By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
What: Iowa State (23-10, 12-6) vs. No. 1 Kentucky (33-2, 16-0)
When: Saturday, March 17 at 6:45 CDT
Where: KFC Yum ! Center in Louisville, Kent.
TV: CBS (Verne Lundquist & Bill Raftery)
When you’re sitting at a poker table, the scariest guy to go head-to-head with is the one who isn’t afraid to lose.
Think of the NCAA Tournament’s third round as a big poker game. Iowa State is that guy.
ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski put it best in his column after Iowa State’s 77-54 second round win over UConn on Thursday night. Wojciechowski wrote that Iowa State "seems to be playing with house money."
It’s a perfect way to describe a team that has been overlooked literally all season long. Picked to finish eighth in the Big 12, the Cyclones snagged third. Though Las Vegas turned out to be correct in this one, Iowa State as a 3-seed was actually an underdog vs. 6th-seeded Texas in the Big 12 Tournament.
Heck, Iowa State was seeded ahead of UConn in the NCAA Tournament’s second round, yet hardly anyone seemed to give the Cyclones a legitimate chance to win that contest.
Iowa State dominated the defending national champions. Up next is the team who many are picking to win this year’s title…The top-ranked and ridiculously talented Kentucky Wildcats. You thought the Cyclones went into the UConn game as an underdog? That’s not in the same ballpark in regards to the scenario that will face Iowa State tonight.
Not only is Kentucky a 10.5 point favorite but this game is being played in Kentucky.
Will the Cyclones shock the world? Let’s break it down.
Iowa State’s probable starters:
G: Chris Allen, 6-3 Sr. – 12.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG
G: Scott Christopherson, 6-3 Sr. – 12.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG
G: Chris Babb, 6-5 Jr. 8.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG
F: Melvin Ejim, 6-6 So. – 9.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG
F: Royce White, 6-8 So. – 13.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG
Kentucky’s probable starters:
G: Marquis Teague, 6-2 Fr. – 9.5 PPG, 4.7 APG
G: Doron Lamb, 6-4 So. – 13.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG
G: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 6-7 Fr. – 11.7 PPG, 7.6 RPG
F: Terrence Jones, 6-9 So. – 12.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG
F: Anthony Davis, 6-10 Fr. – 14.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG
BREAKING DOWN THE WILDCATS
They are good. Really good. How’s that for some hard-hitting analysis?
For real though, there isn’t much to break down here. Kentucky boasts the SEC’s Coach of the Year (John Calipari), Player of the Year (Anthony Davis), Freshman of the Year (Anthony Davis), Sixth Man of the Year (Darius Miller) and Defensive Player of the Year (Anthony Davis).
Head on over to DraftExpress.comand you’ll see that Davis is currently being projected as the No. 1 pick in this summer’s draft. Right behind him is his teammate and fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Sophomore Terrence Jones has been slacking off as of late (sarcasm people) and is currently 11th.
There’s no need for me to go player-by-player and break down Kentucky though. Our Brent Blum already did that on Friday afternoon.
Kentucky has only been beaten twice this season. Only Indiana and Vanderbilt have been able to get the job done. One trend is obvious when considering those two games. Kentucky, a team that out-rebounds its opponents by a margin of eight per game, was beaten on the glass in both of those contests…
Wildcat to watch: Duh. It’s Anthony Davis. Next.
LINK: The story of how Royce White almost became a Kentucky Wildcat, via Randy Peterson and the Des Moines Register.
— Iowa State has won its first game in the NCAA Tournament in six of its last seven appearances.
— Kentucky owns a 2-0 record all-time vs. iowa State. The last time that these two schools mixed it up was in 1992 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Fred Hoiberg was notably a freshman in that game, scoring two points and recording eight rebounds.
— Kentucky head coach John Calipari is 1-0 all-time vs. Iowa State. Calipari’s UMass team beat Iowa State 73-53 on Dec. 28, 1991. Hoiberg scored seven points with five rebounds in that game.
— Kentucky has held its last 15 opponents to an average of 58.5 points per game.
Remember the first 10 minutes of the UConn game?
The Cyclones were as disciplined, confident and as loose as we’ve seen them all season long.
The lights have never been brighter than they will be tonight in Louisville. This isn’t only an NCAA Tournament game. It’s an NCAA Tournament game against the "it" team that every hoops junkie across America wants to watch.
Again – It all comes back to the Cyclones playing with house money. There’s no pressure on Iowa State tonight. The Cyclones are supposed to lose. Because of that, they’ve got nothing to lose.
Making a prediction seems somewhat silly to me with this game. Do I think that Iowa State will win this game? No. But I didn’t think that Northern Iowa would beat Kansas a few years ago either. I didn’t think that a Lehigh team that Iowa State defeated in November would beat Duke on Friday night. I had no clue that Norfolk State could even keep up with the Missouri Tigers.
It’s March. Crazy things happen. Let’s hope that this is a night to remember.