**knocking on wood** I'm more interested in scouting the Houston matchup because, frankly, I don't think Ohio State stands much of a chance outside of a bananas shooting day. I wanted to be convinced that Houston was overrated. The stats do not support that notion, mostly. Houston's strength of schedule according to TeamRankings is 69th; Iowa State's is 22nd. Houston has beaten 7 tournament teams: Oregon, LSU, Saint Louis, Utah State,Temple, UCF, Cincinnati. They have lost to 3 tournament teams: Temple, UCF and Cincinnati. Final regular season record of 31-3. Guards/offense: The vast majority of Houston's offensive damage is done by their guards. It is a fairly average group from inside the arc, but outside of it can really do some damage. The team's top five scorers are all guards: The group above combined to go 326/686 on twos, 47.5% with the attempts being spread fairly evenly between the five (ISU's top five guards went 406/798, 50.87%). It’s fair to assume that 47.5% would drop a percentage point or so in a better conference against better competition. So they’re not great inside the arc. One thing that does transfer from game to game regardless of SOS: three point shooting. The guard group above combined to go 280/738 (37.94%). The two highest volume guys were even better than the group's average - Brooks (112/285, 39.2%) and Davis (100/263, 38.02%). (ISU's group of aforementioned guards went 251/670, 37.4%). It will be critical to get a hand up not just for the high volume duo, but for this whole guard group that can really shoot lights out from land. Houston LOVES the three ball, and they’re great at driving into the paint to suck in defenders. 43% of its field goal attempts are from three, compared to ISU at 39.6%....and ISU led the Big12 in threes. Jarneau, Robinson and Davis in very good at finding the paint and making smart passes out to open shooters, or taking a good paint shot themselves. Davis is elite at it. Both teams are reliant on the three ball - 25 attempted/gm compared to ISU's 23. Houston and ISU are also similar in that they don’t take many mid-range twos. Below is an example shot chart from a Houston game earlier this year. Interestingly for a three-and-D type, they are a slow-paced team at 66.1 possessions per game (247th). Iowa State doesn't play with the tempo it did in the days of Hoiberg, only slightly quicker than Houston at 67.6 possessions per game (161st). Houston's pace surprises me, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them try to slow things down even more against ISU considering our guards' efficiency and talent. Both teams do like to push the ball when it’s available, but Houston is likely to have less opportunities as they do focus more on grabbing offensive rebounds. Which leads us to… Big men: offense/rebounding: Houston is 20th in the country on offensive rebounding percentage at 34.7% (for comparison, Baylor is #2 at 38.2%), driven by active bigs who don’t give up on misses. It’s crucial for Iowa State to box out and team-rebound from the guard spot. Interestingly, Houston’s leading rebounder is 6'3" guard Armoni Brooks at 6.5/game. Outside of Brooks, their big men really spread the minutes and go hard while in the game. The group consists of: - Brison Gresham (6'8", 13.7 minutes/game, 3.2 points and 3.6 rebounds, 67.6% shooting) - Breaon Brady (6'8", 13.9 minutes/game, 6.1 points and 4.0 rebounds, 57.7% shooting) - Chris Harris, Jr. (6'10", 11.2 minutes/game, 2.8 points and 3.6 rebounds, 72.5%) - Fabian White (6'7", 17.4 minutes/game, 6.0 points and 3.7 rebounds, 45.7% shooting) Good size and uber efficiency. In this group's 56.2 minutes/game, it has shot a combined 232/410 (56.58%) on twos. A lot of those twos are on putbacks after missed shots. This team doesn’t really dump it down to posts for post moves. Most of this group’s offense comes from what I’d call “garbage time.” Gresham, Harris and Brady can really kill you with their offensive rebounding. Harris (16.9%), Gresham (14.3%) and Brady (12.7%) all rank higher than anybody on Iowa State's roster, with our highest being Conditt and Jacobson (10.7% and 10.6% respectively). Though this is a solid group, its effectiveness appears to lessen in a game like this against a team that plays 4 guards. One of these guys will be playing at a given point, and if Houston’s staff is wise they’ll keep it at 1 as none has the lateral ability to stay with a guard and Jacobson would likely fan out to create paint space. Defense: Houston appears to switch fluidly from man to zone defense depending on needs, with three guards on the outside and a lot of #23 Cedrick Alley (6’5”, 230) as an undersized four and #55 Gresham (6’8”, 225) or #24 Brady (6’8”, 260) in the center of that zone. The guards are quick and don’t let too much by. The bigs are physical and, with that, prone to fouling. Houston leads the country in effective