Feb 23, 2019; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward Michael Jacobson (12) grabs a rebound past TCU Horned Frogs forward JD Miller (15) during the first half at Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Where: Fort Worth, Texas
When: 5:00 p.m.
KenPom Prediction: 73-69, TCU
1 – Two bigs vs. four guards
This game presents an interesting crossroads for Iowa State in the way it wishes to use its roster. TCU, like many of the teams in the Big 12, will employ a largely four-guard attack, which presents an interesting matchup going against the two-big lineup Iowa State has used primarily through its first 12 games.
The Horned Frogs are far from the most talented team in the league, but they still have four perimeter players who are capable of hurting opposing teams, led by senior Desmond Bane, who enters Saturday’s game scoring 17.1 points per game and coming off of a 30-point performance, which included going 5-of-7 from 3-point range, in TCU’s win over George Mason on Monday.
“We’ve got to do a great job on Desmond Bane,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said on Thursday. “He’s got an efficiency chart like Tyrese (Haliburton), really, in the way he’s shooting the ball from three and he’s rebounding it.”
The Horned Frogs are also a team adept at sharing and moving the basketball with four players entering this game averaging three or more assists per game and 63.2 percent of their made shots coming off of assists, good for No. 14 nationally, according to KenPom.
It remains unclear how long the Cyclones will roll with their two-big group as their primary lineup (more on that in a second), but this will certainly present one of the team’s toughest challenges to date on that front with the number of playmakers TCU can put on the floor together.
“They put four guys out there can really shoot the basketball,” Prohm said. “We’re going to have to defend the three. You’re going to have to defend the pick and roll. It’s not complicated. It’s about four or five things you’re going to see for 40 minutes. At the end of the day, you’ve got to get back in transition, you’ve got to defend pick and roll, we’ve got to contain them in the paint and then we’ve got to finish plays.”
2 – Rebounding rebound
Prohm’s last point on finishing plays brings me to point No. 2. Simply put, Iowa State’s ability to finish plays, specifically on the defensive end, has been abysmal when you consider the fact the Cyclones have had two bigs on the floor at almost every moment during the first 12 games.
Iowa State enters Saturday No. 312 nationally in opponent offensive rebounding percentage, a number that most certainly was not helped by allowing 11 offensive rebounds to Florida A&M on 25 missed shots. Playing two bigs at the same time becomes more or less pointless when it fails to make a decided difference in one of, if not the, biggest areas it should.
After the way Tuesday’s loss transpired, this game certainly is some level of a “put up or shut up” moment for Mike Jacobson and Solomon Young, who combined for four rebounds in 38 minutes against the Rattlers.
“They’ve got to rebound,” Prohm said. “They can’t have four rebounds. They know that. We all know that. You can look at the stat sheet and know that. They’ve got to rebound.”
TCU is No. 30 nationally in offensive rebound percentage, grabbing 35 percent of their misses this season. This is a team that is going to hit the offensive glass hard and they do it with success even while playing primarily with four players on the perimeter.
That is because they play hard. Jamie Dixon’s teams always do. The Cyclones will have to match that intensity from the opening tip.
Iowa State cannot afford to allowed TCU to control the glass on both ends of the floor. If they do, it could be a deciding factor in a fifth-straight loss to Dixon’s team.
What goes into fixing that issue? Maybe a lineup change giving George Conditt more minutes is the answer, but it more than likely comes down to a collective decision by the guys on the floor to put everything they have into ending possessions with the opponent only getting one shot.
“We need a rebounder. That’s the bottom line. We’ve got to rebound better,” Prohm said. “We’ve got to rebound better. We’ve got to defend the paint better. The offensive part, that’s the least of my worries. We all want to talk offense and I do too, probably too much, but that’s what we need from them. We need a double-figure rebound guy. We need a guy at the top of the league in rebounding. We have it in blocked shots, but we need it in rebounding. We need to make people miss shots, but then we’ve got to go get it. Go get it out of your area.”
If that does not sound like a direct challenge to Jacobson, who has shown the ability to be a high-end rebounder, and Young, plus Conditt to an extent, then I don’t know what is. As it stands now, Iowa State’s two-big lineup is not going to be viable if one, two or even all three of them do not step up to change what is becoming a dangerous trend on the defensive glass.
3 – Something’s gotta give
Both of these teams enter the game outside of the top two-thirds of college basketball in opponent 3-point percentage. While it seems like Iowa State has been bad defending the 3-point line, and they have been allowing opponents to connect on 34.6 percent, good for No. 240 nationally, TCU has, somehow, been even worse at 36 percent or No. 276 in college hoops.
The difference between the two is TCU makes up for it on the other end of the floor, connecting on 36.5 percent of their shots from deep while the Cyclones are hitting just 31.8 percent.
There will likely be open shots to be found for both of these teams on Saturday. The team that connects on more of them will most likely be the one that finds themselves on the winning end of the scoreboard.