College Basketball Nation: Iowa State Cyclones

Top stats to know: Friday's Sweet 16

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
The Sweet 16 continues tonight with four games. Here are some of the statistical storylines we’ll be following.

(11) Tennessee vs (2) Michigan
The Wolverines are trying to reach a second straight Elite 8 (lost in title game last year to Louisville). Tennessee has been to just one Elite 8 in its history, when it lost to Michigan State in 2010.

Michigan's hot outside shooting has carried the team in its first two wins. The Wolverines are 21 of 45 from beyond the arc and have made 50 percent of their jump shots, second-best among tournament teams.

Over its last nine games (during which it has gone 8-1) Tennessee has held its opponents to just 26.6 percent shooting on 3-pointers and 27 percent on jump shots.

(8) Kentucky vs (4) Louisville
Get ready for another epic showdown of these Bluegrass state rivals. This is the fourth time in NCAA Tournament history that the previous two national champions will play against each other in the NCAA Tournament.

In each of the three previous occurrences, the defending champion has defeated champion from the previous season.

There will be two key matchups to watch in this game.

The first one is on the offensive glass. The Wildcats rank second in the country in offensive rebound percentage and average 15.6 second-chance points per game, the best among major conferences.

Louisville is not a great defensive rebounding team, ranking 241st in the nation, and was outscored 17-6 in second-chance points by Kentucky in their meeting on Dec. 28.

The other key matchup is whether Kentucky can handle Louisville's pressure defense, which forces 17.4 turnovers per game, the second-most in the country. Louisville is 19-0 this season when forcing 17 or more turnovers; Kentucky is 16-2 when committing 11 or fewer turnovers.

(7) Connecticut vs (3) Iowa State
The only other time these two teams met in the NCAA Tournament was in a Round of 64 win by the Cyclones in 2012. That was Jim Calhoun's final game.

With Georges Niang out for Iowa State and Connecticut lacking a dominant post offense, this game could come down to who executes better on the perimeter.

Iowa State ranks in the top 25 in 3-point attempts per game and 3-pointers made per game this season, while UConn ranks 22nd in the country in 3-point field goal percentage.

Both teams allow their opponents to make more than a third of their shots from beyond the arc, though the Huskies do a better job of limiting 3-point attempts (18.3 per game) than the Cyclones (21.2).

(4) Michigan State vs (1) Virginia
Virginia is hoping to avoid the fate of another recent first-place ACC squad. Last year Miami was the regular-season and postseason ACC champs, and they lost in the Sweet 16 vs Marquette.

The Michigan State seniors are trying to avoid making history as well. Every four-year player under coach Tom Izzo has reached the Final Four, and this is the last chance for Adreian Payne and Keith Appling to make it.

The key matchup to watch in this game will be whether Virginia can slow down the Spartans' fastbreak offense.

Transition makes up 21.9 percent of Michigan State’s offensive plays, the eighth-highest rate in the country, and the Spartans average 18.9 transition points per game, 14th-most in the nation. Virginia allows 7.4 transition points per game, third-fewest in the nation, and only 10.9 percent of Virginia’s defensive plays are transition, the fifth-lowest rate in the country.
It didn’t hit DeAndre Kane right away.

But after the hugs and the high-fives and the national television interview, back in the locker room, it finally hit him.

"I starting thinking how excited my dad would have been," Kane said. "He would have been more happy than me."

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Kane
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallIowa State's DeAndre Kane wears No. 50 for his dad and says, "I know he's happy watching this."
With a driving, game-winning layup last weekend, Iowa State’s point guard toppled North Carolina and sent the Cyclones to the Sweet 16 to set up a Madison Square Garden clash Friday with No. 7 UConn. But the man who first put a basketball in his hands, then became his biggest fan along the way, wasn’t there to see it.

Two years ago, Calvin Kane died suddenly from a brain aneurysm no one saw coming. Especially his son.

"We talk about it every day. DeAndre's father would be overjoyed with what is going on with DeAndre right now," said Kane's mother, Carol Robinson. "It hurts him his father not being here on this road with us, seeing what his son is doing. But at the end of the day, we know he's watching and seeing what DeAndre is doing."

And what DeAndre has been doing would indeed have caused his dad to be overjoyed.

In 1980, Calvin himself was a point guard on Lamar's Sweet 16 team coached by Billy Tubbs. Ki Lewis, the father of Miami Heat forward Rashard Lewis, also was on that team. So was the father of Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, Kenneth, though he was redshirting that season after a transfer.

"What I remember about Calvin was that he was a really good kid, a good player," said Tubbs, who left for Oklahoma later that year.

Calvin had always told his son that the "time to shine" was in the NCAA tournament.

And so far, that's exactly what his son has been doing.

With the Cyclones missing third-leading scorer Georges Niang for the rest of the season because of a fractured foot suffered in the tournament opener, DeAndre elevated his game against the Tar Heels. He scored 24 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out 7 assists, rallying Iowa State from a late eight-point deficit for the victory.

But life hasn't always been so easy for DeAndre, who came to the precipice of giving up basketball and school.

While DeAndre was in high school, he and his father were inseparable. Calvin went to every game, and after DeAndre signed with Marshall, that barely stopped.

DeAndre quickly rose to stardom for the Thundering Herd and was named the Conference USA freshman of the year. Two all-league seasons followed. But in February 2012, DeAndre’s world stopped.

