Iowa State’s Recent Winning Streak Reveals Its March Potential

Posted by Chris Stone on March 3rd, 2017

On February 4, Iowa State flashed the peak of its potential. On that fateful day, the Cyclones held on to win at iconic Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since 2005, ending Kansas’ 54-game home winning streak and handing Jayhawks’ head coach Bill Self just his 10th loss ever at the venue. All it took was an overtime, 92 points and a school-record 18 three-pointers. It also represents Iowa State’s offense at its best — an efficient scoring machine capable of raining down a barrage of jumpers on its competition. The scary thing is that the Cyclones haven’t cooled off since — they’ve been performing at a similar level for the last month. After beating the Jayhawks, Iowa State stumbled on the road at Texas, but has won six straight since. During that stretch, Steve Prohm‘s squad has converted 1.21 points per trip, taking 40.7 percent of their shots from behind the arc and making 48.5 percent of those attempts. For greater context, that would easily rank as the best three-point rate nationally over the course of a season. It is a sustained run of shooting unlike anything Iowa State has seen this season.

Naz Mitrou-Long has helped key Iowa State’s hot shooting streak. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)

For most of this season, Iowa State has oscillated between scorching hot shooting nights and cold spells. In the last six games, however, the Cyclones have converted better than 45 percent of their threes in every contest, but it’s tough to pinpoint the exact cause for this trend. Prohm moved big man Solomon Young into the starting lineup after the Texas game, but data from Hoop Lens suggests that Iowa State’s offense has been worse with the freshman on the floor during this stretch (largely because of turnovers). Take a look at the Cyclones’ three-point percentage by game in 2016-17.

Source: Sports-Reference

The better explanation might be a simpler one: The Cyclones are a roster filled with shooters. Monte’ Morris, Matt Thomas, Naz Mitrou-Long and Donovan Jackson all shoot better than 38 percent from deep, and even Deonte Burton can get hot once in a while. Three-point shooting is a statistic with one of the highest variances in basketball on a game-by-game basis, so it’s most likely that Iowa State has simply found a nice shooting groove over the last month. It’s fair to argue that the Cyclones have played the league’s four worst defenses over this stretch, but they also beat an elite defense in Baylor and three-point percentage is generally controlled by the offense more than the defense.

The significance of the Cyclones’ recent six-game winning streak shouldn’t be overlooked. March Madness is just around the corner and Iowa State’s shooters are peaking at the right time. In the single-elimination format of the NCAA Tournament, teams that can get hot on the offensive end have a golden opportunity to make a deep run. The Cyclones may enter the Dance in two weeks as a seed in the middle of the pack, but don’t be surprised if some hot shooting pushes them to the second weekend or further.

Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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