The Virginia Tech Hokies opened the season with a surprising home loss to Alabama State but have won three-straight games since that upset to start the season. Today, Buzz Williams and the Hokies face their toughest opponent on their non-conference in the fourth-ranked Iowa State Cyclones led by their new head coach and former Murray State head coach Steve Prohm.
The Cyclones are 3-0 so far with a win over Colorado to start the season and the Steve Prohm era. Fred Hoiberg was able to rebuild the Iowa State program while he was there, and Prohm definitely seems like the guy to continue the success of the man that was known as the Mayor of Ames.
Iowa State has a team that goes about seven-deep, but the Cyclones have a very talented lineup led by one of the top seniors in college basketball, Georges Niang. Niang does a lot of the little things that don't get seen on the scoreline, and has once again been productive averaging 15.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game along with shooting almost 86% from the free-throw line.
Niang is a great ball distributor and scorer at 6'8'', but is not much of a rebounder. Freshman Chris Clarke and forward Zach LeDay may both be used some though the more athletic Clarke seems to be the more likely matchup with LeDay on either the 6'9'' Jameel McKay or 6'6'' forward Abdel Nadar.
Clarke has been playing well so far this season averaging 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds as a freshman, but guarding Niang is a challenge he will likely have to take on a lot today. Clarke will bring plenty of toughness to this matchup, but the question remains whether Clarke can slow down one of the best seniors in college basketball.
Even though Zach LeDay is the Hokies' smallest big man, he may be the guy responsible for guarding Iowa State's biggest big man, the 6'9'' McKay. Both LeDay and McKay are averaging over 11 rebounds per game with McKay being Iowa State's main source of rebounds. The Hokies have more size, but the Cyclones are a veteran team that works hard and knows how to crash the boards.
On the outside, Nazareth Mitrou-Long has had a breakout start to the season with a team-high of 17 points per game along with shooting 55.9% from the field and 42.9% from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, point guard Monte Morris has also stepped up averaging 13.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 3.3 steals per game along with shooting 42.9 from three-point range.
The Cyclones have proven to be very good from beyond the arc so far with Mitrou-Long, Morris, Niang, and Hallice Cooke all shooting at least 40% from beyond the arc. Virginia Tech will need Seth Allen, Justin Bibbs, and Jalen Hudson to all start shooting the ball better from beyond the arc, or the Hokies could be in even more trouble than thought.
Buzz Williams will make sure that this Virginia Tech team comes out with the energy and intensity that is going to be needed to have any chance of an upset. However, Iowa State is the type of veteran-loaded team with a quality coach that won't come out with a lack of energy.
The Hokies are making progress, but tonight will be one of those dogfights that won't end well at all. The Hokies will keep it interesting for a little bit but unfortunately, Georges Niang and Iowa State will be too much for this Virginia Tech team. However, there will be a second game tomorrow regardless that will be a good chance for the Hokies to get a win on their Florida trip.
Prediction: #4 Iowa State 87, Virginia Tech 70