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The thought that Fred Hoiberg would know anything at all about the NC-Central Eagles (28-5, 15-1) from the MEAC on Selection Sunday was hard to imagine. Twenty-four hours later though was a different story.
Hoiberg, who led Iowa State to a Big 12 Tournament championship last week along with a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament, made calls, watched film and now has a decent grasp on the challenge that lies a head for the Cyclones on Friday night (9 p.m. on TNT) in San Antonio.
“They have plenty of experience,” Hoiberg said in Monday’s Big 12 teleconference. “They are extremely well coached. I have been very impressed with the film I have seen. They run their stuff very well. They execute on the offensive end. They run a lot of different actions that you have to prepare for. They run a lot of different defenses so it is a team that is doing great things like knocking off North Carolina State.”
On last night’s Cyclone Fanatic NCAA Tournament preview show, Iowa State assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih said that NC-Central runs “every defense imaginable.” That is likely where the Cyclones will begin their preparation for Friday evening’s second-round contest.
The good news here for Iowa State is that these Cyclones will enter the Big Dance as battle tested as any team out there. Just last week, Iowa State beat a physical man-to-man team in Kansas State. The Cyclones then defeated Kansas’ length and superb talent. In the Big 12 Championship Game, it was Baylor’s length and troublesome zone that Iowa State overcame.
“You play so many different styles throughout the course of the season,” Hoiberg said. “You go out and play BYU, who mixes up zone and man. You play Iowa, who does the same thing. They will press you and it sounds like this team does some of that.”
The guard-oriented Eagles will enter Friday’s contest on a 20-game winning streak and are led by a 6-foot-3 senior by the name of Jeremy Ingram.
“The kid can flat out score the ball,” Hoiberg said. “He does a really nice job of getting to the free throw line.”
Ingram, who is averaging 20.6 points per game, shot 273 free throws this season (8.3 a game) and made 77 percent of them. He’s also a 38 percent 3-point shooter.
“He’s taken twice as many shots as the next guy on their team,” Hoiberg said. “He’s really shifty. He can change speeds. He’s got a nice pace to his game. He’s a really solid all around player. Off the top of my head, I don’t know exactly who he reminds me of but he’ll be one of the better guards that we play against this year.”
NC-Central’s scoring is incredibly balanced after Ingram. Only one other Eagle, a 6-foot-7 junior guard named Jordan Parks, averages more than 10 points per game. Another guard, 6-foot-3 senior Alfonzo Houston, averages 9.6 points per contest.
NC-Central’s season was highlighted by an 82-72 overtime win at N.C. State on Nov. 20. The Eagles notably lost to a No. 1 seed, Wichita State by 11 on Dec. 22. NC-Central’s four other losses this season came to Cincinnati in the first game of the season, Maryland and Florida A&M.
Quotable: Hoiberg scouts NC-Central’s defense
“They really play together. They do a really good job staying on the same page. They have good guards who can stay in front of the ball. They body up on the inside. They are really tied in. You can tell that they spend a lot of time in practice on that end of the floor. They really do a good job of trying to make you beat them. It sounds like they really game plan based of who your personnel is. They thing we’ve got going with our team is we’ve got a lot of different guys who can facilitate for us and hopefully take advantage of some things where we think we have an advantage.”