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The Morning Dish – Tuesday, February 23, 2016

February 23, 2016 The Morning Dish No Comments
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Before Iowa State was placed in so many preseason top 10s and labeled by some as a Final Four favorite and a short-list contender for the national title, it might’ve been instructive to watch the Cyclones’ final game from the 2014-15 season.

In a stunning first-round loss to No. 14 seed UAB in the NCAA Tournament, third-seeded ISU was outrebounded 51-34. This came against a team that was just +1.5 on the season on the glass while competing in Conference USA (and, indeed, the Blazers were outrebounded 41-26 in their next game by fairly middling UCLA).

Fun as they were to watch on offense and as much as everyone loved former coach Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State was not a good rebounding team last year. And it is not this year-a minus 0.2 on the season, and if that sounds maybe not so bad, understand that any BCS school that plays guarantee games usually gets a good start on a plus-rebounding margin based solely on its size advantage in those games.

While many of the players returned from last year’s Cyclones squad…the bad news may also have been that many of the same players returned from that team. It certainly looks like Iowa State still was what it was, and that was before losing Naz Mitrou-Long for the season due to injury. The latest example came Monday night, as West Virginia weathered a typically strong ISU shooting performance (50.8%, plus 11 of 24 on three-pointers) to win 97-87 and sweep the season series between the two teams.

It’s no surprise that any team struggles to keep the Mountaineers off the glass-WVU again is right there with fellow regular board-bouncers Quinnipiac at the top of the offensive rebounding charters, and also ranks in the top 10 in rebound margin. West Virginia won the battle of the boards in this one 38-27, including 16 offensive rebounds. Still, this was the fifth time in its eight losses now that ISU has been on the negative side on the glass, which goes a good way towards negating the offense from one of the best shooting squads in the nation.

If Iowa State was ever going to be a true top 10 team this year, it was going to need to be better in that area. The Cyclones have not been, and given what we knew going into the season, perhaps there was just never much reason to expect it in the first place.

Side Dishes

  • In this volatile college basketball season, the balance nationally is so much that it’s not easy to even single out favorites to advance deep in the NCAA Tournament, let alone label clear Final Four favorites. Miami (Fla.) just may fit the profile of a team ready to make a long run, though. The Hurricanes earned another big win Monday, taking down Virginia 64-61, hitting 10 of 19 from three-point range to bust the UVA defense from long range. Davon Reed led the way with 21. Miami occasionally relies too much on the long ball, but it is ultra-experienced, deep enough, and has a coach who has gone a long way in the tourney before.
  • Texas held on to beat Kansas State 71-70, winning despite being outrebounded because it hit nine three-pointers. Isaiah Taylor hit the biggest one, a dagger late that put the Longhorns in control in the final minute, giving them just enough cushion as the Wildcats refused to go away.
  • Iona added another chapter to its growing history of losing huge leads, as Siena came all the way back from being 25 down in the first half to take the lead late. Fortunately for the Gaels, A.J. English rode in on his white horse to save the day, hitting two three-pointers late (part of his 32 points in the game) to propel Iona to an 87-81 road win that clinches at least the No. 2 seed in the MAAC tourney.
  • SWAC leader Texas Southern trailed by eight with under five minutes to go but came back to edge Arkansas-Pine Bluff 54-52. The Tigers are still the team to beat in this league.
  • The Stephen F. Austin machine kept rolling, winning its 14th straight game by dumping Lamar 79-58 and moving closer to a third straight Southland title.
  • Quinton Chievous scored 21 and added 19 rebounds as Hampton kept a narrow lead in the MEAC standings with an 82-72 win at Delaware State. The Pirates are still one-half game ahead of South Carolina State, which defeated Howard 71-63.
  • Triple-double alert: little (5-foot-9) Jordan Johnson of Wisconsin-Milwaukee had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the Panthers’ 87-51 blowout of Youngstown State.
  • Single-double alert: big (6-9) Jake Zuilhof of Central Arkansas had four points but 15 rebounds in the Bears’ 88-82 win at McNeese State.

Tonight’s Menu:

  • The night starts with a game that may provoke some…interesting flashbacks. Georgia State at Georgia Southern (6 p.m. EST, ESPN2) is a rematch of the 2015 Sun Belt tourney final, where Georgia State won 38-36 in an absolute grinder.
  • The biggest game of the night follows that and is in the Big 12, per usual. Kansas travels to Baylor (8 p.m., ESPN2), and the Bears look to avenge a 28-point blowout in the first meeting this year. Meanwhile, just a few weeks after the sky was falling, KU can just about wrap up yet another Big 12 title with a win here.
  • After a home clunker against Mississippi State this weekend, Alabama needs at least a good showing, if not necessarily a win at Kentucky (7 p.m., ESPN). Also, let’s see how Ben Simmons responds after a poor showing in his last game when LSU plays at Arkansas (7 p.m., ESPNU).
  • Tulsa just continues to hang around as an at-large candidate, and now the Golden Hurricane get a Golden Opportunity when they host AAC-leading Temple (7 p.m., ESPNews).
  • Texas Tech attempts to continue its surge with a home game against TCU (9 p.m., ESPNews).
  • Ohio State has felt like an NIT team all year, but the Buckeyes could start to sneak into the “bubble” conversation with a win at home against Michigan State (9 p.m., ESPN).
  • The best game on the MAC Tuesday slate has surprising Ball State-ahead of the pack by two games in the West Division-at Toledo, one of three teams that are two games back of the Cardinals and hoping to tighten up that division even further.

Have a good Tuesday.

Twitter: @HoopvilleAdam
E-mail: hoopvilleadam@yahoo.com

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