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NCAA Tournament 2016: Three keys to a Virginia win over Iowa State

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers take on the Iowa State Cyclones Friday night at 7:10 PM on CBS with a berth in the Elite Eight on the line.

My colleague Tiki has already taken an in-depth look at the matchups the Hoos will face against a tough ISU squad. The Cyclones feature an elite offense but pair it with a leaky defense. Here's an overview of the matchups on both sides of the ball:

Virginia Offense vs. Iowa State Defense:

UVA Offense (Rank) ISU Defense (Rank)
PPP 1.19 (6) 1.00 (94)
eFG% 54.8% (18) 49.5% (152)
TO% 15.1% (13) 17.0% (250)
OReb% 30.2% (158) 30.2% (199)
FTA/FGA 32.0 (289) 24.4 (4)

Iowa State Offense vs. Virginia Defense:

ISU Offense (Rank) UVA Defense (Rank)
PPP 1.21 (2) 0.92 (4)
eFG% 57.1% (5) 48.3% (94)
TO% 15.7% (31) 19.0% (111)
OReb% 26.7% (269) 25.5% (24)
FTA/FGA 26.0 (349) 33.2 (92)

And here are three keys to a UVA victory:

1) Get some second chance points, while still bottling up the Cyclones in transition.

Virginia is in a tough spot on the offensive boards. With Iowa State looking to get out in transition, UVA will emphasize getting back on defense. If Coach Bennett wants to shut down ISU's transition offense, he will be able to do so, as UVA has had success slowing down North Carolina and other teams that like to run.  However, that comes with a trade-off, as the team would have to give up some of its chances to grab offensive rebounds to do so.

The problem with that is that Iowa State is vulnerable on the offensive boards - it's part of the reason they aren't a great defensive team. And not attempting to take advantage of this would be to give the Cyclones a nice defensive boost.

Defensively, Iowa State profiles similarly to Duke. They allow a decently high opposing shooting percentage, but pair it with never forcing turnovers and getting beat badly on the boards. (However, both teams rarely foul). When UVA took on Duke in February (perhaps with last season, when the Blue Devils beat UVA in transition, in mind), the Hoos found an odd time to put up their second-worst offensive rebounding performance of the year. They finished with 5 offensive boards (a 17% OReb%) and lost, despite holding Duke to 1.06 PPP.

Virginia is going to send 3 or 4 guys back on defense every possession, regardless. So they'll need Anthony Gill, Isaiah Wilkins, and Mike Tobey to really battle for extra opportunities. It may be worth it for UVA to get caught allowing the Cyclones a couple transition opportunities if it meant the team could grab some extra offensive rebounds too.

2) Don't have a cold shooting night (and lean on the frontcourt to ensure it doesn't happen).

There's been lots of talk about the game being "all about who can control the tempo" or "who can impose their will." I think this is overblown. If UVA finds good looks early in the shot clock and Iowa State rushes up court and shoots quick and contested shots, the tempo will favor Iowa State...but I think UVA would be okay with that.  On the other hand, Virginia lost a 58-possession ACC Championship game to UNC.  That's because tempo is more of an indicator of other factors (were there lots of fouls? turnovers? etc.) than a determinant of success.

The biggest determinant of success is much more simple: shooting. When Virginia has finished with and eFG% of over 50%, it is 24-1, the sole loss a weird game in Blacksburg. When under that mark, UVA is 4-6.

Those poor shooting nights featured some clunkers from three-point range (like its 4-18 effort against Georgia Tech or 5-20 against GW). And there were a rough night or two from the guards from inside the arc too, like when Perrantes and Brogdon combined to make 3 of 17 two-pointers against FSU or 5 of 19 against UNC.

Shooters have cold nights, even Malcolm Brogdon. But it's harder to imagine that happening if Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey could take advantage of their size and athleticism advantages, get inside, and get high-percentage looks and force contact. They took care of business easily against Butler, and will have similarly advantageous matchups against ISU.

3) Hit Georges Niang with well-timed double teams.

Iowa State star Georges Niang is someone that Virginia will need to hit with post-doubles. However, he is a very good passer, as are the rest of the Cyclones. UVA has been improving with the timing of its double teams all year, forcing big men to travel, throw the ball away, or simply back away from the basket. However, the team has been hurt when opponents see the trap coming and quickly pass out of it.

Virginia can't be haphazard going after Niang because of the weapons he has around him. Rather than relying on doubling him consistently, they'll need to pick their moments to slow him down and keep him away from the basket. Malcolm Brogdon or Isaiah Wilkins's abilities to handle him one-on-one as often as possible would help.