Calvin had been planning to visit Huntington, W.Va., to help DeAndre with his free throw shooting between games. But before he could get there and without warning, Calvin collapsed from a brain aneurysm. Carol didn’t know how to break such devastating news to her son. She called DeAndre's teammate Shaquille Johnson for help.

A Marshall assistant drove DeAndre four hours to Pittsburgh, where he found his dad connected to machines. The family had been waiting for DeAndre to arrive before having Calvin taken off life support.

"He was my hero, my No. 1 fan," DeAndre said. "What I went through with my dad, that was the hardest thing in my life. Things got to me after that."

DeAndre wanted to give up basketball after that. After all, basketball was the one thing he and his father had shared. Carol and the rest of the family pleaded with DeAndre to go back. Eventually, he did. But Marshall wasn't the same. And before long, it became clear to everyone involved that DeAndre needed a change.

"He was having some struggles," Carol said. "He was young, he had lost his dad and he was hurting."

DeAndre had lost his focus, both in basketball and in life, she said. And despite being its best player, DeAndre was dismissed from the Marshall basketball team.

"He was doing wrong, and he knew he was doing wrong," said Carol, who declined to elaborate further. "He needed a fresh start."

He was my hero, my No. 1 fan. What I went through with my dad, that was the hardest thing in my life. Things got to me after that.

-- Iowa State's DeAndre Kane
DeAndre still managed to get his degree, then began looking for that fresh start.

The University of Pittsburgh showed interest. But Carol wanted her son to spend his final college season where he could regain his focus, and being back near old temptations of the Pittsburgh Hill District wasn't the answer.

Then Iowa State called.

So DeAndre and Carol went to visit.

"Driving in, I saw those cornfields, and you know what, I said this ain't nothing but focus town," Carol said. "This is where it's got to be. This is where my son could be successful."

Has he ever.

Under the tutelage of Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, Kane rediscovered the tenets Calvin had instilled in him. And as the Cyclones surged the past two months, Kane was named first-team All-Big 12.

"That school and that place is awesome," Carol said. "I'm so glad that's where DeAndre ended up."

Iowa State is glad he ended up there, too.

And now, he's on the cusp of leading the Cyclones to the Elite Eight for just the third time in school history.

"I've overcome hard situations," he said. "So when we were down eight points [to North Carolina], I knew I had the mental toughness to help us find a way to win."

As a tribute to his father, DeAndre has been donning jersey No. 50, because Calvin died a week before he would have turned 50. And though Calvin can't help him with his free throws or his dribbling or his defense anymore, DeAndre knows he's still watching. Calvin wouldn't miss his son's time to shine.

"I know he's watching over me every day," DeAndre said. "I know he's happy watching this."

Top stats to know for Sunday's games

March, 22, 2014
Mar 22
Sunday's NCAA Tournament slate features eight compelling Round of 32 games, and we've got you covered with a look at the key matchups in each contest.

Stanford is the third-most efficient team in the country on pick-and-roll, ball handler plays, averaging more than a point per play on those plays.

Kansas ranks 221st in points per play allowed while defending pick-and-roll, ball handler plays.

That could be a big factor with Joel Embiid not there to protect the rim on pick-and-roll plays.

Kentucky ranks second in offensive rebound percentage (42.1%) and scores 9.4 points per game on offensive rebound putbacks, fifth-most in the country.

Wichita State ranks fifth in the country in defensive rebound percentage (74.2%) and only allows 4.3 points per game on offensive rebound putbacks, 17th-fewest in the country.

Iowa State relies heavily on 3-point shooting. The Cyclones rank in the top 25 in 3-point attempts and 3-pointers made per game.

North Carolina is holding teams to 30 percent 3-point shooting in its last 14 games. The Tar Heels have held 13 of their last 14 opponents below 40 percent on 3-point shooting. They're only allowing 5.4 3-pointers per game in their last 14 games.

Mercer's opponents are attempting 23.1 3-pointers per game in its last 10 games. Mercer is 9-0 when its opponents attempt at least 24 3-pointers (12-1 when they attempt at least 23), including a win over Duke (37 attempts).

Tennessee hasn't had more than 24 3-point attempts all season. They average 17.1 3-point attempts per game.

UCLA ranks in the bottom 20 of the country in turnover percentage. The Bruins only turn it over on 14.9 percent of their possessions.

Stephen F. Austin forces 16.2 turnovers per game, eighth-most in the country. However, SFA is only forcing 11.6 turnovers per game in its last five games.

Creighton is 23-1 this season when shooting at least 35 percent on 3-pointers (4-6 when shooting less than 35 percent). Creighton is 15-1 when making at least 11 3-pointers (12-6 when making 10 or fewer).

Baylor's opponents are shooting 38.5 percent on 3-pointers in its last 10 games. Baylor has allowed higher than 40 percent 3-point shooting in five of its last 10 games and at least eight 3-pointers in six of its last 10 games.

Memphis ranks second in the country in transition offense with 21.2 points per game. The Tigers rank 21st in transition field goal percentage (59.3%).

Virginia excels in transition defense. The Cavaliers allow seven transition points per game, second-fewest in the country. Virginia also ranks in the top 25 in field goal percentage defense in transition.

Pace will be a factor, as well. Virginia has the third-slowest pace (60.7 possessions per game), while Memphis ranks 34th in pace (71.2 possessions per game).

