3-Point Preview: West Virginia

Mar 3, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins coaches his team during their game with the Iowa State Cyclones at Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Time: 6 p.m.

Place: Morgantown, W. Va.


KenPom Line: 64-63, WVU

1 – Intentional offensively

Iowa State’s shortcomings offensively have become glaring in recent weeks and there isn’t much more to say about them at this point. We all know how this team needs to play on that end to be successful, but being able to play that way consistently has become a significant problem over the last several weeks.

The key for this team offensively is to play with purpose. Cut with purpose, pass with purpose, dribble the ball with purpose, etc. Don’t do things just for the sake of doing them. Do them with the intent of making a play for yourself or one of your teammates.

That is especially true when it comes to shot selection, an area this team has, to put it mildly, struggled with during recent games.

“We need to be very intentional about our shot selection,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said on Monday. “I don’t think we’re at a point as a team, where we need to be hunting transition threes and one pass shots and things along those lines. We’re more the type of team that needs to have our offense match our defense, right? We get like a physical catch at the elbow or a penetrating catch somewhere, and now we try to get the defense to collapse, we move the ball and play for each other.”

The point Otz makes about hunting transition 3-pointers and taking one-pass shots is the big one in this equation. There have been too many times when this team conducts itself offensively as if it is a foregone conclusion they’ll put up 70 points.

The reality, as most of us know, is this team has struggled to score more than 50 points with consistency in recent Big 12 play. The Cyclones need to protect the basketball and play offensively as such.

Every possession this team has is of the utmost importance because you don’t have any room for error needed to go throwing the ball around wildly, hoisting crazy low percentage shots or making ridiculous passes into closed windows.

Play with purpose. Play for each other. Play to help yourself rather than the other team by giving away possessions.

“As we evaluate our offense, certainly, shooting the ball really well from three and just like making shots will help space out an opponent,” Otzelberger said. “But for us, where we’ve been effective throughout the year has been being a little more intentional with our possessions, being willing to move the defense inside-out, side to side and kind of take the shot that presents itself. I think at times, maybe we go a little (too) quick.”

2 – The grind

We’re currently in the thick of college basketball’s dog days with the postseason still more than a month away and the start of conference play more than a month into the rearview mirror.

That means everyone has tired legs, everyone is bruised and battered (especially in the Big 12) and everyone is just trying to get through today healthy to be at their best for the next opponent.

“Every day is trying to find that right blend of embracing that physicality and those habits that we need to have to be successful and then balance it with the right amount of rest so our guys feel good and energized going into the games,” Otzelberger said. “It’s certainly something we’re mindful of, and factor in and take into account each and every day. We still believe there’s a lot we’re playing for, so you’ve got that motivational factor. You’ve got our habits. You’ve got our guys’ want to, their character, which we’re still seeing a lot of desire on their end to want to do things.”

I don’t think anybody would ever accuse this team of having a lack of “want-to.” They show up ready to mix it up with every team on the schedule, but Saturday’s loss to Texas was one of the first times when I saw this team look truly mentally and physically beat up.

The Big 12 schedule is a grind and there are no breaks. There are no nights off against an overmatched opponent. You’ve gotta have your best every single night or you’re going to end up getting run out of the gym.

This team needs to find itself again within this grind in order to avoid more letdown performances like we saw in the second half against the Longhorns.

There is no time to be tired and defeated.

“I think that’s a responsibility of mine,” Otz said. “To make sure that we continue to walk that line of reinforcing those physical habits and keeping those things fresh in our mind while still not breaking down our guys’ bodies so that they can perform at a high level and play with a lot of energy because that’s our style and what we need to do to be successful.”

3 – Focus on the now

While Iowa State is certainly squarely in the NCAA Tournament conversation today, we don’t want to see where things can go if a few more of these games slip away.

There is not a more crucial stretch on Iowa State’s schedule than the one coming up as the Cyclones look to get to that seven wins mark in the Big 12. That number would have this team squarely locked into the dance.

But, at the same time, while working to secure your spot in the tournament is the objective, focusing on the process is what will get you there. That means showing up ready to play every night regardless of opponent and giving yourself an opportunity to win every winable game left on the slate.

“At this point, we haven’t really talked about those types of things,” Otz said when asked about the NCAA Tournament picture. “We’ve been more focused on what’s immediately in front of us, the next game, and without a real break in league play, they kind of keep coming at you, right? We’ve tried to keep focused on what’s next. As a coach, you’re always trying to gauge your team. Where are they at mentally? What do they need? What’s gonna make us play our best? At this point, that’s not something we’ve talked about. Doesn’t mean we wouldn’t at some point in time, but right now we’re focused on let’s try to be the team that we know we need to be in Morgantown tomorrow night, and let’s come out with a win, and then go from there.”

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.