Roundball Q&A: Michigan-Iowa State

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation's Wide Right & Natty Light answers a few questions about this weekend's UM-ISU matchup.

The Cyclones came very close to a Sweet Sixteen birth last year but ultimately fell to Ohio State in a close second round game. How do ISU fans feel about last year's team and the direction of the program in general?

In Fred We Trust. After some lean years for Cyclone basketball under Greg McDermott, Fred Hoiberg has us back on the right track with a mix of transfers (especially from your bitter rivals) and talented freshmen. Last year's team took longer to gel but may have been the most complete team of Hoiberg's era. The program is definitely trending in the right direction and even though a lot of production was lost Hoiberg has shown the ability to find ways to replace it and early 2014 results are promising.

ISU is going to have to replace four of its top six rotation players from a year ago. What players will be most heavily relied upon this year, and what does the injury to Melvin Ejim mean for this team early in the season?

Melvin Ejim's injury is a major blow to the team because he's the best rebounder on a very small team. Without him, we'll need to see the guards rebound the ball more. It also means less floor spacing for the offense. Georges Niang and Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane will need to step up in Ejim's absence, though there appears to be a small chance Melvin will play on Sunday. Our underclassmen trio of Monte Morris, Matt Thomas, and Naz Long have also been impressive, especially Long, who was last week's Big 12 Player of the Week.

Will the Cyclones offense be different this year after losing four players that combined for 696 3PA and 38% from 3pt? Last year ISU shot the 8th highest rate of 3PA to FGA. Can that continue this year with so many perimeter scoring threats gone? What does the O look like this year?

Hoiberg has his system and will recruit guys to fit in it. He's one of the best three point shooters in NBA history and if the last three years are any indication he knows how to pass this knowledge on to his players. Melvin Ejim has improved his 3 point shooting dramatically since he's gotten to Ames, and Thomas and Long are big threats from the perimeter as well.

Michigan has a pair of highly touted freshman that it will depend on in Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin. Does ISU have any freshmen that you expect to play a big role this season?

The aforementioned Matt Thomas is basically Fred Hoiberg lite. He is incredibly fundamental (read: white) and is the deadeye shooter that drives opposing teams nuts. You're probably familiar with Monte Morris from Flint Beecher, and the 2013 winner of Michigan's Mr. Basketball.

What kind of home court advantage does the Hilton Coliseum provide?

Well, the saying Hilton Magic did come from something... plus, former Michigan coach Johnny Orr was a big fan of it (and will be in the house Sunday), and he's never wrong, right?

Right now KenPom has Michigan as the slight 1-point favorite (51%) and I think that might even overrate Michigan's chances as the Wolverines are looking to establish an offensive identity after Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.'s departure for the NBA, especially considering Mitch McGary is still out with a back injury. Are you confident in ISU's chances to win? How do you see the game playing out?

Iowa State is actually the one point favorite according to KenPom (Ed note: this is what I get for writing the questions a week before), which as a sidenote, I feel is too heavily based on returning production. McGary would cause a match up nightmare this weekend without Ejim in our line up, and vice versa. If one plays, I'd favor that team, and if both are sitting I'd give Iowa State a very slight edge by virtue of being at home. Wish we could see both teams at full strength, but either way, I'm expecting a great game this early in the season.

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