On Friday, the Chicago Invitational finally heads out to, well, Chicago. ISU will open up playing against the St Louis Billikens.
The Billikens are led by former Utah Coach, Rick Majerus. In the two years he's been at St Louis, I don't think he has been able to recruit the talent to compete at a high level, but I don't think anyone can deny the man's basketball knowledge. I think anyone facing a Majerus coached team has to come ready to play.
With that said, St Louis has started off 4-0, which is the best starting mark they've had under Coach Majerus. They have recently beat common opponent, Mississippi Valley State, 75-39.
When looking at the numbers, I think it's easy to say that this will be the best team ISU has faced thus far:
Saint Louis averages close to 70 points/game, has been shooting at around 49% on the year (42% from beyond the arc), and averages 40 rebounds/game. They also have a 1.2/1assist/turnover ratio. They have been holding their opponents to 35% shooting on the year, but they haven't played any good offensive teams either. I mean their "big" win thus far is Nebraska.
To me, they look like a team that wants to play sound defense, and a half-court offense. It really is pretty common with these mid-major teams. I think the philosophy is that if you play defense, slow the tempo down, and work for quality shots, you can score smart baskets and not risk getting blown out of the gym.
On the flip-side, Iowa State is a team that looks much better when they're pushing the tempo. The halfcourt sets have not always been great. I wish this game was on TV, because I would love to see who wins the battle with game tempo. Will ISU be able to push the ball, or will STL be able to slow it down?
I think either way we're the better team, but I would think this game would be more of a challenge than the previous ones. Combined with playing at a neutral location the day after Thanksgiving, I could see this being a 8-10 point victory with the Cyclones running away with it towards the end. OR, if the team is ready, and is able to push it early and play smart, not trying to get too cute out there, they could run this team out of the gym.
I'm not a guy that likes to try to predict the score of basketball games. You could end up being right for most of the game, until that walkon comes on the court, and decides to try to set the world on fire. Just way too many factors to try to determine a final score. But for those that are looking for a prediction of some sort, Sagarin's predictive model has ISU winning by 3 points on a neutral site. Not really too suprised, as the stats would lead you to believe that Saint Louis will try to implement a strategy to keep them in the game.
Either way, I will be listening to this game on the radio, while driving back from Minneapolis full out of my mind!
I hope everyone has a wonder Thanksgiving. If you're doing any traveling, be safe! If you're heading out to Chicago to watch this thing, have a blast, and let us know how it was!