It is only a day away. The Iowa State Cyclones will be playing in the biggest game for their program in nearly a decade. It was only two short months ago when fans voted this game versus the Michigan Wolverines to be the second-best non-conference tilt for any Big 12 team this season. I'm excited myself because I'm the only one on the site to officially pick ISU to play in the NCAA Tournament and a win in a meaningful basketball game like this would really turn some heads. Both teams are coming off losses earlier in the week, Michigan to Virginia and Iowa State to Northern Iowa, so this would be the perfect time for one of these schools to get back to business.
The preview of Iowa State vs. Michigan is coming after the jump.Starting with the Cyclones (5-2), The Transfer Project drawn up by coach Fred Hoiberg seems to have worked for the most part a few games in. Royce White has been big down low, Chris Babb is absolutely killing it from the field (51.7%) and the three-point line (52.1%) and a guy who might have probably gotten lost amongst the other transfers, former juco guard Tyrus McGee, is pouring in nearly eleven per game off the bench. The main bugaboo ISU suffers with is when they don't make the three point shot. They shoot 41.9% as a team from out there and in their two losses to Drake and Northern Iowa, ISU shot an ugly 6-for-19 and 4-for-18. But the Cyclones have one clear advantage in this match-up and that is the one in the paint. If his teammates can get him the rock, Royce White should have his way against the Michigan frontline, who let Virginia forward Mike Scott dictate the action with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Michigan (5-2) had a solid week out in Maui taking down Memphis and UCLA, but I learned a lot about them watching the entire game vs. Virginia Tuesday night. With Tim Hardaway, Jr. out a chunk of the game with foul trouble, the Wolverines had problems finding a scorer to lean on. The man who should have been more of a factor was Zack Novak. He scored 22 the game before this one and has been rather efficient throughout the season. I think he's made the step up from role player to the No. 2 guy and his team should treat him as such. The clear advantage that Michigan possesses is freshman PG Trey Burke. First of all, the dude is fast. There were also a couple of quick moves he made to the bucket to score that really grabbed my attention against Virginia. I don't know how the ISU guards will keep up with him and his scoring ability. Plus, he's an outstanding passer.
This game will be played up in Ann Arbor this Saturday morning at 11 am and will air on The Big Ten Network. The two teams are eerily similar since they both love the three ball. It would be easier to take the Wolverines at home since Michigan would be out there trying to redeem themselves for their poor showing in Charlottesville. But if the Cyclones were smart enough and gameplanned like Virginia coach Tony Bennett did on Tuesday, ISU just might walk out of Crisler with a W. I'll go with ISU in a nailbiter by two.