Mar 29, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Oregon State Beavers forward Warith Alatishe (10) shoots the ball against Houston Cougars forward Fabian White Jr. (35) during the first half in the Elite Eight of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Where: Hilton Coliseum
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Watch: Big 12 Now on ESPN+
KenPom: Oregon State, 72-70
1 – New-look ‘Clones vs. Power 5 talent
We got our first look at T.J. Otzelberger’s reworked Iowa State roster during the season-opening win over Kennesaw State, but now we’ll get an immediate preview of how Iowa State’s fresh faces matchup with a Power 5 opponent.
I’m a huge fan of Iowa State playing against a competitive major conference opponent this early in the season. While the Cyclones might not win the game, it is a perfect opportunity to just get a measurement of where this team is at this point against big-time competition.
We know Izaiah Brockington, Gabe Kalscheur, Aljaz Kunc, George Conditt and Tre Jackson understand what they’ll be seeing on Friday night in Ames with all of them having a wealth of Power 5 experience. The same can’t be said for Robert Jones, Tyrese Hunter and others on the Cyclones’ roster.
This will be a fantastic early test against a quality opponent before a few more small-conference opponents next week leading into their regular-season tournament in New York later in the month.
2 – Elite Eight core
While Wayne Tinkle did have to replace two starters from last year’s Elite Eight squad, three of the Beavers’ top-five from the 2021 Pac-12 Tournament champions returned.
Warith Alatishe and Jarrod Lucas are the headliners of that trio while Roman Silva joins them in a crucial frontcourt role. Their presence allowed Oregon State to be picked to tie for fourth in the Pac-12 in the preseason poll, the program’s highest predicted finish since 1992-93.
Alatishe is expected to make a big-time jump as a senior and was pegged as a preseason first-team All-Pac 12 selection. The 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward, who became the first Oregon State player to be named the Pac-12 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player last March, scored 21 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished two assists in the Beavers’ 73-64 win over Portland State in the season opener.
Keeping Alatishe off the glass will be a major key for Iowa State as he led the Pac-12 in offensive boards last season by snagging 3.21 per game.
Lucas, a preseason second-team All-Pac-12 pick, was one of the Pac-12’s best sharpshooters as a sophomore in 2020-21, leading the league with 77 3-pointers made. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound pound Hacienda Heights, Calif. native scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds in the season-opener.
Joining Lucas as a 3-point threat is 6-foot-10, 220-pound senior forward Maurice Calloo. In 2020-21, Calloo knocked down 34 shots from deep at a 42 percent clip. He went 11-of-19 from 3-point range in the program’s last six games last season, including a 13-point and five rebound performance in Oregon State’s Elite Eight loss to Houston.
Those three will be the biggest linchpins to Oregon State’s success this year and that came through in the season opener as they combined to score 53 of the team’s 73 points.
Keeping Alatishe off the offensive glass plus running Lucas and Calloo off the 3-point line will be key for Iowa State in shutting down Oregon State’s offensive attack that will play as slow as any team the Cyclones see this season. The Beavers finished No. 306 nationally in KenPom’s adjusted tempo last season and they currently sit at No. 257 nationally after one game this year.
3 – The Magic’s Return?
A total of 618 days went by between Iowa State’s loss to West Virginia in the 2019-20 home finale and the full return of fans for the Cyclones’ win on Tuesday night. That’s a long time to wait to cheer for Iowa State men’s basketball in person, although there probably wouldn’t have been much to cheer for last season anyway.
Regardless, I’m interested to see what the crowd and atmosphere are like on Friday with a well-regarded opponent rolling into town. It is worth noting Iowa State has not beat a Power 5 opponent in Hilton Coliseum since topping TCU 65-59 on Feb. 25, 2020.
This Iowa State team feels like one that will really feed off the energy of the Hilton Coliseum crowd, which they weren’t really able to do in a season-opener that lacked rhythm due to nearly constant fouls and turnovers.
The Cyclones have an opportunity to make a big-time statement on Friday night and show the college basketball world they’re back on track towards being more competitive under Otzelberger. A program like Oregon State might not register to the casual college hoops fan, but they’re a respected program with obvious recent success and it’s been a while since the Cyclones could boast about a win over a program like that.
A raucous atmosphere at Hilton Coliseum could go a long way towards helping achieve that feat — and signify the magic is returning to the corner of University Ave. and Lincoln Way.