The No. 6 Iowa State Cyclones (23-11, 9-9) come into their NCAA Tournament matchup on Friday with the No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes fresh off of their fifth Big XII Tournament Championship. Senior guard Marial Shayok was named the tourney’s Most Valuable Player.
Coming into the conference tournament, the Cyclones had lost three-straight games to close out the regular season, losing to Texas, West Virginia, and No. 8 Texas Tech by an average of 15 points per game.
However, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., head coach Steve Prohm’s team turned it on and knocked off Baylor, No. 15 Kansas State, and No. 17 Kansas to secure their fourth conference tournament title in six years.
After playing three seasons at Virginia, Shayok transferred to Ames this year, and ended the regular season putting up 18.6 points per game. In addition to Shayok, three other Cyclones averaged in double-figures this season; the Big XII’s Sixth Man of the Year Lindell Wigginton (13.4), Talen Horton-Tucker (12.1), and Michael Jacobson (11.5). In the regular season, Iowa State led the conference in points per game with 73.3.
On the year, Iowa State faced two Big Ten teams, beating Illinois on Nov. 20, 84-68, and falling to in-state rival Iowa on Dec. 6, 98-84. If you believe in transitive properties, I’m not sure if looking at OSU’s record against those two common opponents will give you much insight. Ohio State beat Illinois 77-67 on Dec. 5, but fell to the Illini on Valentine’s Day, 63-56. The Buckeyes also split with the Hawkeyes, falling 72-62 on Jan. 12, but winning 90-70 on Feb. 26.
Interestingly, Iowa State ranked sixth in the Big XII in terms of rebounding, but Jacobson was their leading rebounder with just six per game. However, he was helped by Horton-Tucker and Nick Weiler-Babb who each picked up five per contest, and Shayok (4.9) and Wigginton (4.1) who both had above four.
In terms of size, the Cyclones are built fairly similarly to the Buckeyes. Jacobson and sophomore Cameron Lard both stand 6-foot-9, but they have no one else on the team that averages more than 8.2 minutes per game that stands taller than 6-foot-6. However, Wigginton (6-foot-2) is the shortest player in their rotation.
Throughout the season, Ohio State has struggled against teams that could shoot from distance. Unfortunately for Buckeye fans, Iowa State was third in the Big XII this season, shooting 36.5 percent (151-414) from downtown.
On the other side, the Cyclones are only average at forcing opponents to turn the ball over, forcing 12.6 per game. That’s pretty much what the Buckeyes average at 12.5. Another area where Ohio State could get a reprieve from the bruising Big Ten is in terms of fouls. Iowa state only drew 556 fouls this season, for 219th nationally. That averages to 16.4 per game, a foul-and-a-half less than the Buckeyes committed this season. If that extra foul-and-a-half just so happens to be Kaleb Wesson’s that could be a very good thing for Ohio State.
Land-Grant Holy Land and our friends over at Wide Right & Natty Lite will have this game covered from all angles in the lead-up to Friday’s contest.