Friday Five: Close games, transfer list, & more

Cyclone WBB Free Throws         

This is actually an interesting thought to consider. Iowa State is 360/438 on their free throw attempts this season. If you go through the math to estimate the number of free throws that were attempted where a miss would result in a live ball rebound you get 208 free throws (this is just done with the estimated multiplier of 0.475 on free throw attempts). The Cyclones are also shooting an astounding 82.2 percent from the free-throw line this year.

If we assume they shot that exact percentage on the 208 free throw attempts that are live balls that means that there would be 37 missed shots to rebound. Based on historical data referenced in a KenPom study a few years ago on the ever-present “foul or defend” situation, he referenced that normal missed free throws result in offensive rebounds roughly 15 to 20 percent of the time.

This means that by putting nobody on the lane for free throws that the Cyclones have punted on getting about 5.5 to 7.4 offensive rebounds this season. I don’t know how frequently fouls are called in those situations but that number of offensive rebounds is so close to zero this far into the season that I can understand and agree that there really isn’t much point in risking it.

Playing Time

It seems like a daily occurrence at this point where fans are asking questions about the minutes of a given player. First, it was Tristan Enaruna, then it was Jaden Walker, now it is Tre Jackson.

The rotation was somewhat set through the first couple of months even if that meant a non-starter like Kunc was getting more minutes than Enaruna who was starting. But there have been enough ups and downs with guys and their consistency and their offense that I think it will always be in flux. Especially when TJ Otzelberger has stated numerous times that he will most often base playing time in a game off of feel for what is happening.

But for whichever guy it is that we’re wondering about playing time I’d say that there are only 200 minutes available in a given game and 100 of them are going to be taken up by Tyrese Hunter, Gabe Kalscheur, and Izaiah Brockington.

That leaves 100 for seven other guys. Thankfully Otzelberger doesn’t just divide that number out and give each guy a fraction of time to play like Fran McCaffery seems to do. Based on matchups, how things are playing out in the game, and likely how things have gone in practice Otzelberger dishes out the playing time accordingly.

Close Game Fickleness

If you’re like me, you let out an exasperated exhale when Izaiah Brockington missed his first of two free throws when trailing 81-79 and only 28 seconds remaining against West Virginia.

If you’re like me, even after the win you’re left wondering if that ended up being the best-case scenario. If he makes both West Virginia would likely hold for the last shot and maybe win the game or who knows what would happen in overtime. Or really, who knows how everything would have unfolded in regulation… possibly for the worse but maybe for the better.

These nuances and post-result analyses turning basketball into 4D chess are what make everything so fun and interesting though.

Make or miss we got the result but maybe it has more to do with the fact that Iowa State has Izaiah Brockington and West Virginia does not than it did with missing or making that free throw.

As an aside, I would say that the West Virginia game was one of the few in recent history where I was convinced a loss was imminent in the closing minutes or seconds but some sort of divine intervention stepped in to disallow it. I’d put it next to the win over Iowa in 2015-16 and the home win over Oklahoma State in 2013-14. Surely there have been others that didn’t feel great or were won because of a few good bounces of the ball. But those three stick out to me as “pit in my stomach we’re gonna lose” type feelings that somehow were avoided.

The Cyclone Transfer List

I feel like this is an exercise that has been attempted on many occasions over the past ten years, and for good reason when there have been so many good transfer players making drastic impacts on Iowa State basketball in that time frame.

This is an impossible question with infinite definitions of what is “best” which is also why it is a fun discussion. I looked at it from the data side with things like offensive rating or PER or PORPAGATU! but I didn’t feel especially great about any of the results and with what my brain remembers my eyes seeing.

The list of guys that have played here after transferring and what they brought to the table. Whether it was Royce White’s unique size and talent that statistically dominated, DeAndre Kane’s toughness, Will Clyburn’s dynamic abilities, Marial Shayok doing everything efficiently, Deonte Burton’s being so explosive and erratic, Jake Anderson, Abdel Nader, Chris Allen, Korie Lucious, Scott Christopherson, Bryce Dejean-Jones, Nick Weiler-Babb, Chris Babb, Jameel McKay… the list goes on, and on, and on of transfers that were critical to the operation and maximized their time in Ames.

It isn’t a black-and-white answer but instead a puddle of gray.

But when I think of the transfers that were the most impactful and most fitting to what the team needed and capable of delivering that list gets a bit shorter.

When I think of how good teams would have been with a key player removed I get to this list that is in some loose order of how many more games would have been lost if they were not on the team. Maybe that says more about the surrounding talent but there are no rules here, so I am choosing to tackle it this way.

 I’d probably bring it down to these five, in this very rough and debatable order:

  • Izaiah Brockington
  • Royce White
  • Marial Shayok
  • DeAndre Kane
  • Will Clyburn

I could waffle on swapping Kane and Shayok but ultimately, that 2014 team had so many guys that played a big role. The 2019 squad was also very talented but there were so many times where it was Shayok that was relied upon that I gave him the nod.

Four Guard Lineup

This topic was tap-danced around a couple of weeks ago but in that time frame, it has seemed that the Cyclones have used a four-guard lineup much more frequently in the past few games than they did in the first 25 games.

To analyze this, I utilized again where there are gobs and gobs of lineup data. I would reiterate some of the cautions with using this stuff as I did two weeks ago because in general, the sample sizes are pretty small and there is a whole lot of nuance that leads to even more noise in the data.

I looked at four-man lineups that did not include any of the bigs (Jones, Conditt, Enaruna, or Kunc) knowing that one of them was most likely the 5th guy in many of the scenarios instead of a five guard lineup.

If this data were available in some form that showed game by game or changes in rotation over the season, that would be fantastic but it just doesn’t seem to be the case.

For the season, on the whole, there have been about 7,500 possessions of which just over six percent have been with a four-guard lineup of some variety. Below are the offensive and defensive PPP breakdowns with the “Average Opponent BPR” which is essentially the opponent strength that the lineups faced.

The results are eye-opening, but, must be taken with a grain of salt due to the sample sizes being so small. I think we can still reasonably agree that the small lineup has been more prevalent lately, it has been fairly successful, and it will continue to be used more and more so long as the defense and rebounding deficiencies do not crop up.