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Q&A with Wide Right, Natty Lite

KnowDan from Wide Right, Natty Lite, the Iowa State blog on our network, was kind enough to take some time to answer some questions I had on Notre Dame's first round opponent. Here is what he gave us from the Cyclone point of view on tonight's match up.

CW: So, you guys shoot a lot of threes. What's the preferred method of getting guys open? Pick and pop, drive and dish, motion? Some combination thereof?

KnowDan from Wide Right, Natty Lite: Yes, all of it. Seriously, the majority of threes come of pick and pops, motions, and typical NBA-style isolation. This team especially likes to use hand offs to start the offense and if a big does not come out on either Georges Niang or Melvin Ejim they are prone to shoot immediately after taking the hand off. There are some drive and dish components mixed in but Korie Lucious struggles to get to the lane consistently and also kick the ball while driving (typically he gets stuck between shooting and passing and the ball ends up in the hands of someone not wearing a Cyclone uniform).

Has anyone been able to stop you from shooting threes this season, or is the onslaught pretty much coming no matter what the opponent does? If they did stop you, how did they do they and can you please send this information to Mike Brey?

This team is going to put up 20+ threes against every opponent they face but teams have had success by guarding the three point line and not only stopping the shot, but preventing penetration into the lane. Last week against Kansas the team attempted 33 threes and hit their average of 9, but that level of volume usually leads to little to no success for Iowa State.

What concerns me about this game is Notre Dame's size and whether or not they control the paint. Against teams like Oklahoma State and Baylor, Iowa State failed to shoot the three ball very well but managed to get penetration into the lane and get some easy buckets. A huge misnomer with this team is that they live and die by the three. While it's not wholly untrue this was still the team that lead the Big XII in 2 point field goal percentage. When the three ball isn't falling a team still has to control the lane to beat Iowa State. Unfortunately, I think Notre Dame has the ability to do this.

I was impressed by the quality of your rebounding metrics despite the relative lack of height. How do the Cyclones do it? Does the lack of size become more apparent against better teams?

Physicality is what undoes this team more than anything. There are some smart rebounders on this team with Ejim and Niang, Will Clyburn has the size to rebound when he wants to mix it up, and the guards do a great job of picking up the rebounding scraps. Which, not coincidentally, was a strong trait of Fred Hoiberg's in his playing days.

However, when a team decides to bully our players down low the rebounding percentages tend to fall accordingly. Baylor and Oklahoma State are both bigger teams but they're not physical and a lot of that has to do with their inept coaches. Notre Dame seems bullish in the post and I have serious concerns about the viability of Ejim and Niang to hang in there for 35 minutes, get rebounds, and stay out of foul trouble. The x factor here again is Will Clyburn. A lot of people have trouble matching his length but it's all in his head whether or not he wants to be physical. When Clyburn approaches a double-double this team more often than not wins.

Notre Dame sometimes has trouble containing penetration. Is there a go-to ball handler on your team that can consistently get into the paint?

Korie Lucious is the closest and backup point guard Bubu Palo is probably second on this list, but both bring a whole host of problems when they get within five feet of the hoop. Lucious, like mentioned above, seemingly tries to give the ball to anyone not wearing red, and Bubu does his best soccer impersonation and flops when touched. The problem is the ball usually goes flying 10 feet in a random direction into someone else's hands.

Clyburn is not strong enough to get to the lane consistently and his length actually makes it easier to poke the ball away from him. Don't sleep on Chris Babb though. He's known as our defensive stopper and big three point threat but if he's guarded wrong he has a very good slow dribble that gets him into the lane and usually results in a trip to the line. It's just a matter of him making the decision to get to the hoop.

Iowa State is down one with thirty seconds to go. What play is Coach Hoiberg calling?

This is one area where I think Hoiberg has a lot of growing up to do. He prefers NBA-style isolation leaving the ball in the hands of one player and either having them drive to the hoop, or provide a dump off late. This worked to perfection against West Virginia when Clyburn drove with under 10 seconds left and dished to a wide open Niang for the game winning basket with only a second left.

However, there have been other times late that Hoiberg has employed the same strategy and the opposing defense has just managed to shove Clyburn around enough to make the whole play ineffective.

If Iowa State is tied, or down less than two, I think Hoiberg sticks with the isolation and will use Clyburn or Lucious accordingly. If down three and looking for a tie I get very concerned. Defenses do a good job pushing our guys outside the arc when needed and I have seen few plays late this year that result in open looks from three. That being said, it's probably best to put the ball in Tyrus McGee's hands and let him do his thing.

I assume you're taking the Cyclones. Please give us the longform version of why.

Long form, ok then. Well other than our coach being better looking than yours I can't say I have much. The piece that will give Notre Dame fits is the contrasting style of play the Cyclones present. Not just in tempo, but in the ability to space the floor with all five guys. Ejim is the weak link with three point shooting and he's still hitting at greater than 40%.

Iowa State has been pulled into half court battles before, but not against a team as deep down low and as efficient as Notre Dame's. However, the NCAA tournament is about runs, who can weather them, and who can then punch back afterwards. Time and time again we have seen great three point shooting teams get on a roll and carry it throughout the game. Notre Dame gets their licks in the but the floor spacing is going to create a whole host of problems for your bigs against smaller, quicker players. The game is close, as it should be, but Iowa State will do enough to hold on late. This game will finish somewhere in the range of 66-62 Iowa State.

Thanks for answering our questions, KnowDan. Check out the Wide Right, Natty Lite blog for the Iowa State side of things, especially the other side of the Q&A with me. Good luck tonight!