What we're reading as we make our list of preparations for a Friday night spent in front of ESPNU. Hy-Vee Chinese, anyone? Submit links via Twitter.
This isn't a link, but if you'll allow me … I've written about it already, and been asked about it a bunch this week, both professionally and as a civilian, and I have to say: I can't remember a bigger night for college basketball in the state of Iowa in my lifetime. Sure, the state at large has had some good teams, some great seasons, some fun matchups and some tournament upsets. But I can't remember when both of the state's premier programs, both of which fans openly loathe the other (at least as much as any Iowan can openly loathe anything before retreating into a redoubt of general good cheer) have been this good together. Things usually alternate: A Tom Davis team there, a Tim Floyd era here, a Steve Alford era there. The last half-decade, if not longer, has been depressingly bad for everyone involved. Now, when you throw in the underrated rivalry with the newfound quality of both teams, and mix it with my personal nostalgia for Friday nights spent in basketball gyms in Iowa, you start to get why I'm so irrationally excited for tonight's 9:30 p.m. tip. Now, if I could just some Happy Joe's delivered …
Black Heart Gold Pants, as good a team-specific blog as there is anywhere, has an immensely insightful scouting report on the Cyclones' and Hawkeyes' collective styles: "Iowa State boasts the nation's top-scoring team, and the formula for getting there has been fairly simple: Dominate the defensive glass, push constantly in transition, and take as many shots as possible. Iowa State is the nation's best defensive rebounding team, pulling down 78 percent of opponent misses. The Cyclones are seventh nationally in tempo (Iowa is 43rd) and run the fifth-shortest possessions in college basketball so far this season (Iowa is third). The tempo statistics belie the fundamental difference between the two teams, a difference that could prove crucial Friday night. Iowa runs in transition and takes extremely fast shots, but forces opponents into long possessions on the other end through the half-court trap and matchup zone: Iowa's opponents spend more time with the basketball per possession than all but six teams nationally, which is the only reason why the Hawkeyes' tempo stat is in the mid-40s. Iowa State has no such qualms about defensive tempo. They play man-to-man defense but don't force many turnovers or commit many fouls, they contest every shot, and they grab every rebound to feed the transition game. It's a simple formula, and it works."
The formula is hugely reliant on the versatile play of Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane, yet another of the crucial transfer stars that have fueled Iowa State's rebirth under Fred Hoiberg. As CBS's Jeff Borzello wrote this week, Kane's path to Iowa State involved not only a tumultuous, angry, oft-derided career at Marshall, but also, in February of 2012, the sudden death of his father.
"Cyclone Fanatic's Chris Williams had Iowa State assistant coach, Matt Abdelmassih, on his radio show the other night and Abdelmassih spent a good amount of time raving about how well Iowa pushes the ball up floor … he said this might be a game where Iowa State actually tries to turn it into a half-court battle to limit Iowa's transition opportunities." -- Interesting tidbit from Wide Right and Natty Lite's Cardinal-filtered preview.
"Dustin Hogue is looking like a juco gem for the Cyclones. The 6-7 forward had a three-star rating from Rivals.com coming out of Indian Hills Community College, where he didn't exactly show signs that he'd be this good in D-I. Hogue averaged 10.5 rebounds per 40 minutes, according to the NJCAA's site. At Iowa State, he's pulled down 14.6 rebounds per 40
and had double-doubles in wins over Auburn (22 points, 16 boards) and Northern Iowa (17 and 14) last week. He's producing at the level of a four- or five-star high school recruit." -- Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn on the surprising success of ISU's Dustin Hogue, just one 16th of the national insight on offer in Luke's weekly power rankings.