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After back-to-back comebacks at the Moody Center against TCU and Texas Tech, the Longhorns continue to take blows in the mammoth Big 12: A road date with the Cyclones is next on the agenda as their head coach TJ Otzelberger continues his impressive career at Iowa State. The Cyclones have accomplished quite a bit in the past year and a half, despite not having the highest-rated talent. They lost their two best players in the offseason: Izaiah Brockington to professional basketball and Tyrese Hunter to Texas on a transfer waiver, but they still play elite basketball. You’ve got to give Otzelberger some accessories for the machine he’s building, especially considering the elite recruiting class he’ll be bringing in for 2023.
Right now, Iowa State is ranked 12th in the nation, with a 13-3 record. They are coming off a one-possession loss to the second-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 62-60, and are 2.5 favorites tonight against the 15-2 Longhorns, who have also been hot of late.
Iowa State is more of a defensive team as they only score 70.8 points per game but give up just 57.9 which is 7th in the nation. Offensively, they’re led by a snake of three-headed guards in Jaren Holmes, Gabe Kalscheur and Caleb Grill. While they don’t make as many 3-pointers as most teams, they do shoot a pretty good 3-point percentage at 35.7%. Grill and Holmes shoot above 37% from deep, and Kalscheur shoots just shy of 35%.
Two key pieces to the ISU team are transfers from St. Bonaventure: aforementioned guard Jaren Holmes and power forward Osun Osunniyi, both seniors. In fact, the Cyclones have a very mature team by age: seven of their eight rotation guys are seniors, which explains the fact that they play so well on defense and are highly rated in basically every category on that side of the ball. .
Offensively, as I mentioned earlier, they aren’t elite, but like Texas last year, they like to slow down and play games, so their not scoring as much isn’t as indicative of a problem. offensive since it is a defensively hyper-focused team.
Here’s the starting lineup for Iowa State.
what to watch
Tyrese Hunter’s return to the Hilton Coliseum.
Tyrese Hunter transferred from Iowa State to Texas this offseason and took over the role of starting point guard for the Longhorns. He had a good start to the season, but lately he has lacked confidence; he’s scored in double figures just once in the last five games (although he did have 29 in the loss against Kansas State). Based on what I’ve seen on Twitter, ISU fans are not happy with Hunter’s decision. He’s a smaller-scale version of the Texas Tech fans when his former coach left to come to Texas or when Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma to take the job at USC. He be on the lookout for lots of booing and malicious chanting. We’ll see if it affects Hunter mentally or gets him going.
Battle of the back courts.
The strengths of both teams lie in their guard play – the Hunter/Carr/Rice vs. Holmes/Kalscheur/Grill matchup should be fascinating to watch tonight. They’re two of the top five backcourts in the conference: Texas’ triple attack averages 38.5 points and 9.6 assists, while Iowa State averages 35.8 points and 6.5 assists. Carr is the only real consistent three-point threat for the ‘Horns outside of forward Brock Cunningham’s limited and wide shots; Carr shoots 41.1% from three on the year. Meanwhile, as I said before, ISU’s Holmes and Grill shoots 37%, while Kalscheur shoots 35%.
Both teams generate very high turnovers for the opposing offense: Iowa State forces 19.4 turnovers per game, while Texas forces 17.1 per game. Neither team is prone to many turnovers; both take good care of the ball, as Texas averages 11.8 per game and ISU 12.9. The winner of this game will likely be the team that takes better care of the ball, as most of the stats are pretty even. Texas is in the top 25 in points scored per game at 81.5, while Iowa State ranks in the top 10 in points allowed at just 57.9. The unstoppable force meets the immovable object.
I think Texas goes into a hostile environment tonight and walks away with a W. This won’t be any kind of blowout — the 2.5-point difference illustrates how close Vegas thinks it’s going to be. ISU also played Kansas as closely as anyone in the conference has, so they’ll feel confident coming into this matchup at home. Tyrese Hunter will show up, in my opinion, and have a great game against his former team and coach.