Gonzaga is very efficient on offense, ranking in the top 10 in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

Arizona ranks third in defensive efficiency, allowing 89.5 points per 100 possessions. The Wildcats are 15-0 this season when allowing fewer than 90 points per 100 possessions.

Gonzaga hasn't faced a single team all season that ranks in the top 30 in offensive efficiency.

BPI Talk: Projecting championship week

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
Championship Week can be unpredictable as teams try to improve their NCAA tournament résumés, whether it’s to vie for a No. 1 seed or just to get into the field.

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) measures how well each team performs based on game result, margin, pace of game, location, opponent strength and the absence of any key players.

Using BPI, we are able to project the chances for each team to win its major conference tournament. The probabilities take into account the matchups in each bracket based on each team’s BPI. The team with the best BPI isn’t necessarily always the favorite if that team has much tougher matchups than other teams in the tournament.

According to BPI, the Arizona Wildcats have the best chance of any team in one of the seven major conferences (American, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) to win its tournament. They have a 63 percent chance of winning the Pac-12 tournament.

Arizona has more than a six times better chance of winning the Pac-12 tournament than any other team. The UCLA Bruins have the second-best chance at 10 percent.

Pac-12 best chances: Arizona 63 percent, UCLA 10 percent, Oregon 10 percent, Arizona State 5 percent, Stanford 4 percent

The Florida Gators are the prohibitive favorites in the SEC tournament with a 57 percent chance to win it. The Kentucky Wildcats (25 percent) are the only other SEC team with better than a 7 percent chance. The No. 9 seed Missouri Tigers have a slightly better chance to win the SEC tournament than the No. 3 seed Georgia Bulldogs.

SEC best chances: Florida 57 percent, Kentucky 25 percent, Tennessee 7 percent, Arkansas 3 percent, Missouri 2 percent

American & Big East
The Louisville Cardinals (American) and Villanova Wildcats (Big East) are both close to 50 percent in terms of their chances of winning their respective conference tournaments.

The Memphis Tigers have an edge playing on their home court in the American Tournament, but they still have a significantly worse chance than Louisville and Cincinnati. Memphis does, however, have a greater probability of winning the tournament than higher-seeded teams Southern Methodist and Connecticut. With its home-court advantage, Memphis would be a favorite against any team in the tournament other than Louisville.

American best chances: Louisville 49 percent, Cincinnati 18 percent, Memphis 14 percent, SMU 12 percent, Connecticut 8 percent

No team other than Villanova or Creighton has better than a 6 percent chance to win the Big East tournament. There’s a 44 percent chance that Villanova and Creighton meet in the Big East championship game.

Big East best chances: Villanova 48 percent, Creighton 31 percent, Xavier 6 percent, St. John’s 6 percent, Providence 4 percent

Perhaps the most interesting conference tournament is the ACC, where the No. 3 seed Duke Blue Devils are the favorites at 27 percent. The No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers (25 percent) and No. 2 Syracuse Orange (23 percent) are close behind.

ACC best chances: Duke 27 percent, Virginia 25 percent, Syracuse 23 percent, Pittsburgh 12 percent, North Carolina 7 percent

Big Ten
Another interesting conference tournament is the Big Ten, where four teams have between a 17 percent and a 26 percent chance of winning the tournament. The No. 2 seed Wisconsin Badgers are the favorites at 26 percent, while the No. 1 seed Michigan Wolverines are only the third favorites.

Big Ten best chances: Wisconsin 26 percent, Ohio State 19 percent, Michigan 19 percent, Michigan State 17 percent, Iowa 11 percent

Big 12
The Kansas Jayhawks have a 37 percent chance to win the Big 12 tournament, but their path isn’t easy. They could face the teams with the fourth- and second-best chances of winning the tournament in the quarterfinals and semifinals.

The No. 8 seed Oklahoma State Cowboys, with a 10 percent chance of winning it, could face Kansas in the quarterfinals. The No. 4 seed Iowa State Cyclones, with an 18 percent chance, could face Kansas in the semifinals. Both teams have a 35 percent chance of beating Kansas, according to BPI.

Big 12 best chances: Kansas 37 percent, Iowa State 18 percent, Oklahoma 16 percent, Oklahoma State 10 percent, Baylor 6 percent

3-point shot: Weekly awards

February, 10, 2014
Feb 10

Andy Katz hands out awards for the player and team of the week and points out a couple notable wins across college basketball.

Video: Impact performance nominees

February, 2, 2014
Feb 2
The Capital One Cup Impact Performances of the Week include Kansas' Andrew Wiggins, Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick, SMU's Markus Kennedy and Iowa State's Melvin Ejim.

Game Plan is our Monday morning primer, designed to give you everything you need to know about games that were and the games that will be in college hoops this week. Send us feedback and submissions via email and Twitter.

Do Michigan State’s injuries matter? In the words of Orlando Jones’ magazine salesman in “Office Space”: that all depends.

On Saturday, when the Spartans fell at home to hated rival Michigan -- a hard-fought and thrilling game that included a “Just-in Bei-ber” chant, Mitch McGary’s brilliant coaching advice (“win the game”) and a loving Nik Stauskas farewell -- they did so without forwards Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne. Payne, foot be-booted, missed his fifth straight game. Dawson, who broke his hand in a self-inflicted outburst during an apparently intense Thursday film session, missed his first, with many more to come. Tom Izzo found himself plunging deep into his frontcourt reserves: Alex Gauna and Gavin Schilling made appearances. Matt Costello’s 28 minutes were a season high. Russell Byrd, who hadn’t played more than five minutes in any non-guaranteed blowout all season, ran for 13.

