On Monday night, Iowa State will travel to the Sprint Center to take on Alabama in the semifinals of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. We’ll start out like we usually do by looking at some of the difference makers for the opponent.
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Levi Randolph is first up for the team, who was last year’s second-leading scorer. He has taken the mantle of leadership this year by storm. He is currently averaging 19.0 ppg while shooting a very good 43 percent from 3-point range. Not content to just be an offensive threat, he is also pulling down 7.7 rpg and adds 3.0 apg — leading both categories for the team.
He is the conduit for the entire offense, so stopping him on both ends will be critical. I could see Randolph being guarded by anyone from Bryce Dejean-Jones to the players who have been in the two games prior to Abdel Nader and Matt Thomas in their first game back from suspension.
Nov 20, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Ricky Tarrant (2) goes to the basket at Coleman Coliseum. The Tide defeated the Eagles 81-67. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Ricky Tarrant is the second-biggest threat for Alabama as their point guard. He is averaging 13.7 ppg, but doesn’t contribute much else besides two steals per contest. He also doesn’t shoot particularly well from long distance (only 23 percent so far this season), so the biggest focus will be letting him try and beat the defense by shooting instead of driving. Look for Monte Morris to take the bulk of the assignment here and win it handily.
My final Alabama player is the center, Jimmie Taylor. He is the fourth scorer on the team with 8.3 ppg, but contributes an additional 5.7 rpg and 2.7 blocks. He is another 6-foot-10 player that will stand over the current Cyclone roster, but shouldn’t pose a huge threat to the skill of the ISU front court. Dustin Hogue should be able to use his greater mobility and experience to dance around Taylor’s shot blocking and frustrate the sophomore in the post.
For Iowa State, I’m going with the easy picks in Abdel Nader and Matt Thomas. Both have been serving suspensions to start the season thanks to DUIs from the offseason. I think they’ll both be used a good amount, but I’m more interested in their actual role. Thomas could spell Morris as the second point guard as well as be a sharp shooter, while Nader could play stretch-four or swing man. These two will be critical to the long-term success of the season, so this is a big first game back on the road.