Iowa State will try to continue its incredible start to the season when it faces No. 9 Memphis in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday night. The Cyclones pulled off a big upset over No. 25 Xavier on Wednesday in the first semifinal. Memphis booked its spot in the title game with a win over Virginia Tech.
Cyclones off to blazing start in 2021Iowa State only won two games last season, so its 5-0 start to the season has surpassed expectations quickly. The Cyclones were 9-point underdogs in the 82-70 win over No. 25 Xavier on Wednesday in the first semifinal. They took care of business in their first four non-conference games, which was not something they were able to do last year. Iowa State will not face another ranked opponent until January, so this is a big opportunity. The Cyclones enter this game ranked No. 152 in adjusted offensive efficiency.
They are going to be up against a tough task on Friday night, as Memphis is the top-ranked defense in KenPom’s ratings. The Tigers are in the top 10 in opponent’s effective field goal percentage and 2-point percentage. Iowa State will have more experience in this game, but it will be at a severe height disadvantage. Guard Izaiah Brockington leads the team with 16.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Guard Tyrese Hunter is averaging 14.0 points, while Minnesota transfer Gabe Kalscheur is adding 11.2 points.
Tigers hoping to play faster than Iowa StateNo. 9 Memphis has passed all of its tests so far this season. The Tigers opened the year with wins over Tennessee Tech, North Carolina Central, Saint Louis and Western Kentucky. They entered this tournament with some momentum, and it paid off late in the game against Virginia Tech, as Memphis took the lead with less than five minutes to play and controlled it the rest of the way. They will head home to face four SEC opponents in the first half of December following this game.
The Tigers are led by their top-ranked defense, but they are No. 48 in adjusted offensive efficiency. They are one of the youngest teams in college basketball, which has shown in their turnover rate. Memphis ranks No. 348 in turnover percentage, so it will be hoping to clean that up against an experienced team. The Tigers have used their height to grab the eighth-most offensive rebounds in the country. Freshman center Jalen Duren is averaging a double-double, scoring 13.2 points and grabbing 10.0 rebounds. Five-star freshman Emoni Bates is adding 12.4 points per game, while forward Deandre Williams is also in double figures with 10.6 points.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Iowa State was one of the worst power conference teams in the country last season, so I am not going to overreact to one good win to open this season. The Cyclones are facing a Memphis defense that leads the country in KenPom’s ratings and will certainly be able to shut down an Iowa State offense that is not shooting the ball very well. The Tigers are possibly the most talented team in the country, so that is going to pose all kinds of issues for Iowa State’s team on both ends of the court. I expect the Tigers to push the tempo and jump out to an early lead in the championship game.
Full-Game Total Pick
This might end up being one of the most exciting college basketball games of the weekend, at least from a speed perspective. The Tigers rank No. 11 in average possession length and are facing an Iowa State offense that is also in the top 100 in tempo. Memphis is shooting the ball well from beyond the arc, which certainly helps the over in this game. The Tigers have gone over in five of their last seven games, while Iowa State has gone over in four of its last six games as an underdog.