It was tempting, then, to attach an asterisk to the entire affair, a temptation ESPN’s Chantel Jennings discussed -- and convincingly dismissed -- Saturday night. The Wolverines were missing McGary, after all, and the adjustments they’ve made since December have been stunning. Besides, Izzo wouldn’t hear of it.

[+] EnlargeTom Izzo
AP Photo/Al GoldisInjuries have forced Tom Izzo to look for answers on Michigan State's bench.
Whatever caveats Spartans fans will use to defend themselves from their Wolverine tormentors, let’s be clear: In a micro sense, of course the injuries mattered. Payne and Dawson make Michigan State a different team from the still-good-but-incomplete version the Spartans had at their disposal Saturday night.

The real question is how these injuries will affect Michigan State in the long run. For starters, there is the Big Ten race, where the Spartans are now staring down a one-game deficit and a much more difficult remaining schedule than John Beilein’s team. But the most interesting fallout could be in the NCAA tournament seeding.

The selection committee weighs a team’s performance during and after injury, and does its best to take the “true” measure of a team based on the gulf between the two. If Michigan State doesn’t slide too far in Dawson’s (and Payne’s) absences, and then looks brilliant upon their various returns, they’ll be seeded accordingly. But if the Spartans nosedive for the next two weeks? Or the next month? The committee can apply only so many asterisks. It’s unlikely, but what happens then?

On Tuesday, Michigan State faces Iowa’s offensive onslaught in Iowa City. On Saturday, they play an even-more-hobbled Georgetown. How the Spartans look next time this week should tell us a lot about just how important their injuries will look in March.


Arizona shrugs off Utah, moves to 20-0. Just after the Wildcats finished their 65-56 brush-off of Utah Sunday night, the Fox Sports 1 crew placed the rosters of the greatest Arizona teams of all time next to Sean Miller’s team -- Steve Kerr, Kenny Lofton, Miles Simon, Richard Jefferson and all the rest. It was a sobering comparison: On paper, this Arizona team now ranks above the greatest Wildcats teams of all time. On the floor, it’s hard to argue otherwise, something the dominant final few minutes of an otherwise so-so performance showed. (It was also, for what it’s worth, a pretty impressive performance from Utah, which continues to look miles removed from the six-win disaster of 2011-12.)

Cincinnati keeps winning. Sshh. You can look at Cincinnati’s 80-76 win at Temple Sunday night one of two ways. You could note that the Bearcats were outscored 29-15 in the final 10 minutes against a bad team. Or, you could note that Cincinnati was outscored 29-15 in the final 10 minutes and went ahead and won anyway. You should also note that the Bearcats have ever so quietly jumped out to an 8-0 AAC record, are 19-2 overall, suffered their last loss Dec. 14 against Xavier, beat Pitt three days later, rebound 40 percent of their own misses and have one of the stingiest per-trip defenses in the country.

North Carolina avoided ignominy. Given North Carolina’s horrendous January -- which included a road loss to Wake Forest, a home loss to Miami, a 45-point effort at Syracuse and a throttling at Virginia -- and Clemson’s surprisingly capable defense, you could practically hear people getting ready to laugh at UNC when it inevitably lost its first-ever game to the Tigers at home. Giant clouds of schadenfreude were gathered on the horizon. It was going to be a thing! And then Roy Williams had to go and reminded his team it beat Louisville and Michigan State. North Carolina scored 80 points in 61 possessions Sunday, and the storm broke apart in the atmosphere.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Creighton. That is all.


(For two more in-depth previews of big games week to come, check back for Monday morning’s “Planning for Success” series.)


Michigan State at Iowa, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: How’s this for a quick Saturday-Tuesday turnaround? As we discussed above, Michigan State’s road trip week starts in Iowa City and ends vs. Georgetown in Madison Square Garden, and the first fixture is the more challenging by a factor of 10. The Hawkeyes, who rank with the nation’s best by every meaningful statistical measure, drilled Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., after Wednesday’s loss in Ann Arbor, Mich.


Iowa State at Kansas, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: For most of the season, Iowa State’s offense ranked among the nation’s best; it was certainly, in all its shape-shifting uptempo glory, one of the most entertaining. Since the start of Big 12 play -- and roughly coinciding with DeAndre Kane’s sprained ankle at Oklahoma -- the Cyclones’ offense is scoring just 1.06 points per trip, ninth best in the Big 12. What better time for a trip to Lawrence?!


Cincinnati at Louisville, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: For all its travails this season -- the bad nonconference slate, the loss at rival Kentucky, the departure of Chane Behanan -- the Louisville Cardinals have, for the most part, played pretty excellent basketball. (The latest? A 41-point win at South Florida Saturday.) Cincinnati can identify with the whole “good basketball going largely unnoticed” thing. Thursday’s winner should get everyone’s attention.


Arizona at Cal, 10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network: Before we get all crazy: Arizona still has to play at Stanford on Wednesday. It still has a back-to-back road trip to Arizona State and Utah in mid-February. It still has two dates against Oregon. And now, with those important caveats out of the way, if the Wildcats win at Cal on Saturday, it is conceivable -- not likely, not probably, barely possible, but conceivable -- they could run the regular-season table. Gird loins accordingly.

