Iowa State: What To Know About Ohio State's First Round Opponent

By Colin Hass-Hill on March 19, 2019 at 1:45 pm
Iowa State
Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Selection Sunday came and went two days ago, and Ohio State has an NCAA tournament opponent.

The Buckeyes will head to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to take on Iowa State at around 9:50 p.m. Friday in the first round. Ohio State and the Cyclones have played sparingly, not matching up in the past six years. 

Here's what you should know about Iowa State.

How Iowa State Got Here

For the eighth straight season, Kansas was picked by the Big 12's coaches to win the conference before the season began. In those preseason rankings, the Cyclones were projected to finish sixth.

Iowa State opened the 2018-19 season with an 11-2 record against the 114th-toughest non-conference slate in the country, beating Illinois, Drake, Missouri, Texas Southern, San Diego State and others. The Cyclones dropped games to Arizona (71-66) and Iowa (98-84).

They vaulted into the top 25 by toppling then-fifth-ranked Kansas on Jan. 5 in their second Big 12 game of the season, then lost back-to-back games to Baylor and Kansas State. Iowa State got back on track with its biggest win of the season, a 68-64 road victory against Texas Tech, a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. The win against the Red Raiders began a 6-1 stretch that featured wins against Texas and Mississippi. 

The Cyclones closed the regular season poorly, losing six of their final eight games, including a loss to West Virginia to finish the year with a 9-9 conference record. They bounced back, though, in the Big 12 tournament by beating Baylor, Kansas State and Kansas to capture the conference crown.

Players To Know

Iowa State typically plays a relatively tight rotation with only six players averaging more than 12 minutes per game and three averaging at least 32 minutes per game. Here's a look at each of the six key Cyclones players.

  • Marial Shayok (6-foot-6, 198 pound redshirt senior guard): Transfer can change the trajectory of a program, and Shayok has made quite an impact in Ames, Iowa. He's a dangerous shooter, hitting 49.4 percent of his shots from the field and 38.9 percent of his 3-point attempts. Shayok left Virginia after the 2016-17 season, sat out a year and has averaged a team-high 18.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game as a fifth-year senior. He played in five NCAA tournament games while on Virginia's team.
  • Talen Horton-Tucker (6-foot-4, 233-pound freshman guard): Ohio State had Horton-Tucker in for a visit last year, and Holtmann surely wishes he landed the talented first-year guard. He averages 12.1 points and five rebounds per game with impressive size and the ability power his way to the hoop. Horton-Tucker shoots 41 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from beyond the arc.
  • Lindell Wigginton (6-foot-2, 189-pound sophomore guard): Wigginton, who was named Big 12 sixth man of the year, averages 13.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He started last year, averaging 16.7 points per game, but moved to the bench this season. He can stretch the floor, shooting 38.1 percent from 3-point range.
  • Michael Jacobson (6-foot-9, 230-pound redshirt junior forward): Given Jacobson's size in an otherwise relatively short rotation, he's one of the most important players on the team. He averages 11.5 points and six rebounds per game while shooting 58.2 percent from the field and 34 percent from beyond the arc. Jacobson transferred from Nebraska after the 2016-17 season and sat out last year.
  • Tyrese Haliburton (6-foot-5, 172-pound freshman guard): A cousin of NBA All-Star Eddie Jones, Haliburton has integrated himself into Iowa State's rotation quickly. He averages 6.9 points per game, hitting 51.5 percent of his shots from the field and 44.1 percent of his 3-pointers. Haliburton also averages 3.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game.
  • Nick Weiler-Babb (6-foot-5, 205-pound senior guard): Weiler-Babb leads the team with 34.3 minutes per game in his second season with Iowa State after transferring from Arkansas. He puts up 9.2 points per game (41 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range), adding five rebounds and a team-high four assists per game.

Numbers To Know

  • Ohio State didn't have many bad losses in the eyes of the selection committee, but Iowa State had even fewer. The Cyclones went 6-0 in quadrant-three games and 6-0 in quadrant-four games. The team's worst losses came on the road to West Virginia and Arizona and at home to Baylor and TCU.
  • Iowa's State's adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 118.7 is the best in the Big 12 and the 10th-best in the country. Michigan State and Purdue are the only Big Ten teams with better adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. No team seeded sixth or below has as high of a rating as the Cyclones.
  • The Cyclones don't get to the free-throw line much, but they also don't allow opponents to shoot free throws often. They have a free-throw rate of 30.3 percent (257th in the nation), but opponents have a free-throw rate of 23.6 percent (fourth-best in the nation).
  • Iowa State averages 77.4 points per game (51st in the country), has a plus-9.1-point scoring margin (30th in the country) and shoots 47.7 percent from the field (27th in the country). 
  • The Cyclones average just a plus-0.6 rebounding margin per game. They aren't an overwhelming threat on the glass, averaging 8.2 offensive rebounds per game (191st in the country). Opponents average 9.1 offensive rebounds per game (260th in the country).
  • Iowa State blocks 7.7 percent of its opponents' shots (33rd in the country), and it's a team effort with no single player averaging more than 1.2 blocks per game.
  • The Cyclones control the ball well with a 1.411 assist-to-turnover ratio (14th in the country).

Who's Steve Prohm?

Steve Prohm had the tough task of following Fred Hoiberg who left Iowa State for the Chicago Bulls, but he has proved to be up for the challenge. 

