Feb 10, 2018; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Lindell Wigginton (5) controls the ball as Oklahoma Sooners guard Jordan Shepherd (13) defends during the second half at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
In my five years covering Iowa State men’s basketball, I can’t remember a conference game with less buzz than the team’s regular-season finale in Norman, Okla. on Friday. I don’t know if the Cyclones entering the contest on a five-game losing streak is the biggest reason for the lack of interest or if most fans are just looking forward to the beers they’ll consume next week in Kansas City.
Either way, Iowa State still has one last chance to make a regular season statement when it visits an Oklahoma team that has lost seven of its last eight games. When the Sooners rolled into Hilton Coliseum last month, Trae Young’s national player of the year run was more of an inevitability than a possibility.
Then the Sooners and Young hit the skids leading to an opening for players like Villanova’s Jalen Brunson, Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton and even St. Mary’s forward Jock Landale to push their way back into the conversation.
Here are three points leading into Iowa State’s regular-season finale.
1 — Can Lindell Wigginton out-duel Trae Young again?
Iowa State’s super freshman guard looked like the best player on the court for the majority of the Cyclones’ 88-80 win over Oklahoma on Feb. 10. Wigginton, who scored 26 points, dished five assists and grabbed five rebounds, also did a more than admirable job of limiting Young offensively and holding him to just 1-of-8 shooting from behind the 3-point line.
Iowa State will need Wigginton be locked in at the same level on Friday if it hopes to end its regular season with a victory and enter postseason play with any sort of momentum.
2 — Can the Cyclones capitalize on a vulnerable Sooners defense?
Iowa State is currently the only Big 12 team lower than Oklahoma in KenPom’s adjusted defense metric. The Sooners have allowed 80-plus points four times, including a 104-point output by Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, during their end of season slide.
With that said, three of the four times Oklahoma held teams below 80 was when they were playing in the friendly confines of the Lloyd Noble Center. Iowa State has proven on multiple occasions this season they’re more than capable of having a big offensive night when they’re playing well.
If the Iowa State team Oklahoma played on Feb. 10 shows up, they’ll have an opportunity to put up some points and stick in the game. If the Iowa State team that played Oklahoma State on Tuesday night shows up, it could be a long evening.
3 — Will Iowa State’s transition defense be better than on Tuesday?
To put it simply, Iowa State transition defense was awful against the Cowboys. Oklahoma State was able to create way too many open looks early in possessions and the Cyclones looked a step slow the entire game.
That doesn’t bode well against an Oklahoma team that plays at a pace amongst the fastest in the country. The Sooners are fourth nationally in KenPom’s adjusted tempo and Young is probably the best transition player in all of college basketball.
Those factors make Iowa State’s ability to defend the fast break the most important element of Friday night’s game. Do it well, things could go well. Do it poorly…
We’ve seen how that movie ends.