Duke at Syracuse, 6 :30 p.m. ET, ESPN: Two weeks ago, this game would have been a harder sell, because two weeks ago the Blue Devils were coming off back-to-back losses against Notre Dame and Clemson, and freshman star Jabari Parker looked like his face had become intimately acquainted with the notorious freshman “wall.” No more: Duke has won four straight, the latest, a 78-56 rout of Florida State (in 63 possessions) its most complete performance of the season. OK, so it’s Duke-Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. It was never actually a hard sell. But now the Orange don’t look quite so likely to dominate.


Nick JohnsonChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesArizona's Nick Johnson reacts after his two-handed second-half dunk in a 65-56 win on Sunday. If the whole basketball thing doesn't work, a career in professional wrestling isn't a bad Plan B.
Can’t believe it’s already late January. Selection Sunday is coming.

The national scene is beginning to take shape.

Last Saturday was proof. Kansas dismissed Oklahoma State with ease. Syracuse outplayed a good Pitt team down the stretch in the Carrier Dome. Wichita State remained perfect with a victory over Indiana State. And Louisville topped UConn.

My Tennessee over Kentucky pick looked solid for a chunk of the first half. But the Wildcats just had too many weapons for a Vols squad that's still looking for a signature win.

Let's see what happens this weekend. I mean, let's see what happens with college basketball.

Not the Grammys. But I can predict that, too.

Album of the Year? "Random Access Memories," Daft Punk. Best Country Album? "Based on a True Story," Blake Shelton. Best Rap Album? "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City," Kendrick Lamar. Sorry, Kanye.

Back to college basketball.

Remember, this is just one man's take. And I've been wrong before. Many times.

Disclaimer: Myron Medcalf’s views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of other staffers, especially with regard to that ridiculous thing he said about Syracuse being better than Arizona last weekend.

Last week: 4-1

Overall: 24-11


No. 21 Michigan at No. 3 Michigan State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: I’m a big boxing fan. I love the hype that builds up a big fight. The biggest letdown, however, is when one fighter suffers a cut or some other injury that ruins the match. It’s deflating. And that’s how I feel about this heavyweight bout between the Big Ten’s best teams. Both Michigan and Michigan State have proved that they can overcome significant injuries. The Spartans haven’t been healthy all season and now there’s a strong chance that they’ll enter Saturday’s game without Adreian Payne (foot) or Branden Dawson (broken hand). Michigan has played most of the season without preseason All-American Mitch McGary. But the Wolverines are not wrestling with their identity. McGary is not coming back. And they’ve adapted to that on their way to becoming an elite team as Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson III have formed a potent trio. Michigan State remains a team in flux. Tom Izzo’s program has overcome injuries thus far in Big Ten play. But they’ll be costly Saturday when the Spartans suffer their first conference loss of the year. I’ll stick with this pick even if Payne miraculously returns to the floor.

Prediction: Michigan 79, Michigan State 72

Tennessee at No. 6 Florida, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN: In a weird way, Florida is flying under the radar. The Gators are the best team in the SEC. And they haven’t lost since Dec. 2. But there’s a bigger spotlight on some of the other top-10 teams right now. The Gators are clearly dangerous, especially with Wooden Award candidate Casey Prather healthy. Billy Donovan’s program hasn’t been complete for most of the season. And premier recruit Chris Walker is still unavailable because of eligibility issues. But they have the pieces to compete for a national title. The Gators have forced turnovers on 21.9 percent of their opponents’ possessions, 24th in the nation per Ken Pomeroy. They’ll face a desperate Tennessee team that held its own against Kentucky for a half last weekend but couldn’t finish. The Vols need quality wins. But the SEC won’t provide many opportunities to acquire them. They’ll still be searching after Saturday.

Prediction: Florida 74, Tennessee 66

No. 22 Kansas State at No. 16 Iowa State, 1:45 p.m. ET, Bruce Weber could ultimately be in the running for national coach of the year. His best player is a freshman (Marcus Foster). But the Wildcats are 4-2 in the Big 12 after playing some of the best defense in the league (15th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy). But it will be tough to get a win against an Iowa State team that has a chance to end its three-game losing streak in Ames. The Cyclones, however, are connecting on just 28 percent of their 3-point attempts in conference play. That’s a challenge for a program that has taken 40 percent of its overall field goal attempts from beyond the arc in its first five league games. It seems like a matter of time before the 3-ball becomes a more effective weapon for Iowa State again. And that’s vital. This upcoming stretch will make or break its waning Big 12 title dreams.

Prediction: Iowa State 80, Kansas State 79

Florida State at No. 18 Duke, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN: There are a lot of things that make Duke an intriguing team. The Blue Devils have an offense (second in adjusted offensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy) that’s led by a young man who could be a top-three draft pick this summer. And Jabari Parker is joined by steady offensive contributors Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook. But a unit that’s ranked 73rd in adjusted defensive efficiency by Ken Pomeroy can’t be trusted. Although it might not matter against a Florida State squad that has held opponents to a 42.6 effective field goal percentage, sixth in the nation. But Leonard Hamilton’s squad has big, strong guards, plus 6-foot-9 Okaro White could be a tough matchup for a Duke team that has struggled against good big men all season. This won’t be an easy game for Duke.

