Iowa State (18-4, 6-4) has found their rhythm again, winning their last three games and surviving a rough first half of Big 12 play. Prior to the game against TCU, they headed into the second half of conference action with the easiest schedule.
Perhaps the toughest assignment will be taking on West Virginia (14-10, 6-5) two times, and the first meeting comes off of a quick turnaround for both teams in Morgantown.
(16)Iowa State Cyclones vs West Virginia Mountaineers
WVU Coliseum | Morgantown, West Virginia
Date: Monday, February 10th, 2014
Time: 6:00 PM CT | TV: ESPNU (Broadcast info)
Both teams were on the court just a shade over 48 hours ago. The Mountaineers let things fall apart on the road against Kansas while Melvin Ejim dropped a 48-point performance against the Horned Frogs in Hilton Coliseum.
West Virginia has been waived off by many pundits before the season began, but they’re trending in the right direction. A tough non-conference slate didn’t translate into a great record, but it’s helped them reach a winning record in Big 12 play.
Strangely enough, both of these teams mirror each other statistically in a lot of categories. Neither team turns the ball over a lot and they don’t dominate the boards. However, West Virginia has committed 116 more fouls and don’t move the ball as well as Iowa State. The Cyclones average 5.3 more assists per game.
Iowa State leads the series 2-0 over West Virginia. They never met prior to the Mountaineers joining Big 12 action. However, DeAndre Kane has a lot of experience against them. During his tenure at Marshall, Kane is 1-2 against them. He averaged 16.7 points but has a negative assist-turnover ratio (10 assists, 12 turnovers) combined in all three games.
On the coaching front, Bob Huggins is 4-3 all-time against the Cyclones. Previous to his two losses last year, he won both games with Kansas State and went 2-1 with Cincinnati.
What to watch for
Ejim has found his groove with three straight double-doubles, and he’s just three rebounds away from having a double-double in his last six games. He’s found his stride in Big 12 play, and he’s aiding the slow starts Iowa State used to have.
In a matter of minutes, Ejim can fill up a statsheet. He’s quickly improving his draft stock and can become a national star if things continue.
Comparing both teams, earlier it was brought up that Iowa State has the edge in assists and not committing as many fouls. On the flip side, West Virginia is one of the better teams at grabbing offensive rebounds (11.8 per game), which has been constant kryptonite for the Cyclones. Also, the Mountaineers are more efficient from 3-point range (a lot of it via Eron Harris), making just five less 3-pointers than Iowa State on the season.
[Also see: ISU-WVU 3 players to watch]
If Iowa State fans think this two-game series against West Virginia is going to be cake, they’re in for a rude awakening. Both games were a toss up last year, and expect the same this season with an improved squad under Bob Huggins.
Bottom line, the Cyclones just need to play their style of game. If they can knock down 3-point shots and move the ball well without turning it over, they can easily head back to Ames with a victory.
Also, the Mountaineers have been notorious for fouling this season – they’ve had 10 more players foul out of a game than the Cyclones this season. That’s improved since Big 12 play began. If fouling favors WVU at home, then things will get very interesting; West Virginia is a better free-throw shooting team.
If Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim can continue their offensive prowess, DeAndre Kane doesn’t turn the ball over like he’s done in the past against the Mountaineers, and the team is able to rebound from a short layoff, the Cyclones should pull off another big road win. But it will be very tough.
IAST 71, WVU 67 (Odds: IAST -2)