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Iowa State

at

West Virginia

College Basketball

Pick

3/3/17

Seemingly out of nowhere, Iowa State has battled from Big 12 mediocrity to having a chance to finish in second place in the conference behind Kansas. The Cyclones put everything together in the month of February and look like one of the best teams in the conference, highlighted by a win in Lawrence at the beginning of the month. But winning in both Lawrence and Morgantown is close to an impossible task. West Virginia has had its highs and lows this season, but when on its game, the Mountaineers can't be beaten at home.

Despite home losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Mountaineers have blown out the likes of Kansas and Baylor in Morgantown. When they come into the game against a top opponent, that's when things get change and WVU brings its game. Given Iowa State's recent success and this being Senior Day, West Virginia will come to play. When these teams met in Ames at the end of January, the Cyclones had zero answers for the press as they turned it over 16 times, couldn't play defense and couldn't make any shots. West Virginia was more efficient in everything it did and that led to an 85-72 win, leading almost the entire game.

But as said above, things have been much different for Iowa State in the past month. While Monte Morris and Deonte Burton are playing at an elite level, the new element is athletic big man Solomon Young, who has become a staple in the lineup. Young played just three minutes in the first meeting between these teams, but is averaging close to 30 in the past six games and that started with the win at Kansas. Young may not be an offensive force, but he gives them an active big man that can get rebounds and play defense. That will come in handy against Nathan Adrian, who led WVU with 23 points in the first meeting. If Young can limit what Adrian does, this game becomes almost even in terms of talent.

Iowa State had 16 turnovers last meeting, but Morris only had one of those and he will be the key in beating this press on the road. The same goes for Matt Thomas, their three-point specialist. But while WVU easily won the first game, Iowa State is filtered with seniors and playing in Morgantown shouldn't be that big of factor for this group. It will be tough, but nothing these players haven't seen before.

Of course, winning this game may require an almost perfect performance from the Cyclones. Burton will need to be effective, while not turning it over and Morris needs to do his thing. But it'll be the role players that get the job done in addition Young. Thomas and Naz Mitrou-Long are the guys that separate Iowa State from mediocre teams. Those two can be great at times, but almost detriments if they aren't hitting shots.

It's hard to see the Mountaineers taking this game lightly, given it's the final one of the regular season and Adrian and Tarik Phillip's last home games. They were efficient in that first game with the help of turnovers and making open shots. If guys like Phillip, Daxter Miles and Jevon Carter get going from deep, there's close to no route for an upset win. But to match what they did in the first game, it'll come down to what Adrian and Esa Ahmad can do. If both can repeat what they did in the first game, then it could be an easy win for WVU. But with Young playing well for Iowa State, it's hard to see Ahmad and Adrian having as easy of a time, even at home.

Our Pick - WVA by 7

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