FG% defense with a measly 42.4% allowed on the season. That stat is bolstered by an impressive blocked-shot rate of 13.8%, good for 20th in the country (ISU's is 12.8%, 29th in the country). The film shows an aggressive group that doesn’t sit back and wait for the other team to dictate things. They force action. Houston has bigs with decent athleticism, and guards that can really fly around. It’s like a Texas Tech - great team defense that understands sagging to help and cutting off driving lanes with hedges, while staying alive by not hedging too much. However, I believe Houston has benefited significantly this season from some three-point luck on the defensive end. Their three-point percentage defense for the year is second-best in the country at 27.6%. Keeping in mind metrics that Haaland pointed out, three-point and free throw defense are more random than fact. Our successful games against Kansas State especially show this to be the case. Film from Houston’s games show that they aren’t doing anything especially damaging to keep that percentage down. Houston has played one team with similar guard talent, and that was LSU back in mid-December. There were a lot of open looks LSU got out of simple weave action that were simply missed. Despite the gloomy outlook the stats provide, I believe there is opportunity here. With being so aggressive, Houston sends the other team to the line quite a bit. Per Kenpom, 37.6% of every 1 field goal attempt by Houston's opponents leads to free throw/s. That's 283rd in the country. For comparison's sake, ISU is at 23.6% - 5th in the country. Gresham and Brady, their two main bigs, foul A LOT. It'll be important for ISU to take advantage of free throw opportunities, as history shows Houston will provide plenty of chances. Each of Houston and ISU is good at avoiding coughing up the ball, and neither turns over other teams much. Not going to focus on this aspect. The Kenpom luck stat - where Houston ranks 49th - reinforces the notion that luck has played a role in their 31-3 record results compared to what one would expect based on their stats. Their three point shooting defense reinforces some thoughts of luck as well. Film shows that good teams get open looks against them. They just haven’t played many good teams. One must also factor in the competition that Houston’s work has come against. Their in-conference opponents combine for an average rating of 122.45 overall in Kenpom (ISU’s average Kenpom Big12 opponent rating is 37.77). Quality of competition matters. Houston's guards are head and shoulders above those in their conference, and film shows that even more glaringly than stats. Summation: Houston is tough. Teams that love the three ball usually don't rebound the ball so well or play at such a slow tempo. If we do not value our possessions, it’ll feel like we’re being slowly choked in the same way it does when playing a Virginia or Texas Tech. Tech is probably the best in-conference comparison defensively, but it’s an imperfect comparison. The film looks a lot like the Virginia team we played a few years ago that beat us in the tournament, but with a caveat: Houston isn’t a great shooting team (52.1% EFG, 107th nationally). But they don’t care because they go grab misses. Thankfully, Houston doesn’t have a Mike Tobey or Anthony Gill going after said misses. This game is going to come down to: 1. Prevention of offensive rebounding (ISU guards will need to crash the defensive glass) 2. Stopping their quick guards from getting into the lane with sound hedging 3. Some luck in Houston's three-point shooting If we can keep their guards out of the paint/Houston's three ball isn't falling, and can defensive rebound at a high rate, we have a great shot as Houston is so reliant on those components (dribble-drive into a kickout, threes, offensive rebounding) for success. Houston will also foul, so success at the line will be important. High level defensive rebounding would also lead to some opportunities in the fast break, with Houston being so focused on having eager bodies looking for offensive rebounds. I didn’t write about our offensive strengths/weaknesses. Us fanatics are all aware of those and, good as Houston has been defensively, I don’t believe they’re going to be able to stop us from getting to 70. So to me, it really does come down to how we defend and rebound. If we don’t show up, this will feel like the game in Waco where Mason couldn’t miss and we couldn’t grab a defensive rebound. If Big12 Tournament version ISU shows up and does its thing as an above average three-point shooting team that's extremely efficient inside the arc (54.9% EFG, 25th in the country), and keeps Houston's offensive rebounding at bay as we did to all three teams in our tournament, we'll have a great shot to win. Houston’s guards, for the first time this season, will not be defending lesser talent – LSU included.