When Iowa State and Notre Dame face off Friday in the NCAA Tournament, it will provide a true clash in styles - one of the many reasons why March Madness is so intriguing.
According to the number crunchers, Iowa State is a team that likes to play fast and loose. The 10th-seeded Cyclones (22-11) are 34th in the NCAA in adjusted tempo, with 69.3 possessions per game. The seventh-seeded Fighting Irish (25-9) are 320th in adjusted tempo and have just 61.6 possessions per game - the second-lowest of any NCAA tournament team.
"That's important in any basketball game that you play – you obviously want to get the tempo set in your favor," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey runs what he calls a "burn" offense that is designed to take seconds of the shot clock. The Fighting Irish are content to take their time searching for good shots and on defense they concentrate on rebounding so that the opposition doesn't get second chances.
Iowa State leads the nation in 3-pointers. The Cyclones put five players on the floor who can score from beyond the arc. When defenders have to get to the perimeter to guard the shooters, it can create open lanes for drives to the basket plus creates chances for rebounding mismatches.
"Overall, we've been pretty good when we had to take away the arc," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
This game will also match two of the nation's top double-double creators. Notre Dame's 6-9 senior center Jack Cooley has 13 double doubles, which puts him fourth in Division. Iowa State's 6-5 junior Melvin Ejim has 14 double-doubles.
"I don't think people really realize what Melvin does every game," said Iowa State leading scorer and second-team all-conference selection Will Clyburn. "He's 6-5 and leading the Big 12 in rebounding, and he just does all the little stuff people don't see. As a team, we understand exactly what he's doing every game."
Notre Dame, according to Cooley, enters the NCAA Tournament with lots of confidence.
"Honestly, I think during the end of the season and the Big East tournament, we were playing extremely well," he said. "When we played Marquette (in the Big East quarterfinals), that was some of our best basketball we played all season.
"We really started to get into a flow of players really knowing their position and their roles on the team and how to play in order for us to win. Right now we're clicking very, very well, and we're playing our best basketball."
Despite a lack of height, Iowa State finished second behind co-champion Kansas in rebounding margin in the Big 12. Hoiberg believes that controlling the boards will be a key for the Cyclones.
"A big key is going to be rebounding the ball," said Hoiberg, who has guided the Cyclones to back-to-back NCAA appearances for the first time since 2000 and 2001. They have very physical bigs. They do a great job of wedging in there and ceating space. If you want to get out and run, you have to be able to rebound the basketball, so that's going to be a big key for us."
No. 10 Iowa State (22-11) vs. No. 7 Notre Dame (25-9)
8:45 p.m. Friday at University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio, CBS
Coaches: Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State; Mike Brey, Notre Dame.
Why they're here: Iowa State was an at-large selection from the Big 12. Notre Dame was an at-large selection from the Big East Conference.
Scouting the Cyclones: Iowa State makes nearly 10 3-pointers per game and all five players on the floor are threats. Will Clyburn is the leading scorer while Tyrus McGee, the Big 12 sixth man of the year, has deep range. McGee is fourth in the nation in 3-point accuracy (45.7 percent). By spreading the defense Iowa State allows its players to drive to the basket and gives undersized post players Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang room to operate in the lane. The Cyclones can struggle keeping bigger teams out of the lane and off the boards.
Scouting the Fighting Irish: Notre Dame has an efficient offense that is deliberate and searches for good shots. The Irish are sixth in the nation with 17 assists per game. Notre Dame likes to mix its defenses but doesn't pressure much; it relies more on making sure opponents don't get second shots. Jack Cooley, a 6-9 senior center, is fourth in the nation in double doubles with 19. He averages 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Controlling him will be a key for Iowa State.