WILLIAMS: 10 thoughts on Iowa State’s Sweet 16 matchup vs. Miami

Mar 24, 2022; Chicago, IL, USA; Iowa State Cyclone head coach T.J. Otzelberger speaks to the media at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO — Let’s get after it. 

1 — This is a totally different team than the one from six years ago. 

I was recently reminiscing with a friend about the last time Iowa State played in a Chicago hosted Sweet 16. It was 2016, and Fred Hoiberg had just taken the job with the Bulls. It was Steve Prohm’s first year but if you remember, the Cyclones were absolutely LOADED with talent that season. 

Georges Niang. Monte Morris. Naz Mitrou-Long. Matt Thomas, to name a few.

T.J. Otzelberger was an assistant on that team.

“I believe, if I’m not mistaken, we were ranked fifth in the country coming in,” Otzelberger remembers. “We had a group of guys who were very offensively inclined, many of which are still playing in the NBA. A group we had high expectations for. They were a group that we knew coming in what we had in terms of personnel, what their strengths were, how they played well together. Very offensively inclined.”

This 2022 team – which is somehow back in the exact same position, could not be more opposite. 

“A group of all new guys, a team unanimously picked last in our league starting this season. A team that nobody expected to be here that’s adopted and embraced the underdog mentality and doing the extra work,” Otz said. “So what I’ll say in both cases is fortunate that with each team to be successful you have to have guys embrace their role, do their job, care about the team’s success and work really hard. And in each instance, fortunate to have those teams both times. Yet entirely different where we started, how we got to where we are.”

2 – Iowa State needs to make this a “Big 12 game.”

That’s what Otzleberger said on Wednesday night, regarding major differences between Iowa State and Miami stylistically. It means that the Cyclones want to make this a physical contest to try and get the high-scoring Hurricanes out of their rhythm. 

Another thing I’d like to point out is that on Friday night, officiating will matter. Let’s all hope that whoever gets the nod will let the boys play. 

3 – Otzelberger’s scout on Miami … 

Otzelberger on Miami’s offense … 

“They have a group that can really score the basketball. They can really space you out. They’re very creative offensively in what they do and the scheme they have. Coach Larrañaga is a terrific basketball coach.

For them, they’re a team that wants a flow and a pace offensively to score in the open court, to generate turnovers and score off those turnovers. We’re a team that prides itself on being a very gritty half-court defensive team that pressures the basketball and dictates what we want to do.

So each team has their strengths. I’m sure that both of us will try to play to those strengths. The turnover margin will certainly be one that will have a substantial impact on who wins the game. And both teams are going to try to be the one that does a better job of that, I’m sure.”

Otzelberger on Miami’s defense…

“They’re very disruptive. They’ll trap ball screens. They’ll trap a pass, a wing entry. They’ll deny the ball back or to your point guard. They will — at times they’re very unpredictable. That style of defense, the amoeba-style defense that Coach Larrañaga has played in the past, he’s really embraced with this group. And teams, as you do that, get a better understanding for how to do that well. What you can see over the course of the season is that their defense and identity has improved. So a team that can really turn you over. And we need to do a great job of having toughness with the basketball, because those turnovers turn into points really quickly for them on the other end.”

Miami is ranked 18th in KenPom’s adjusted offense rating. The Hurricanes are ranked 124th in adjusted defense. It’s worth pointing out that the worst-ranked defensive team in the Big 12 is Kansas State at No. 68. 

Miami Hurricanes guard Charlie Moore (3) dumps the ball off inside during the second round of the 2022 NCAA tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., on Sunday, March 20, 2022. Miami Hurricanes lead Auburn Tigers 33-32 at halftime. Syndication The Montgomery Advertiser

4 – On Vegas/Bet Rivers stats 

Every day, I get data from Bet Rivers on where the money is at and going on key sporting events. 

I found it fascinating this morning when I read that 73 percent of the bets on Iowa State / Miami have been placed on the Hurricanes. However, this is one of the lowest bet games in terms of money being placed on Iowa State / Miami. 

What’s that tell us?

The public is heavily betting Miami, which is a good sign. For me, at least. I always want to bet against the public when it is this big of a differential.

5 – One thing that fascinates me about Miami …

When you hear about the Hurricanes, you think of “high scoring, explosive offense, etc.”

One of the things that really surprised me when I started to deep dive on them is that they actually don’t shoot the 3-point ball that well. However, Miami is an elite shot-making team if it’s from two. The Hurricanes rank 24th nationally in that category. 

But it’s wild … Miami went 4-for-29 from three in last weekend’s two games against USC and Auburn. I bet you wouldn’t have guessed that …

Defensively, Iowa State is the eighth-best team in the country when it comes to defending the three. A lot of that has to do with Gabe Kalscheur… 

6 — A few thoughts on Gabe Kalscheur’s importance to this team.

