enCYCLONEpedia: North Dakota State preview

What: No. 5 Iowa State (5-0) vs. North Dakota State (4-1)
7 p.m.
Where: Hilton Coliseum

North Dakota State will enter Hilton Coliseum with a 4-1 record though none of their wins have come against impressive teams. Their season opener was on the road against UC Davis, which they won in overtime and their other three wins have been home blowouts over scrubs.

Their one loss came at a neutral site game in Illinois against the Fighting Illini, a game the Bison dropped by six. That was a game where NDSU led by 11 at halftime only to be outscored by 16 in the final 10 minutes to lose. It was a game where Kendrick Nunn was not available for Illinois, a guy that really bothered Iowa State this past Saturday.

*All stats per*

When the Bison have the ball…

The Bison are a slightly above average team on offense scoring just over one point per possession (adjusted for competition and game location) at 1.04. They’re playing at a pretty slow pace of 69 possessions per game (253rd) and they are 307th in average possession length in the NCAA.

As a whole, they’re an average shooting team but when you look closer it seems to be more that they are a terrible 3-point shooting team, making just 30.6 percent of their attempts (251st) while they make 53.4 percent of shots inside the arc (69th). Despite their very low 3-point shooting accuracy, NDSU has the 80th highest rate of 3-point attempts in the NCAA with 39.8 percent of their shots coming from behind the arc. This means they make terrible decisions or they are good shooters that just haven’t shown it yet.

They are an average free throw shooting team, making 69.6 percent of their attempts but they very rarely get to the line with a very low free throw rate (266th).

The Bison do a very good job taking care of the ball and turn it over on just 13.9 percent of their possessions (13th). They don’t give up scoring opportunities in that manner, but they don’t create many with their offensive rebounding. The Bison grab just 24.3 percent of available offensive rebounds (291st).

Defensively, Iowa State is in pretty good shape early on with their statistical profile. They’re 24th on Pomeroy’s scoring efficiency by allowing just 0.94 points per possession. The catalysts for that are their shooting defense both inside and outside the arc (88th and 86th in the NCAA) and an effective field goal percentage of 44.9 percent.

Iowa State’s defense is middle of the pack in creating turnovers but they’re 36th in defensive rebounding rate by giving up just 23.7 percent of rebounds to the offense and they are 4thbest in the country in terms of keeping teams off of the free throw line.

When the Cyclones have the ball…

North Dakota State has the 34th best scoring efficiency, allowing 0.96 points per possession that isn’t bolstered by any one particular area. They do a good job creating turnovers at 20.3 percent of possessions (95th) and rebounding well by grabbing 71.9 percent of rebounds (112th).

Opponents have gotten to the line very often against them but those opponents have combined to shoot just 57 percent in those games, so they haven’t been hurt as badly as they could have been.

One other particular area to note is that teams have attempted just 26.6 percent of their shots from behind the 3-point line, that is the 13th lowest rate in the NCAA. Assuming that is a part of their defensive philosophy of chasing shooters of the three-point line then Iowa State will need to exercise some patience to not force them and attack and finish around the rim.

Players to watch…

The Bison are pretty small across the board of guys that get any amount of substantive playing time. They have seven guys playing right around 20 minutes per game or more, two of those guys are 6’6” and nobody else is taller. Defensively for Iowa State, that could present problems with their normal lineup to find someone for both Jameel McKay and Georges Niang to guard. I’d advocate to give Georges the best matchup for him and if McKay is left to guard a guy outside the paint, so be it. I think he has the ability to hang with most guys on the wing so long as they aren’t running him off screens all night to make him chase. Also, zone is always an option with NDSU being a subpar 3-point shooting team so far and not a great offensive rebounding team.

When the Bison have the ball, Paul Miller looks to be their primary weapon. He’s averaging 19.6 points per game and he’s 12-for-31 from beyond the 3-point line. He hasn’t gotten to the rim for shots a ton, but when he has he’s converted by making 14-18 of his attempts.

A.J. Jacobson and Malik Clements are the next two scoring threats and both have had some success from beyond the three point line by shooting 35 and 32 percent respectively. (NDSU’s biggest downfall on long distance shooting has been Khy Kabellis going 2-15 so far this season.)

What I think will happen…

You always have to watch for teams going bananas on their long distance shooting out of nowhere, in this case the Bison have a few shooters that have been pretty solid but their overall numbers have dropped due to one “chucker” not converting much this season. Let’s hope that trend continues but the defense will absolutely have to be crisp and be mindful of Paul Miller at all times as well as finding Clements and Jacobson on rotations.

Aside from that, keeping the Bison status quo with their low offensive rebounds ISU will need to make life hard for them on their shots inside the arc and keeping them from getting all the way to the rim. They’ll likely try and grind out possessions and really make Iowa State’s defense work and slow the game down. Clamping down for the whole 30 second shot clock and finishing the possessions with forcing tough shots and rebounds is a must.

On offense, they just need to play. They’ll need to be a bit patient because quick shots and misses can put a real strain on your defense having to repeatedly guard for such long durations. With the size advantage, I’m curious to see if they’ll put any effort into attacking with either Mckay, Niang, or Abdel Nader based on which guy has the smallest defender. Nader hasn’t spent a ton of time in the post but I think he’s capable when the matchup is in his extreme favor. If they take care of the ball, shoot to or near their averages, and avoid any weird stuff on defense then I think the Cyclones will cruise to a 15 or so point win. 


Kirk Haaland


Kirk has been a contributor at Cyclone Fanatic since the fall of 2009 and is a lifelong Cyclone fan. He eventually started his own website,, where he cultivated an interest in statistical analysis and historical Iowa State football and basketball data. In 2014, Kirk came to Fanatic and housed his works here. In 2015 he launched a new website,, as the co-founder. There you can find in depth analysis of all things involving advanced statistical analysis in college football for every FBS program. Kirk graduated from Iowa State University in 2006 with a degree in Industrial Technology and has worked as a Manufacturing/Quality Engineer ever since. He's married to his wife, Kelley, and has three daughters, Hannah, Hayley, and Kinley (plus his Golden Retriever, Clyde).

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