By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
What: Iowa State (22-10, 12-6) vs. UConn (20-13, 8-10) – The second round of the NCAA Tournament
When: Thursday, March 15 at 8:20 p.m. CDT
Where: KFC Yum! Centerin Louisville, Kent.
TV: TBS (Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery)
Madness…It’s here and after seven long years of sitting on the sidelines, Iowa State is a part of the NCAA Tournament once again.
Tonight’s task for the Cyclones is a tall one. UConn, the defending national champions, boasts two potential NBA lottery picks and and this whole NCAA Tournament experience is not new for these Huskies. In fact, it’s second nature (more on that in a moment).
But at the same time, UConn brings a 20-13 record into tonight’s contest. The Huskies went 8-10 in the Big East and are a 9-seed for a reason.
From a seeding perspective, Iowa State is the favorite in this game. Even so, most of America is picking against the Cyclones. Will Iowa State have what it takes to keep the world from seeing the much talked about Calipari vs. Calhoun third round contest on Saturday?
Let’s break it down.
Iowa State’s probable starters:
G: Chris Allen, 6-3 Sr. – 11.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG
G: Scott Christohperson, 6-3 Sr. – 12.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG
G: Chris Babb, 6-5 Jr. – 8.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG
F: Melvin Ejim, 6-6 So. – 9.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG
F: Royce White, 13.1 PPG, 9.2 RPG
UConn’s probable starters:
G: Shabazz Napier, 6-1 So. – 12.7 PPG, 5.8 APG
G: Jeremy Lamb, 6-5 So. – 17.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG
F: Alex Oriakhi, 6-9 Jr. – 6.8 PPG, 4.8 RPGF: Roscoe Smith, 6-8 So. – 4.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG
C: Andrew Drummond, 6-10 Fr. – 10.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG
BREAKING DOWN THE HUSKIES
When Iowa State learned of its date with UConn on Selection Sunday, Fred Hoiberg grinned at the thought of taking on two of college basketball’s most storied programs (UConn and Kentucky) in the second and third rounds of his first NCAA Tournament as a coach. Here’s some additional perspective as to how good UConn has been since Jim Calhoun arrived on campus in 1986.
— UConn has won three national titles in that span (1999, 2004, 2011).
— UConn’s record during the NCAA Tournament during that time is 46-13, in 17 appearances under Calhoun.
— UConn is 29-4 in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament and 16-1 in the first round under Calhoun.
— When going head-to-head with a team seeded 6 to 16 in the tournament, the Huskies are 34-3 during the Calhoun era.
— Since 1999, UConn has played in 39 NCAA Tournament games, a stat that ranks the Huskies fourth in America.
You all get the point. As a whole, UConn is an elite college basketball program. All of the above is impressive, no doubt. But the fancy stats still have nothing to do with this year’s inconsistent UConn team that lost 13 basketball games this season.
UCONN’S SIZE: This is where the Huskies have a significant advantage over Iowa State leading up to tonight. UConn’s starting lineup will feature three Huskies listed at 6-foot-8 or taller. The tallest player in Iowa State’s starting lineup, Royce White, is very generously listed at 6-foot-8.
UConn’s largest athlete, 6-foot-10 freshman Andrew Drummond is currently being projected as the fourth pick in this summer’s NBA Draft according to DraftExperess.com.
"Drummond is the biggest player we’ll see, maybe the biggest guy any of our players ever see," said Hoiberg. "I remember seeing him last year on the AAU circuit and the first time I saw him, your jaw hits the floor. Not only is he big, he’s one of those bigs that gets up and down the floor. You don’t see that a lot with the guys that size. They throw him alley oops, he beats his man to the rim. It doesn’t look like he ever gets tired either. So he poses a big problem."
Drummond was recently honored as a member of the Big East’s All-Rookie Team while averaging 10.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.
"Then (Alex) Oriakhi has been around a long time. And they’ve got some versatility," said Hoiberg. "They can play Roscoe Smith at the four, Olander can come in there. They’ve just got a bunch of guys that can play different styles. They can play huge, they can play small. It’s a very versatile team."
