Undefeated Iowa State won the championship of the Diamond Head Classic (formerly known as the Rainbow Classic) by outlasting a tough Boise State team 70-66 in the final game. Point guard DeAndre Kane was named MVP of the event after scoring 23 points against the Broncos. Kane hit 4-of-6 three-pointers after only making five all season. Boise State dared him to shoot the three, and Kane took advantage of his open shots.
The Cyclones defeated George Mason (79-67) and Akron (83-60) to get to the final game. Iowa State is an interesting team as they do not play anyone taller than 6'7". Their three front court starters -- Georges Niang, Melvin Ejim and Dustin Hogue -- are all in the 6'6"-6'7" range, all are active rebounders, good in transition and can step out for three-pointers. Ejim (8.8 rpg) and Hogue (10.3 rpg) are two of the better rebounders for their size. Niang, despite his size, is very adept scoring in the post with either hand off a variety of moves. He played with Nerlens Noel at the Tilton School and developed the moves to get off his shots against Noel in practice. Kane, who transferred from Marshall for his final year of eligibility is 6'4" and is one of the top rebounders in the country for a point guard, averaging 7.5 per game to go along with 5.5 assists. Freshman Matt Thomas, 6'3" and the other starter, is primarily a spot-up, three-point shooter.
After 11 games the Cyclones are out-rebounding their opponents by 6.3 per game. They have made 29 more three-pointers than their opponents while shooting three's at a 36.6 percent clip. On the defensive end they are limiting opponents to 39.2 percent from the field including 29.1 percent on three-pointers. All their players are active, they defend the perimeter well, and they can penetrate and draw fouls. They are +96 on free throw attempts thus far this season.
Iowa State is not very deep. They primarily play seven players with the two substitutes being guards. Naz Long, one of the substitute guards, is shooting 48.9 percent on three-pointers. You would think that the Cyclones will have problems against teams bigger and deeper than they are. That hasn't been the case yet. Their forwards are so active and such good rebounders that they will have a shot against anyone on their schedule. Match-ups with Kansas and Baylor may be a problem because of their skilled big men. It will be interesting to see how the Cyclones compete as the Big-12 conference schedule starts.
The biggest disappointment of the event were the St. Mary's Gaels. They came to Hawaii undefeated at 9-0 and lost all three of their games to South Carolina (78-71), Hawaii (76-74) and George Mason (65-63). The Gaels clearly miss the steadiness and shot-making ability of Matt Dellavedova. They play a three-guard set along with 6'6" forward Beau Levesque and one big with split time for 6'9" Brad Waldow and 6'11" Matt Hodgson.
Their main problem over the weekend was their inability to make shots. Much of their offense was from long distance. Against Mason, 25 of their 48 shots were three's (nine made). Against Hawaii they shot well (10-of-21 on three's) but were unable to stop Hawaii's penetration and ability to draw fouls (29 free throw attempts vs. 17). In the South Carolina game they just didn't shoot as well as the Gamecocks (58 vs. 40 percent).
St. Mary's does have a +6.9 rebounding margin on their opponents although their schedule thus far has not been strong. They are ranked 190th in the nation in rebounds per game. The key to their season will be their ability to hit their shots, particularly from long distance. They are currently shooting over 42 percent on three-pointers and need to keep that percentage steady to compete against the better teams in the WCC.