He had quite a few ups and downs this year, no doubt. But you always got the feeling that Gabe brought more to the table than just pure shooting – stuff that most fans don’t see.

Otzelberger elaborated. 

“We have tremendous belief in Gabe’s offensive abilities. We know he can help us facilitate offense and play at the point guard. We know that he can make plays off the bounce. He can attack. He can post up. He’s a terrific cutter without the basketball. And when he gets in a rhythm, he can be a prolific jump shooter. So we’ve got confidence in Gabe and we know that he can do that job.”

“When it comes down to that other side we know he’s elite defensively. He has the other team’s toughest matchup night in, night out. He’s a great communicator, he’s our anchor defensively. He’s our quickest to rotate. He talks our guys through what’s going on.”

“So he’s a very impactful player on both sides. Certainly, when we’re able to get him going offensively, we’ve been able to take our team to another level. But we’re going to keep treating it as we have. We know that Gabe likes the big moment. Gabe likes the personal challenge. He’s stepped up when those opportunities have been in front of him. And we’ve got all the confidence in the world that he’ll do that again for us here.”

7 — Let’s talk turnovers…

Miami has the best turnover ratio in the ACC (offense ranked 6th, defense ranked 59th).

Iowa State is the fourth-best team in the country when it comes to turning teams over. The Cyclones are ranked all the way back at No. 294 when it comes to offensive turnover percentage. 

What’s it all mean?

Something has to give here. I’d refer everybody back to thought No. 2 about making this a “Big 12 game.”

It’s notable that Iowa State forced Wisconsin to turn it over 17 times last Sunday night, the most turnovers for the Badgers in a game over the last three years. 

Also notable (from ISU team notes): “Iowa State leads Sweet Sixteen teams in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, 3-point field goal percentage defense and turnovers forced.”

8 — Jim Larrañaga’s thoughts on Iowa State … 

A few thoughts from Miami’s head coach on the matchup…

“We played two very big teams (USC and Auburn). Now we’re playing a team that’s very similar to us. They’re very defensive-minded and they’re very stingy on defense. They force a lot of turnovers. And they share the ball offensively. They run a motion offense and make a lot of passes and do a lot of cutting. And that’s going to be a real challenge for us. Hopefully, our offense will be a real challenge for them.”

Mar 20, 2022; Greenville, SC, USA; Miami (Fl) Hurricanes head coach Jim Larranaga stands with his team as they react from the bench in the game against the Auburn Tigers in the first half during the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

9 — I am a geek when it comes to college basketball coaches. 

College basketball is perhaps the one sport in the world where the head coach is ALWAYS the focal point. There is so much transferring and going pro early in today’s game. Once we get to know a star, he is gone. 

The head coaches are the one constant. 

We’ve got four very interesting coaches in Chicago this weekend, with Iowa State’s Otzelberger being the puppy of the group.

Starting with the great Jim Larrañaga. Miami’s head coach is one of the most universally respected guys in this entire business. 

“As a young coach, you study the veteran coaches who are successful and adaptive, especially at multiple spots because from year to year your team’s going to be different. Your winning equation may be different,” Otzelberger said. “And Coach Larrañaga, over time, has proven that. Proven it at Bowling Green, George Mason. He’s been somebody that has continued to reinvent his team, that is ever-present in the group that he has this year as they’ve reinvented through the course of the year. He’s been very adaptive.”

Bill Self is here. You all know him quite well. 

What about Providence’s Ed Cooley? The guy is a rockstar among his coaching peers.

Self was great when talking about Cooley’s job this season. 

“Ed’s done an unbelievable, won 25 and wins the Big East, have a chip every time they play, which is part of being a good salesman,” Self said. “But teams need to buy into a certain thought or theory or belief. And I’m sure that’s been the thing that’s probably driven them as much as anybody. They probably think, well, we win the league but they still talk about Villanova. Or we’re a 4 seed and Villanova is a 2 seed, we win the league. You can use those things as motivation all the time. I’m sure Ed is very good at that. I know we’ve done similar things as well.”

10 — Last minute look ahead to a possible berth in the Elite Eight … 

A couple of thoughts here …

** Just imagine if Iowa hadn’t crapped the bed vs. Richmond. I hadn’t even thought about this until we got to Chicago, but think about Iowa and Iowa State being in the same Sweet 16 pod with a chance to play one another in the Elite Eight. Gross. 

** Would Iowa State rather see a team like Kansas, which it knows quite well, in the Elite Eight? Or Providence, who stylistically is very similar to the Jayhawks?

Give me Providence. It would open up a good chunk of United Center tickets for Iowa State fans to buy, for one. And while I think Providence is really, really good, they don’t have the elite talent that Kansas does. I’d prefer to play a team that hasn’t scouted Iowa State so well too. 

We will burn that bridge if/when we get there.