Michigan at Iowa State
Hilton Coliseum, Ames, Iowa
5:00 pm EST, Sunday
Iowa State –1 (KenPom)
With Melvin Ejim likely sidelined, Georges Niang is Iowa State's lone returning starter set to take the floor today.
Fred Hoiberg's merry band of transfers and castoffs had to replace three starters from last year's team—one that gave Ohio State a very close game in the second round of the NCAA tournament—and they'll likely face Michigan without one of their two returners, senior forward Melvin Ejim, who's doubtful to play due to a hyperextended left knee. [UPDATE: Ejim will play, giving ISU a second post presence and their best rebounder. More importantly, however, Mitch McGary is suited up to make his season debut.]
That leaves sophomore forward Georges Niang as the lone returning starter—though, with Iowa State's usual reloading via JuCo and grad-year transfers, that belies the Cyclones's on-court experience. Point guard DeAndre Kane is a fifth-year senior who was immediately eligible to play this season after graduating from Marshall, while junior forward Dustin Hogue was a JuCo standout at Indian Hills C.C. the last two years—those are two "new" starters for ISU.
Niang was the team's third-leading scorer last year despite coming off the bench in 12 of their 35 games, averaging 12.1 points while shooting 57% on two-pointers and 39% from downtown. At 6'7", 240 pounds, he's the team's largest player to play a significant number of minutes; he's also posted below-average rebounding numbers for a big. Yes, Iowa State is a perimeter-heavy team. How did you guess?
In fact, Kane—a 6'4" point guard—is currently the team's leading rebounder after two wins against non-conference cannon fodder (KenPom #280 UNC Wilmington and #326 Texas A&M Corpus Christi), averaging an even nine(!) per game in addition to his 14 points and 5.5 assists. While Kane's rebounding is bound to fall off—his rebounding percentages are double what he posted at Marshall—his passing is for real: he posted the nation's ninth-best assist rate last season. He's not a great shooter, but he can get the offense going, either through his distributing or knack for drawing fouls (6.2/40 mins).
With Ejim sidelined, Hogue has taken on the role as the team's primary defensive rebounder (24.6 DR%) and rim protector (uh, two blocks in two games) despite standing at 6'6", 215 pounds. Thus far this year, he's shot 100% at the rim, where he's taken half his shots, and 0% on two-point jumpers, which make up the other half of his attemps. Only 1/3 of his baskets have been assisted, so he fits the profile of off-the-dribble threat; keeping him away from the basket is obviously a priority.
The team's leading scorer is sophomore guard Naz Long, who's hit 9/14 three-pointers through two games. He hails from Mississauga, Ontario, the same hometown as Nik Stauskas. Mental note: investigate what's in the water in Mississauga. Long played sparingly last year and was 5/18 for three on the season, so it's unlikely he'll remain ISU's top scorer; even during this hot streak, he's averaging just over 20 minutes per game and hasn't added much to the box score aside from the avalanche of threes.
Rounding out the starting five is 6'3" freshman guard Matt Thomas, who's been content to gun from the outside so far this season: he's 5/13 on threes and 4/5 on twos through two games. ISU's top backup is another freshman guard, Monte Morris, whom you may know as the guy who beat out Derrick Walton for Michigan Mr. Basketball honors last season. Thus far Morris is actually averaging more minutes than starters Hogue, Long, and Niang; he's connected on 4/6 three-pointers and hit just 1/5 twos.
The first big man off the bench will be 6'8" JuCO transfer Daniel Edozie, who's hit all three of his shots this season while pulling in nine rebounds (one offensive) in 31 minutes; Detroit Southeastern product Percy Gibson should also see time up front. Guard Sherron Dorsey-Walker, a redshirt freshman from Detroit Pershing, has played limited minutes so far this season.
I should start with this: Mitch McGary hasn't been ruled out of this game, though I'm pretty skeptical that he'll return this early. This preview presumes he'll be out; if he's not... hooray! I'm happy to be wrong.
UPDATE: HOORAY, I'M WRONG
Control the pace. The Cyclones under Hoiberg aren't dissimilar from a Beilein squad—undersized, very efficient offensively, average defensively—with one marked difference: they play at a very high tempo, 34th nationally last year. Michigan wasn't challenged much in transition so far this year, and ISU is much more prepared to run off missed shots and turnovers. Luckily for Michigan, the Cyclones have been below average at creating the latter (18.6 TO% last year, 13.2% this year); a matchup between a freshman point guard and a fifth-year senior, however, is a little worrisome regardless of Walton's talent.
Work the pick-and-roll. Iowa State is small and, if their past numbers hold, not particularly strong defensively. In addition, without Ejim they've got one big with any significant experience at this level. Drawing Niang away from the basket and forcing him to be active defensively—and potentially commit critical fouls—should be a priority, especially with how well Stauskas and Caris LeVert have been running the high screen game this year.
Go big. Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan should be able to rebound well against this small Cyclones front line; against a perimeter-oriented team that can really shoot, though, I don't want to see both of them on the floor at the same time. To counter the rebounding, strength, and passing of Kane, however, I'd like to see Beilein work in some lineups featuring LeVert at the point, especially if Walton is struggling out of the gate.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT
THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Michigan by 3
While there's no doubt McGary is the better player, I think the loss of Ejim matters more to Iowa State because of their lack of size/depth up front. Michigan matches up well with the Cyclones, and while it's always tough to come away with a win on the road against a viable opponent, I think depth and rebounding are the difference in this one.
UMHoops preview. Maize n Brew preview.