Michigan Provides an Early Test for Iowa StatePosted by Brian Goodman on November 17th, 2013
Michigan and Iowa State are both off to white-hot starts this season. While neither have played competitive teams (their four combined opponents average out to a lowly KenPom rating of #320), the Wolverines and Cyclones have looked terrific in the early going, despite each team being without their best frontcourt player. Neither Melvin Ejim nor Mitch McGary have played a single minute this season, and while that would make a dent in most teams’ rotations, Fred Hoiberg and John Beilein’s teams haven’t skipped a beat. Among the squads’ four combined games so far, the slimmest margin of victory has been 27 points. That figures to change today, however, when the Wolverines and Cyclones square off at Hilton Coliseum early Sunday evening (5:00 PM ET). While McGary and Ejim’s statuses are up in the air, we should be in for a terrific game whether or not they suit up.
McGary may be a preseason All-American and Ejim a preseason all-conference pick, but both teams’ offenses will still be on display in Ames even if their stars spend Sunday afternoon on the sidelines. When either Iowa State or Michigan come up in conversations, the first thing that comes to mind is the dizzying level of havoc both teams can wreak from outside. Sophomore Nik Stauskas has connected on six of his first nine three-point attempts for the Wolverines, and that isn’t even good enough to make him the best shooter on his team this year. That honor goes to fellow sophomore Caris Levert, who has spread defenses by hitting seven of his first 10 attempts beyond the arc, allowing fans to breathe easy about Michigan’s backcourt following the departures of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway. It may be early, but both Stauskas and Levert are shooting better on threes than on two-point shots, which is absolutely wild to think about (and at the same time, highly unsustainable). Throw in Glenn Robinson III and freshman Derrick Walton, who are both capable of shooting better than they have in the young season, and you have a group that can absolutely destroy teams with its firepower.
Iowa State can scorch nets right along with them if its performance so far is any indication. Sophomore guard Naz Long went 8-of-9 on threes last Sunday and hit two more treys against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Wednesday. Freshmen Monte Morris and Matt Thomas have also been fantastic as they’ve acclimated themselves to Hoiberg’s high-powered offense, as has newcomer DeAndre Kane, who just missed out on a triple double last Sunday. On defense, Ejim’s absence on the interior hasn’t been a major factor, as both UNC-Wilmington and Texas A&M-CC struggled in the post and on the offensive glass. However, even if McGary sits out the game, the Cyclones’ interior defense will be in for a tough test, as they aren’t well-equipped to battle Jon Horford in the paint. Dustin Hogue, big man Percy Gibson and even the undersized Kane will be able to help out, but it’s still an area where it’s easy to see Iowa State struggling.
This matchup is easily ISU’s most intriguing showdown of their non-conference slate, and top prospect Rashad Vaughn rolling into town brings an extra element of excitement. While Michigan will be put to the test on Sunday, it’s just the tip of the iceberg on a schedule that also includes the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium, and a home meeting with Stanford.