Prediction: Florida State 73, Duke 70

Texas at No. 24 Baylor, 1:30 p.m. ET, Baylor has been up and down. It’s a confusing cycle for Scott Drew’s program. The Bears have wins over Kentucky and a healthy Colorado. But they’ve lost four of their first five Big 12 games. What’s wrong with Baylor? It isn't playing defense. All of those athletic weapons -- Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers. But the Bears ranked 103rd in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy. It’s a waste of talent. Baylor should be better. And maybe this game against Texas will allow it to reverse this messy start. But Texas is rolling. The Longhorns are coming off wins against Kansas State and Iowa State. Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley are bullying teams inside. Javan Felix has really matured. It's a bad time to face Texas.

Prediction: Texas 78, Baylor 74

3-point shot: UTEP suspensions

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8

Andy Katz discusses the fallout from the UTEP gambling suspensions and the strong play from Cincinnati's Justin Jackson and Iowa State's DeAndre Kane.

BPI Talk: Iowa State is No. 1

January, 7, 2014
Jan 7
The Iowa State Cyclones are perhaps the least-discussed team of the six remaining undefeated teams in college basketball. Now might be the time to start talking about the 13-0 Cyclones.

Iowa State is ranked No. 1 in BPI. Why are the Cyclones ranked ahead of fellow unbeatens Ohio State, Wisconsin, Arizona, Syracuse and Wichita State?

The Cyclones are the most consistent team in the country in terms of variation in BPI game score from game to game.

Their worst performance –- an 86.3 BPI game score in a two-point win at BYU –- is better than the best performance of 148 Division I teams this season.

Iowa State isn’t just some undefeated team that has played a bunch of cupcakes. Unlike the other five remaining unbeatens, the Cyclones have not faced a team ranked outside the top 300 in BPI.

The Cyclones are the only team in the country that is undefeated against the BPI top 100 and hasn’t faced a team ranked outside the top 300.

Iowa State has one of its toughest tests of the season thus far when it hosts Baylor (No. 36 BPI) tonight at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

What about Pittsburgh?
What is it going to take for the Pittsburgh Panthers to get more respect?

Pittsburgh still has not entered the AP Top 25 despite being ranked No. 5 in BPI.

The lone blemish on Pitt’s schedule is a one-point loss on a neutral court against No. 26 Cincinnati. It came on a Titus Rubles offensive putback with less than five seconds remaining. That’s how close Pitt is to being undefeated right now.

Sure, Pitt hasn’t played the most difficult schedule –- its strength of schedule is ranked 90th.

But the Panthers have fared well against their toughest opponents. Other than their one-point loss to Cincinnati, they’ve won each of their other five games against top-100 opponents by at least nine points. Their average margin in those five wins is 17 points.

Thirteen of Pitt’s 14 wins are by at least 12 points. Its closest win was by nine points, 78-69 against No. 81 Penn State.

Inconsistency hurts Kansas State
The Kansas State Wildcats entered the AP Top 25 at No. 25 this week after defeating Oklahoma State on Saturday. But Kansas State is ranked No. 62 in BPI.

The Wildcats have quality top-100 wins lately over George Washington and Gonzaga, in addition to Oklahoma State. But we can’t forget about their early-season losses to No. 140 Northern Colorado at home and No. 97 Charlotte on a neutral court.

KSU is the most inconsistent team in the BPI top 90.

What happened to Drexel?
The Drexel Dragons started the season off strong, ranked No. 24 in BPI after the month of November. They had a win over Alabama and their only losses were by five points or fewer against UCLA and Arizona.

Since the calendar turned to December, Drexel hasn’t been the same. The Dragons rank 198th in BPI since Dec. 1. Their decrease in BPI is by far the largest decrease of any team currently ranked in the top 100.

In their last six games, they have three wins against teams ranked outside the BPI top 200, a three-point home win against No. 175 Buffalo and two road losses by a combined 37 points at Saint Joseph's and Southern Miss.

BPI Rankings

BPI Talk: Kansas is vastly underrated

December, 31, 2013
The Kansas Jayhawks have three losses this season but are still ranked No. 3 in BPI. The Jayhawks -- ranked No. 1 in strength of schedule according to BPI -- are ranked ahead of five of the seven undefeated teams in BPI, despite the three losses.
Each of KU's three losses are against teams ranked in the BPI top 20 – Villanova, Florida and Colorado. Each of those losses were by six points or fewer away from home. Kansas is 1-3 against top-20 teams (defeated Duke) and 8-0 against teams outside the top 20.

The Jayhawks have faced eight top-100 teams, including five teams in the top 50. Each of their 12 opponents are ranked in the BPI top 160.

Kansas has taken care of business against teams ranked outside the BPI top 25. The Jayhawks have the best BPI against teams outside the top 25.

Syracuse gets crucial win vs Villanova
Syracuse is coming off an impressive win against Villanova on Saturday in which the Orange trailed by 18 points in the first half but outscored the Wildcats by 34 over the final 31 minutes of the game. It was Syracuse's best performance of the season. In fact, it was the second-best performance by any team this season according to BPI game score.

The win against Villanova improved Syracuse's BPI rank from No. 12 to No. 10 (now No. 11), but it still differs greatly with its No. 2 ranking in RPI and No. 2 ranking in the AP Poll.
But the Orange also have three wins that hurt their BPI. They have three BPI game scores less than 75 -- against No. 349 Cornell (the only remaining winless D-I team), No. 340 Binghamton, and a six-point win against No. 194 Saint Francis (NY).

The Orange had five solid wins against top-100 teams entering Saturday, but the win against Villanova was their first win against a top-35 team. The Orange now have the best BPI against top-100 teams.

