On Saturday, December 4th, the Creighton Bluejays will host the 19th ranked Iowa State Cyclones. ISU has been solid all season, with wins against then-ranked #25 Xavier by 12 and #9 Memphis by 19 in Brooklyn, as well as a win against Oregon State by 10 in Ames. The Cyclones have done everything they can to earn their #19 ranking, and are one of just a few teams left at the division one level without a blemish on their record. Needless to say, this will be Creighton’s biggest test yet this season.
How to watch Creighton vs. Iowa State
Time: 9:00pm ET
Watch Online: Fox Sports App
(via DraftKings Sportsbook)
Spread: Creighton -5.5 | Iowa State +5.5
Moneyline: Creighton -220 | Iowa State +180
Most were not expecting this type of start for the Cyclones. Iowa State got all of 9 votes in the preseason Big 12 coaches poll, which means every coach except T.J. Otzelberger (who could not vote for his own team) had Iowa State finishing last in the Big 12 this year. They are a team that, according to Sports-Reference, is returning 23.9% of minutes and 13.3% of scoring from last year, and is bringing in just one freshman from high school recruiting (Tyrese Hunter).
Iowa State (7-0) is utilizing seven transfers at a high level. All seven are averaging at least 3 PPG, six of them are averaging at least 6 PPG, and two are averaging over 12 PPG. All seven have played in every game. All seven are even playing a substantial amount of the game; the lowest MPG player who is also a transfer this year is Robert Jones with 11.3 MPG on the season. The leaders of the transfers in scoring, Izaiah Brockington and Gabe Kalscheur, are averaging 30.2 PPG on a combined 43.3% from the field. This team has been well-built by transfers, and T.J. Otzelberger has gotten the team to mesh well quickly.
The team isn’t led by just transfers. Tyrese Hunter (freshman from Racine, Wisconsin) is playing as well as any freshman PG in the country. He is averaging 12.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 5.3 APG on 35.8% shooting from the field, along with 2.9 steals per night. The guy has been a beast, stealing the ball on 5.6% of possessions, and is credited for an assist on 33.8% of possessions. In terms of star freshman PGs, this game will be a battle between two of the best of the high-majors, if not the country, when Ryan Nembhard and Tyrese Hunter go at it.
The problems for Creighton are pretty plentiful. The guard-play for Iowa State is overwhelming, with Brockington and Kalscheur, and Hunter all averaging an excess of 12 PPG. Creighton needs their starting guards (and either Hawkins or Kaluma) to play these ISU guards well, as they have proven that they can drive up the score quickly. George Conditt IV (with six starts of the seven possible) and Tristan Enaruna (seven of seven) are the other starters and provide big rebounding help (combined 8.8 RPG) to the guard-oriented lineup that can already rebound pretty well.
And, if that wasn’t enough, Iowa State’s scoring defense hovers around 50th in the NCAA, three-point percentage (18.9%) and makes (4.9 per game) around 20th best defensively, and force around 19.1 turnovers per game. Iowa State has the ability to smother you on the line, and have guards that can score with the best of them.
In order for Creighton to win...
…3 things need to happen.
First, the defensive trio of Shereef Mitchell, Rati Andronikashvili, and Trey Alexander all need to appear in this game and put their hands on the game outside of scoring. Mitchell has been absent from games because of injury but played the most minutes of the season against North Dakota State, a potentially good sign. Rati Andronikashvili has been hit or miss but provides a spark off the bench that McDermott has been rewarding with extended time. Trey Alexander has appeared the most, and been good, but needs to be great in this game if Creighton wants to slow Brockington/Kalscheur/Hunter.
Second, Ryan Kalkbrenner needs to continue to be dominant, as he has been in his past several games. He is averaging 14.3 PPG on 75.9% shooting, 5 RPG, and (most notably) 3.5 BPG in his last four outings. ISU has players that are dependable to hit the three-ball, with forward Aijaz Kunc (46.7%), guard Brockington (40.0%), guard Caleb Grill (38.5%), and guard Tre Jackson (38.5%) all shooting better than 30% with more than one attempt. How does Kalkbrenner factor into this? Only Brockington is a starter. Force other starters like Conditt IV, Hunter, and Kalscheur to make plays at the rim, and hope Kalkbrenner can contest with a block or bad shot.
Third, you have to play another relatively clean offensive game. Against North Dakota State, you only gave the ball up six times, a season-low. Is it realistic, against this Iowa State team, to repeat with only six turnovers? No. Is it realistic to only turn the ball over 12 times, your second-lowest turnover mark? Maybe. Keep the turnovers down, and you might keep yourself in the game.