Husky to watch: That’s sophomore point guard Shabazz Napier. He’s averaging 12.7 points and 5.8 assists per game and could create a significant matchup problem for the Cyclones. Chris Babb will likely defend Jeremy Lamb (UConn’s leading scorer at 17.7 points per game) all night long so how will Iowa State choose to defend Napier and Ryan Boatright? Napier led UConn in scoring 13 times this season. He scored 26 points in a win over West Virginia during the 2012 Big East Tournament.
Regardless of what Hoiberg elects to do with this matchup, Chris Allen will have to have one of his best defensive games of the season to keep Napier in check. This is a major concern…
— Like Drummond, Lamb is also currently being projected as an NBA Draft lottery pick. DraftExpress.com currently has Lamb listed as the 12th pick in this summer’s draft.
— My friend Brent Blum said it best in our podcast a few nights ago. "Andre Drummond’s free throw shooting makes Royce White look like Jerry West." — Drummond enters tonight’s game as a .295 percent free throw shooter, going 26-of-98 from the line. (Paging, Jordan Railey…Paging Jordan Railey…)
— Iowa State has never played in the KFC Yum! Center but UConn has, twice. The Huskies lost both of those games to the Louisville Cardinals.
— According to the NCAA’s RPI, UConn played the second most difficult schedule in America this season. The Huskies went 10-2 during their non-conference slate of games, losing to Central Florida and Tennessee.
— Fred Hoiberg is the 49th coach in NCAA history to play in the NCAA Tournament and be a head coach in the NCAA Tournament at his alma mater.
— Chris Allen has played in more NCAA Tournament games than any other player in this year’s field. Allen will play in his 15th tonight. Michigan State’s Draymond Green, North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller and Duke’s Miles Plumlee have all played in 10 tournament games.
— Iowa State is 7-7 on the season vs. teams in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
— This will be the first time in history that Iowa State and UConn have met on the hardwood.
— The entire country wants to see UConn vs. Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA Tournament…Now it’s Iowa State’s turn to play spoiler, writes Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com.
— The Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson delivers a Cyclone basketball notebook, with tidbits on Royce White, Wes Eikmeyer, keys to victory and more.
— Des Moines Register columnist Marc Hansen captures the fan’s perspective on Iowa State being back in the Big Dance.
— More from Randy Peterson, who recaps how Iowa State ended up in the NCAA Tournament.
— Our Brent Blum offers up perspective on Iowa State being back where it belongs, dancing with the best in the country.
— A look at the unique relationship between Fred Hoiberg and UConn assistant coach Kevin Ollie.
— Kirk Haaland previews the game over at enCYCLONEpedia.com.
— When it comes to defending Jeremy Lamb, Chris Babb knows his role writes La Gesse in another Ames Tribune piece.
Iowa State is 17-2 this season when scoring 70 points or more. Meanwhile, UConn has held its opponents to 38.3 percent shooting this season…Something has to give.
Let’s focus on Iowa State though. If the Cyclones hit shots, chances are they are going to win (how’s that for some hard-hitting analysis?). I’m not sure why this amateur logic would change heading into tonight’s game. All season long, Iowa State’s success has been dictated by how well it is shooting the three.
Shoot well, bring on Kentucky. Struggle from behind the arc and it’s time to get ready for next year.
Here’s the deal though. Royce White is always going to be a factor. Melvin Ejim needs to produce and not get into foul trouble. Chris Babb needs to do his thing on defense. Some solid bench production from Tyrus McGee, Bubu Palo, Anthony Booker and Percy Gibson won’t hurt anything either.
But at the end of the day, this game will come down to Chris Allen and Scott Christopherson and the numbers clearly back this theory up. Here is what this pair combined to shoot from the field in Iowa State’s last five losses.
@ Texas: 2-for-14
@ Oklahoma State: 9-for-21
@ Baylor: 4-for-17
@ Missouri: 6-for-21
vs. Texas: 6-for-20
The fact is if both seniors have off nights, Iowa State doesn’t have much of a chance to win against a talented UConn team. The good news is that Iowa State is 7-2 coming off of losses this year with those two defeats happening in Ann Arbor and Lawrence.
My bet is that this combination won’t have two horrible shooting games in a row and Iowa State somehow upsets America and takes on Kentucky this Saturday.
Iowa State 71, UConn 69