Louisville lacks signature win
The Louisville Cardinals missed their opportunity for a signature non-conference win against Kentucky on Saturday.

The Cardinals lost to both of their BPI top-50 opponents this season -- Kentucky and North Carolina -- and have just one top-100 win (Southern Miss). The Cardinals have the 12th-best BPI against teams ranked outside the top 50.

Louisville has faced seven teams ranked outside the BPI top 200, which doesn't fare well for its non-conference résumé. To Louisville's credit, it has defeated those seven teams by an average margin of 29.3 points per game. Despite the weak schedule, defeating those lackluster opponents by such a large margin doesn't hurt the Cardinals' BPI as much as it could.

Louisville's schedule strength is ranked No. 156 according to BPI. That's the lowest-ranked schedule of any team ranked in the BPI top 50.

Playing a weak schedule and not defeating any highly-ranked opponents is certainly a large factor -- just like it is with RPI. But unlike RPI, BPI takes into account that Louisville has pummeled all 11 of its opponents ranked outside the BPI top 50 by an average margin of 29.2 points per game.

That's the primary reason why Louisville is ranked No. 17 in BPI despite being No. 45 in RPI.

Iowa State is consistent
Iowa State, ranked No. 5 in BPI, is the most consistent team in the country in terms of variation in BPI game score from game to game.

The Cyclones are 4-0 against top-60 teams with wins against Iowa, Michigan, Boise State and BYU. All four of those wins are by seven points or fewer.

Iowa State's seven wins against teams outside the top 100 are by an average of 27.9 points per game.

BPI Rankings

Cyclones lead Diamond Head Classic field

December, 18, 2013
Back in November, few outside of Ames, Iowa, would have predicted Iowa State as the last undefeated team in the Big 12. Yet, as the eight teams in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (which starts Sunday and will be broadcast on ESPNU) land in Honolulu, the No. 17 Cyclones are 8-0 and all alone in first place.

“We knew we had some great early-season tests,” said coach Fred Hoiberg, who is 70-39 in four seasons at his alma mater. “They’ve handled adversity well. That’s been a key to our early-season success.”

For “The Mayor” to become King of Diamond Head, his horses will have to deliver. His main thoroughbred is 6-foot-6 senior forward Melvin Ejim, the conference’s second-leading scorer (18.7 ppg) and sixth-leading rebounder (7.7 rpg), who has starred despite hyperextending a knee at the end of preseason.

Versatile 6-7 sophomore forward Georges Niang (14.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.1 apg) and senior point DeAndre Kane (14.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 5.8 apg) also are key pieces.

ISU is fast and unselfish offensively, leading the conference in scoring, 3-point baskets and assists. The Cyclones also lead in rebounding and field goal defense, and are second in three-point field goal defense. Although the favorite, Hoiberg is wary of the competition.

“It’s a great field,” he said. “Top to bottom … any team can beat any other in the field.

Here's a look at the rest of the field competing in the Diamond Head Classic:

Akron (4-2)

What's at stake? The Zips, back-to-back MAC champions, need to replace key pieces, including center Zeke Marshall. They’ll look to gain momentum heading into conference play.

Who's hot? Demetrius "Tree" Treadwell is taking root in the middle, averaging 13.3 points and 8.0 rebounds and a block a game.

Who is the surprise? Sophomore big Pat Forsythe has shot 52 percent from the field, blocked a shot per game and been tough on the offensive glass.

Projection: There’s time to pull it together and battle for the MAC -- the Zips might not have that luxury in Honolulu.

Boise State (8-2)

What's at stake? The Broncos’ 8-0 start was the best in school history, before it lost at Kentucky. High-octane Boise wants to prove it can run with the big boys.

Who's hot? The junior tandem of Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks averages north of 36 points a game. Drmic, a 6-6 wing from Australia, averages 18.6 ppg, while Marks, a 6-3 guard from Chicago, shoots 48.4 percent from the field and 82.8 percent from the free-throw line.

Who is the surprise? Senior guard Jeff Elorriaga has been a surprise for how hot he’s shooting -- 62.3 percent from the field, 60 percent from behind the arc.

Prediction: Boise State needs to keep the pace fast and hit 3s to prove its fast start wasn’t a product of its schedule.

George Mason (5-4)

What's at stake? Occasionally offensively challenged, the Patriots have a tough draw, starting with Iowa State.

Who’s hot? Senior forward Bryon Allen has shot almost 40 percent from 3-point range this season, hitting a career-best four 3-pointers against South Florida.

Who is the surprise? Sophomore forward Marko Gujanicic, the 6-8, 224-pound forward from Serbia, scores 11.4 ppg, more than double last season’s output.

Prediction: It’ll be a grind as uptempo opponents will test George Mason’s defensive principles and take the Patriots out of their comfort zone.

Hawaii (7-2)

What's at stake? The Big West-leading Rainbow Warriors are 7-2 for the second time in coach Gib Arnold’s four seasons. Are they a well-kept secret or a result of their schedule?

Who’s hot? Senior forward Christian Standhardinger, 6-8 and 220 pounds, leads UH and ranks among Big West leaders in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals.

Who is the surprise? Junior guard Garrett Nevels, a junior college transfer, shoots 55 percent from 3-point range and is second in the conference with 22 3-point field goals made.

Prediction: The Rainbow Warriors can score, but running with the big dogs in this tournament might be too much.

