The Virginia men's basketball team will have had a week to sit down and reflect upon what exactly happened last week against Seattle. During this time, we had the opportunity to sit down with CrossCyed of Clone Chronicles to get his input on the Cyclones this season, and what Virginia has to look forward to.
1. At 11-2, you guys are off to your best start since the 2000-01 season, but yet you guys also say that you'll be pretty surprised if you get even 6 conference wins this season. Why so down?
Six wins is sort of the goal right now. Iowa State fans are in a "show me" sort of state with Cyclone basketball. The past four years under Greg McDermott have had decent enough results in nonconference play, only to be an unmitigated failure come the conference season. Add in the fact that the Cyclones have lost to Northern Iowa and Cal, and we know we're not there yet. The Big 12 Conference is going to be difficult, and with nine of the sixteen conference games coming against Kansas, Kansas State, Mizzou, Baylor, Texas and Texas A&M, there's a lot of tough games ahead. Don't get things wrong, Cyclone fans feel as good about this season as they have in a long time, but they want to wait and see some results before anointing this team as anything better than an eighth or ninth place team in the conference.
2. I admittedly don't follow ISU basketball - what's the 2-minute summary of Coach Hoiberg's style and philosophy?Up tempo all the way. The Clones are in the top quarter of the nation in pace, and they're going to try and force a running style. He really tries to run a positive system - a player won't get pulled for a bad shot, and it's probably led to better shot selection than last year, actually. We'll mainly run three or four out system, with Diante Garrett handling the ball most of the time. Iowa State has had very good ball movement this year, and will look to make that extra pass. That being said, Garrett will also look to drive into the lane at will in the defense will give that to him. It's a bit of an NBA look at times, actually, as Hoiberg was previously the assistant GM of the Timberwolves. It's Garrett's team, and he's running the show out there.
3. Diante Garrett and Scott Christopherson are pretty much guaranteed double-figure scoring. What's the secret to stopping this duo?
Hope they have an off shooting night. Garrett will continually look for his shot, and he will more than likely get to the rim at will. Very few players in the Big 12 have been able to stop his dribble penetration (he is that good) but it's more a matter of whether or not his shot falls. I'd be surprised if Virginia has someone that can keep him from shooting, to be honest, but they may have someone who can force him into bad shots, which is what they will need. In terms of Christopherson, he'll need to be guarded tightly. As of Boxing Day, he leads the country in three point field goals made, so he will look for his shot. He's in the top 25% in three point percentage, and he's really the foremost sharpshooter in the country in terms of helping his team via the three. Scott isn't the most athletic guy in the world, but he'll surprise by coming inside the three point line for the occasional floater. Give him an open look at your own risk.
4. Like Virginia, you have approximately 18 freshmen on your team. What does this mean and who should we look out for?
I'm not sure what holiday crowds are like at Virginia, but it could be their first game in front of a hostile environment (neither Northern Iowa or Iowa count - not enough fans at UNI, not enough fans that care at Iowa). That being said, Melvin Ejim has been one of the best freshmen in the Big 12, but has been prone to disappearing off the face of the earth this year. If he's not making plays, it makes it a lot more difficult for Iowa State to win. Calvin Godfrey and Jordan Railey will come off the bench and play in the post. Godfrey is a pretty effective rebounder for the minutes that he plays, and Railey is decent enough at post defense when he doesn't get in foul trouble, but any offensive contributions will be limited. If either guy is scoring at will, chances are Virginia is f'd in the a. Bubu Palo is the backup point guard. While a good defender, like the last two guys, he's not a real offensive threat. He's a bit out of control, but he's played well enough his last two games.
5. How does Iowa State (inevitably, heh) lose this game?
Virginia dominates in the post and Iowa State has an off shooting night and turns the ball over. Iowa State has been one of the best teams in the nation in terms of pure shooting and protecting the ball, while the teams they play have been remarkably ineffective inside the arc. ISU has not played a team with a major post presence yet, and if Virginia can gain traction in the post and play tough defense, they have a chance. If the offense that Iowa State displayed against the majority of the teams on their schedule shows up, Virginia will have a tough game. I'd like to think Iowa State is a slight favorite in this game, and I'd feel a lot more confident if it was in Ames, but for whatever reason, Virginia appears to be a much less effective team at home this year. I'll predict a 72-68 Iowa State win for now, but if Virginia uglies up the tempo enough, and limits Iowa State's possessions while shooting well on their own, they will likely win.
We gave them the opportunity to ask us five questions on Virginia Basketball as well. You can find those questions and our answers here. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. this Thursday at John Paul Jones Arena.