening and as Purdue already learned, this is a team that you don’t want to screw around with.
And get used to this. Should the Cyclones advance to the Sweet 16, Virginia would likely be the opposition. Their pace of play is even slower than Little Rock and UNI, coming in at 351.
CYCLONES TALK TEMPO
*** Jameel McKay is putting a lot of pressure on himself leading up to this one.
“I think I might be the most important because I run the floor but that only takes you so far,” McKay said. “Since I am arguably our best rebounder, defensive rebounding is what starts the tempo. If we have to take the ball out of the net every time we won’t have any tempo. For me, I need to be actively defensively trying to get steals and blocking shots. Nobody wants to play in the half court against anybody, especially as good as they are.”
*** Abdel Nader says that he thinks Iowa State should try to play even faster than normal.
“I don’t think we change anything that we do offensively,” Nader said. “I think if anything we pick up the pace even more to control the tempo. Monte is going to do a great job. We want to get up and down as much as we can. We don’t want to play slow.”
***Matt Thomas’ key to victory is a fast start.
“Getting off to a good start is vital in tomorrow’s game,” Thomas said. “If we hopefully can jump out to an eight or 10 point game early we’ll be able to dictate tempo, make them feel like they need to get back in the game and play a faster game.”