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Virginia Tech vs Iowa State Preview and Prediction

Sean Pedulla 1 VT CSU 2022 ES
Photo Credit: Erin Smith
Will Locklin | @locklin_will
Writer/Basketball Analyst

Virginia Tech outlasted Boise State on Thanksgiving evening, winning 82-75 over the Broncos and earning a spot in the semifinals of the ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando, Florida. The Hokies got off to a poor start, spotting Boise a 12-point advantage in the first four minutes. For the remainder of the game, however, Tech was even keeled with the Broncos or simply better. The Hokies outscored Boise State 80-61 after the first four minutes and grinded out a tough win over a team that’s made the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons.

Tech didn’t let Boise’s abnormal shooting (38% from three versus 24% for the year coming in) faze them. Hunter Cattoor and Lynn Kidd tied the game high in scoring with 19 points each. Sean Pedulla chipped in 18 points and made timely buckets down the stretch along with Tyler Nickel who added 14 off the bench. Defensively, Tech appeared to guard a lot better in the second half. They didn’t allow as many uncontested shots and were able to fight for more rebounds.

Tech didn’t win the battle on the boards but also didn’t get dominated which proved to be enough. The Hokies did win the turnover battle, generating 16 Broncos turnovers and turning those miscues into 19 points on the other end. Tech’s ability to grind out a win over a good team and show improvements when it counted on defense are big steps in the right direction. The win in the quarterfinals of this tournament brings Tech to 4-1 on the year and sets up a matchup with Iowa State.

At a perfect 5-0, the Cyclones aren’t in the AP Top 25 poll yet but they are ranked 17th on KenPom, which is good for fifth in the Big 12. Additionally, Iowa State has KenPom’s sixth highest rated defense with a 90 flat adjusted defensive rating. The Cyclones are indeed a stingy bunch, as they’ve allowed just 49.4 points on average to their first five opponents. Sure, their competition hadn’t been great before this tournament, but they proved their worth against VCU in a 68-64 quarterfinals win.

Furthermore, Iowa State is an extremely physical and handsy team on defense. The Cyclones generate 13.4 steals per game, second best in the country. They force 19.8 turnovers per contest as well, which ranks fourth nationally. Scoring on this bunch will be a challenge for Tech, and they’ll have to be far sharper than they were against Boise, especially to start this game.

Offensively, Iowa State is no slouch either. They’re top 50 in KenPom’s offensive metric and average 86.6 points a game, three more than the Hokies. The Cyclones are also strong in other stats too, grabbing just over 39 rebounds a game and netting a 51.4% field goal percentage too. Keshon Gilbert and Tamin Lipsey lead Iowa State in scoring, both averaging over 15 points per game with Lipsey being the team leader in assists with 6.4 and posting 2.8 steals per game.

Since Iowa State’s guards are so dynamic, the first big key for the Hokies will be the defense of Hunter Cattoor and MJ Collins. Both Tech guards will be asked to defend either Gilbert or Lipsey and they’ll need to play as tight to them as they can. Defense requires the whole team to be locked in but there’s a special need for Collins and Cattoor to get in Iowa State’s guards face and force some bad shots.

Carrying on with that point, Tech’s defense as a whole will need to be stellar. We know the Cyclones will most likely hold Tech in check on the other end, the stats support this, but if Tech can defend well themselves, then they’ll have a chance.

The second big key for Tech is to get off to a strong start. Boise State had chances to keep Tech at bay and failed to do that. If Iowa State is spotted a double-digit lead in the first half, the Hokies won’t have a good chance to come back like they did against the Cowboys. Mike Young will have to draw up a strong gameplan for Tech’s offense to find some holes in the Cyclones' defense.

The guard play of Hunter Cattoor and Sean Pedulla will be key. Expect that duo to need to combine for 35-40 points in this one for Tech to get a win. Additionally, Lynn Kidd will need to continue his hot streak down low. Iowa State outrebounds their opponents by a 13-board margin, so the likes of Kidd, Robbie Beran, Mylyjael Poteat and Mekhi Long will need to be feisty on the glass to shrink that margin.

The last key for Tech will be to take care of the basketball. As previously mentioned, Iowa State generates a lot of turnovers and steals. For Tech to be smart with the basketball, Pedulla will have to have one of his best games from a decision-making standpoint. Less risky plays and smarter decisions will lead to an outcome that could land Tech in a favorable position.

Prediction: Iowa State 80, Virginia Tech 71

As for how the game will play out, I believe the Cyclones are simply a better team than the Hokies right now. Iowa State is well-balanced and well-coached all around. They don’t make a lot of mistakes and defend extremely well. I think Tech will hang in with Iowa State for the majority of the game but the Cyclones pull away late, much like how Tech did with Boise State Thursday night.

Tech will need to play their best game of the season by far to beat Iowa State. That’s certainly possible, but I don’t think it’s likely and that’s why I’m taking Iowa State to beat Virginia Tech and cover the spread in the semifinals of the ESPN Events Invitational.

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