Prohm, 44, has led the Cyclones to the NCAA tournament in three of four seasons as head coach, only missing it last year. He led them to a 23-12 record, a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament and a Sweet 16 run in his first year in Ames, Iowa. The Cyclones went 24-11 the following year, beating West Virginia to win the Big 12 tournament and eventually advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament before falling to fourth-seeded Purdue.

Prohm's team took a step back in 2017-18, going 13-18, before improving by 10 wins this season.

Prior to his time at Iowa State, Prohm spent four years as Murray State's head coach, accumulating a 104-29 record and making the NCAA tournament once. He took over the program after his mentor, Billy Kennedy, was hired by Texas A&M. Prohm was named Ohio Valley Conference coach of the year in 2012 and 2015.

What Holtmann Is Saying

Chris Holtmann has never lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament as a head coach, but Iowa State will pose a stiff challenge to his team.

He addressed the media at a press conference on Sunday, then he hopped on the Carpenter and Rothman Show on 97.1 on Monday before the Chris Holtmann Show aired on 97.1 later that night. Here's a compilation of what he said about the Cyclones.

Holtmann at Sunday's press conference

On what stands out about Iowa State:

"Talen Horton-Tucker's terrific. Transfer from Virginia (Shayok) is really good, really good. I've watched them a little bit because they're on TV a lot, so you have a chance occasionally to watch other leagues. But I've not watched them a ton, I've not studied them. You have to be really good to win your conference tournament in that league. They were probably, my guess is, the No. 1 of the six seeds, I would guess. They very easily could've been a five seed. So we'll need to play really well."

On if he has a relationship with Iowa State coach Steve Prohm:

"No, but I know Steve. We spoke at a clinic together, Illinois clinic last year. Steve does a really good job. They've always been very, very hard to guard. Steve is a really good man and a really good coach, a really good coach."

Holtmann's Monday appearance on the Carpenter and Rothman Show on 97.1

On the message he wants to send to his team entering the game:

"It's an interesting question. I think you go into this thing and there's so many games in the tournament that are, in a lot of ways, are 50-50 balls. It's kind of who performs better. And then ultimately players win games in the closing stretches of so many tight games. When you look at it, 5-12 games are always really close, and we've obviously seen a number of quote unquote upsets in the last couple years. So I think it kind of just depends on who's playing well in that two-hour slot. I like how we're playing right now. Obviously Iowa State's playing exceptional, too, having just won the Big 12 tournament. And they're really, really good. But it's great to be in this field, and we're excited about Friday night."

On whether he thinks it's a decent matchup for his team:

"I think it's a tough matchup for us because of how they spread you out. Having said that, I do like how we're playing. I've been asked to compare them to a team in the Big Ten. I don't know that I'd compare them to any team in the Big Ten. (Maybe) Michigan in terms of how they spread you out. They've got unique size and length, and I think, according to people, they do have two or three NBA players that are young but are on their roster. I think the interesting thing is they've had ups and downs, and now they've played really well here of late winning. They could finish 9-9 in the league but won the tournament. It's unique. You nailed it. They play really fast. They spread you out. They basically play four guards between 6-4 to 6-7 or (6-8) and then a 6-9 post guy. They try to deck it and create offense on you. It's kind of a free play offensively. We need to be better defensively than maybe what we were the last couple games. And I think that's where it'll begin and end for us."

Holtmann on the Chris Holtmann Show on 97.1 on Monday

On how Iowa State plays:

"Iowa State who we play, they play four guards and their five can shoot it a little bit. They're a spread-it-out system."

On Ohio State's approach facing the Cyclones:

"I think probably first, we're looking at how do we slow them down defensively. That's what we're looking at first, and then we're building our offensive attack here a little bit after that. But our first thing is how do we take away some of their strengths. They're very much a spread-and-go transition team. They're very fast, and they're very versatile. Like I said, when they're making shots, they're good."

On whether Iowa State plays zone or man-to-man defense:

"They play primarily man-to-man. They've got not great interior size, but they've got what you see in a lot of teams in college basketball now is they go 6-5, 6-5, 6-6, 6-7, 6-9, so they don't have a smaller guard that they play. It's all 6-5 and 6-4 and bigger."

On Iowa State coach Steve Prohm and his team:

"He's a really good coach, and he does a great job. It's interesting, they've got some young guys. They took a transfer, which, I know he was going to be a really good player for them, from Virginia. Because we had played Virginia in the NCAA tournament a couple years ago, and Shayok is a kid they took who was a sit-one, play-one transfer, only had one year. I remember when they got him saying, because he was a good player from Virginia, he's a versatile guard and he has had a terrific one year for them. He's that kind of dynamic bigger guard. Again, he was really good for Virginia. I don't know if it was a style of play thing or whatever, but he's had a great year for them. So you're familiar with their roster from a distance."

Other Ohio State-Iowa State Notes

  • Ohio State is undefeated in six games against Iowa State. It most recently played the Cyclones in 2013 when Aaron Craft hit a game-winning 3-pointer to beat the Cyclones, 78-75.
  • The Buckeyes have faced the Cyclones twice in the NCAA tournament, beating them in 1985 and 2013.
  • Steve Prohm has never coached against either Ohio State or Chris Holtmann. He is 3-2 in his career as a head coach versus Big Ten opponents.
  • Chris Holtmann has never coached versus Iowa State.
  • Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith worked as Iowa State's athletic director from 1993 until 2000.
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