I’d say most Cyclone fans would agree that it is an absolute joy to watch this team play. Most opponents would disagree.
I can’t imagine trying to find a game plan to stop this collection of basketball players assembled by Fred Hoiberg. At almost all times, ISU has at least four players on the court that can score both on the block or on the perimeter. Then you throw in sharpshooters Naz Long and Matt Thomas and a young freshman guard that plays like anything but a freshman in Monté Morris and you’ve got problems among the top-seven regular rotation.
The Cyclones can score in so many ways. Your three “bigs” can step out and hit 3-pointers at a pretty good clip and DeAndre Kane can post up when a mismatch presents itself. It has to be a head scratcher for opposing coaches.
Try double-teaming the red-hot Georges Niang (22.5 points in last four games) and the big fella finds open guys cutting down the lane for layups or wide open shooters for three like a second point guard. He’s tough to double and has shown it as the only non-guard to rank in the Big 12’s top-10 in assists per game.
But if you don’t double him, Niang’s crafty ways around the basket prove problematic as has been showcased late in games this season.
With Melvin Ejim shooting the ball better from long distance than he ever has (40.6 percent) and Dustin Hogue emerging as one of the most efficient players nationally (he’s averaging 17.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and shooting over 71 percent in the last five games), coaches really do have to pick their poison.
To top it all off, the Cyclones are ridiculously unselfish, assisting on more than 63 percent of their field goals. The best evidence of this came against Akron, when in the first half Ejim started to drive from the top of the key. As DeAndre Kane’s man leaked over to stop the drive, Ejim delivered a perfect bounce pass in the lane that resulted in an easy layup for the normal playmaker of the bunch.
Iowa State also gets to the line…..a lot. The new rules of college basketball have made Kane even more difficult to stop and it results in free throws for either him or his teammates. The Cyclones have averaged 29.5 free-throw attempts in the last six contests and have converted 72.1 percent of them.
If you take out an abnormal free-throw shooting performance against Iowa (23-36), Iowa State is shooting a respectable 71.4 percent from the line.
As I sit drinking some kind of Hawaiian coffee (the free stuff in the hotel room), I can’t help but admire the blend that Hoiberg has put together on the court.
Happy Holidays to all in Cyclone Nation. We hope you’ll be able to enjoy time with family and follow it up by firing up the fireplace and TV and watching this group play Boise State on Christmas Day. They are a joy to watch. You all know that based on the fact there are hardly any tickets remaining for our home games. Get them while you can!