Michigan Basketball (2-0) will play at Iowa State (2-0) on Sunday afternoon. Tip off is scheduled for 5:00pm (EST) and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
The Cyclones have turned the program around under the leadership of fourth year coach Fred Hoiberg. After a disappointing 2000s decade, Hoiberg was hired and took the team from last in the Big 12 in his first year to third and fourth place finishes in the next two years.
Last year’s team had 23-12 record, beating Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament’s first round. The loss that sent them packing in the second round was a memorable one, with Aaron Craft hitting a game-winning three with .2 left on the clock. There’s no telling how far ISU could have gone, as the Buckeyes advanced to the Elite Eight.
The team lost six seniors from last season, including the team’s leading scorers Will Clyburn and Tyrus McGee. The seniors accounted for 28 points per game for the Cyclones.
This year’s ISU team is 2-0, with convincing wins over UNC-Wilmington and Texas A&M-CC. ISU still has some scorers despite the graduation, and back for this year is forward Georges Niang, the third best scorer on the team.
Niang is a dynamic small forward who can post up and is a threat from outside. He may also be Nik Stauskas’ match in the swagger department. Stauskas has the three goggles, Niang points three fingers at his head after draining the shot.
Stepping into bigger roles are guards DeAndre Kane and Naz Long, both proficient passers with a knack for scoring. They are two of the six Cyclones averaging double figures this season.
The Cyclones will use Michigan as a litmus test to see how well they will be able to stack up to the other ranked teams in the Big 12. Kansas will be ISU’s toughest matchup, but they also have to face ranked Oklahoma State and Baylor squads.
After a bad half in the season opener, Michigan basketball has been relentless against weaker opponents. Michigan never fell out of the top ten last season, and the 2013-2014 squad hopes to replicate that feat. They won’t be able to overlook a solid Iowa State who plays great at home.
One of the things that makes Michigan so difficult to game plan for is the abundance of shooters. Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas have been shooting almost unconsciously, both hitting at above a 65 percent rate from three. Even if those guys are covered, Spike Albrecht or Zak Irvin can light you up.
Michigan pay get a potential boost from the possible return of Mitch McGary. There are whispers about Michigan’s premier big man returning this game. This would be an unexpected return, as the previous timetable had him returning against Duke in early December. Michigan has not needed his production so far, getting serviceable minutes and strong showings on the boards from Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan.
The two big questions for Michigan are Glenn Robinson III’s shooting slump and the continued development of Derrick Walton Jr. Robinson is only shooting 40 percent from the field and a dismal 14 percent from beyond the arc. If last year and this summer was any indication, this is simply an aberration to be corrected soon. Walton has played very well after stepping into the shoes of a giant, and his averages aren’t to far off from Burke’s at this stage in his career. It remains to be seen if he steps up his aggressiveness or defers to his teammates.
Michigan and Iowa State both enjoy playing up-tempo styles, and the game is a shoot-out right from the start. In the end, ISU can’t hang with Michigan’s options. 81-70, Michigan.
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