Oregon State (5-2)

What's at stake? The Beavers miss suspended junior forward Eric Moreland and are struggling to find the right formula. Playing Akron, plus Iowa State or George Mason won’t help.

Who’s hot? The outside-inside senior tandem of guard Roberto Nelson and forward Devon Collier rank 1-2 in the Pac-12 in scoring. Nelson (24.7 ppg) hits 1.7 3-pointers per game. Collier is a bucket behind (22.7 ppg).

Who is the surprise? Sophomore Victor Robbins, a 6-7, 197-pound swingman, chips in 7.3 points and 3.1 rebound in 21.4 minutes per game.

Prediction: The Beavers need contributions from the perimeter to keep teams from collapsing on Collier, and a dependable third option.

Saint Mary’s (8-0)

What's at stake? The Diamond Head is the Gaels’ opportunity to prove there is room for two West Coast Conference powers in the Top 25.

Who’s hot? Junior forward Brad Waldow scores a team-high 17.6 ppg (fourth in the WCC) and is second with a 65.1 field goal percentage.

Who is the surprise? Transfer junior guard Kerry Carter supplies instant offense off the bench, connecting on 50 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Prediction: The Gaels are a tournament favorite and, with a game against South Carolina and a rematch from last week with Boise or a contest vs. Iowa State, are a must-watch.

South Carolina (2-4)

What's at stake? Coach Frank Martin’s Gamecocks start two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior and have played mostly on the road. Diamond Head will be an interesting neutral-court test as USC continues to come together heading into the SEC.

Who’s hot? Freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell, a 6-5, 206-pound guard scores 12.7 points per game on 41.7 percent shooting from the 3-point line.

Who is the surprise? Sophomore forward Mindaugas Kacinas, a 6-7, 210-pound player from Lithuania, grabs a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game, almost half off the offensive glass, and scores 7.5 points on 56.3 percent shooting.

Prediction: The Gamecocks are young and talented and go a long way on emotion. Those same things also make them unpredictable and vulnerable.

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 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.

Big 12 team previews

October, 25, 2013
For the past month, Insider has rolled out its college basketball preview, including breakdowns on every Division I team, projected order of finish for every conference and essays from Insider's hoops experts.

Here are previews for each team in the Big 12:

Baylor Bears Insider
Iowa State Cyclones Insider
Kansas Jayhawks Insider
Kansas State Wildcats Insider
Oklahoma Sooners Insider
Oklahoma State Cowboys Insider
TCU Horned Frogs (FREE)
Texas Longhorns Insider
Texas Tech Red Raiders Insider
West Virginia Mountaineers Insider

Iowa State mixes in some yoga

September, 25, 2013
The preseason is boring. The only good news is we're all in it together. Because while we fans sit around and beg for real, actual basketball, college coaches and players are stuck in preseason workout limbo, drilling skills and lifting weights and running in open gyms but not actually playing any real five-on-five basketball. It's got to be the worst part of the calendar, especially for players. Games are fun. Practices are not fun. And for another six weeks, all anybody can do is practice.

Which is precisely why you've got to spice it up. In the past, VCU coach Shaka Smart has put his VCU Rams through Navy Seals training. This summer, DePaul's Oliver Purnell worked some beach volleyball into the sprint-and-lift routine. Some of it is fun, some of it is brutal physical stress, some of it is both. Anything to change up the routine.

Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg has his own variation on this theme: yoga. Maybe you've heard of it? I hear it's pretty popular, and by "hear" I mean everyone I know and everyone that lives within a mile of my house is always either a) doing yoga, b) talking about doing yoga, or c) buying overpriced clothes in which they might one day ostensibly do yoga. It's easy to be dismissive, in other words, but yoga does have its recognized benefits -- from breathing to muscle strength and flexibility to good old-fashioned meditative calm.

The Iowa State kids seem to be feeling all of the above these days. Or maybe that's just exhaustion? Ames Tribune reporter (and friend of the CBN) Travis Hines stopped by for a hot session last week, and both senior Melvin Ejim and sophomore forward Georges Niang were effusive in their praise, even if Niang's "runner's pose" elicited "the pained expression of someone attempting to squat 400 pounds."
“When [instructor] Emily [Hampton] is telling you not to let up, this is all in your head, it’s so true,” Niang said. “It’s like when you’re down five with 30 seconds to go. You have to tell yourself you can do it and fight through.” […]
“To be able to completely focus on one thing, to let go of what your mind is thinking and kind of just give yourself the opportunity to get everything out of what you’re doing,” said Ejim, “I think it’s a great opportunity.”

It's also a lot of fun to watch. I mean, I'm guessing; I haven't seen Iowa State do yoga. But come on -- it's a bunch of huge 7-foot yoga noobs crammed into one studio. How could that not be hilarious?

Anyway, this is interesting to me not because I'm certain it will give Iowa State some mental edge -- though playing at breakneck speed the way the Cyclones do, it can't hurt -- but because it seems so obvious. Strength and speed are great, but flexibility is what ties it all together, and in few sports is 180-degree dexterity as important as this one. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar figured it out in the 1970s, and played basketball for approximately 82 years. Yet this is the first I can remember hearing of a team doing yoga as part of its workout regimen. Are other programs already on board here? Is it so obvious it doesn't require a mention? Or have college hoops programs been slow to pick it up? Is yoga not as widely accepted as I think? Forget changing the preseason workout pace. For basketball cross-training, yoga seems like a no-brainer.